One of first two African American marshals was from Russellville
By Michael Morrow

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

We sometimes hate to look back in the past. Whatever our reasons are, no one wants to be made to feel bad, by what happened with their families 100 years ago. You hear people say that it’s better left alone a lot when you talk about African AMERICAN HISTORY. We have left so much alone that a lot of our history has fallen through the cracks in this area. Identifying the first two Blacks allowed to arrest people in Kentucky is one of those stories.

The United States Marshals are the oldest Federal law enforcement agency in America. Formed Sept..24, 1798 when President George Washington appointed the first 13 Marshals. From its inception the United States Marshals have played an important part in American history, serving the nation against counterfeiters, guards for federal judges and the president, the enforcement of prohibition, guarding civil rights protestors, to the apprehension of federal fugitives and many other acts relating to enforcing federal law. The first African American Federal Marshal was Fredrick Douglas, appointed in 1877. It was 20 years later before an African American in Kentucky would serve as United States Marshal.

From 1870 until the 1930’s African Americans voted solidly for the Republican Party, so they voted for the party of Lincoln for over 60 years. It was 1896 when William McKinney, a Republican, won the presidency, beating William Jennings Bryan. During this election Bryan came to Russellville and gave a speech to about four thousand men, women and children, both blacks and whites.

In the commonwealth 12 of the 13 Electoral votes went to McKinney. The previous year Kentuckians elected Republican William O. Bradley as Kentucky‘s first Republican governor. Four years later one of Kentucky’s two Republican Delegates to the 1900 Convention held at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was Russellvillian and African American Jefferson Valandingham. He was also a national delegate to the 1912 convention held at Chicago. In all these elections African Americans worked closely with white Republican leaders to elect Bradley Governor and McKinney President. One white Republican who worked closely with African American in Logan and surrounding counties was Dr. Addison James (1850 – 1947); he would be responsible for the appointment of the first two Black Deputy United States Marshals in Kentucky. The Republicans had enjoyed a number of good years at the polls in Kentucky and across the nation.

Addison Davis James was born on Feb. 27, 1850 near Morgantown, Butler County, Kentucky. He was the grandfather of Russellville’s John Albert Whitaker (Oct. 31, 1901 - Dec. 15, 1951) who also served as U.S. Representative from Kentucky in the 80th, 81st and 82nd Congresses.

Addison James attended the public schools in Butler County and started the study of medicine in 1870. Three years later he graduated from the University of Louisville. He went into private practice and served Muhlenberg County for over 20 years as a doctor. He was said to be a quite an unassuming modest doctor. In 1890 he served as a member of the Kentucky Constitutional Convention. From 1891 to 1893 he was a member of Kentucky House of Representatives. He served as Kentucky’s representative to the Chicago World’s Fair from 1892 to 1893, and served in the Kentucky Senate from 1895 until he was appointed United States Marshal on July 6, 1897. After his appointment he would appoint the first African American Marshals.

 Paul Kennedy was an African American Baptist preacher at Henderson, Ky. He was born Sept. 1, 1842 at Hardin County, Ky. As a young man he moved Henderson and went into the ministry. He would marry Mary Virginia Harris in 1882. They had a number of daughters—we know of Anna, Mammie, Ora, and Lucille. Lucille taught school in Kentucky for a number of years. Ora also taught school at Henderson. She married James Garfield Glass, a 1909 graduate of Meharry Medical College and was a doctor at Henderson.

Kennedy was appointed deputy on July 7, 1897 and served for two months until Sept. 14, 1897. He would serve Henderson as a leader in the African American Community for over 40 years. The second African American deputy appointed by Dr. James was Walter R. Blackburn of Russellville, Ky.

Walter L. Blackburn was born about 1855 at Bowling Green, Warren County, Ky. He was the oldest son of Peter Blackburn and his wife Matilda Whalen. He eventually moved to neighboring Logan County and married Ida Payne, the daughter of Robert Bruce Payne and his wife. They were married in Logan County on Dec. 12, 1878. Walker and Ida had a number of children: Queeny, born Aug. 1883; Eugene, born April 1885; Mary W, born Dec. 24, 1887, who married a Cole; Charley, born Feb. 18, 1888; Robert Leslie, born Feb. 23, 1891, who married a women named Annetta; Cody, born Dec. 10, 1895, who married a woman named Betty and died at Indianapolis, Indiana in March of 1880’ and Nelotine, born April 20, 1898, who married James Halsell or Hassel’ they also lived in Indianapolis.

 In 1897 Walter along with the Rev. Paul Kennedy of Henderson were appointed the first African American deputy United States Marshals for the state of Kentucky. Walter took the oath of office in July. He served in this position until 1899.

Walter and his family lived at Russellville where Walter was a leader in the African American community. Walter was also a founding member and early trustee of Little Zion (Mt. Zion) Baptist Church on Morgan Street in Russellville. They lived in the area called the Black Bottom from 1880 until Walter’s death between 1910 and 1920. His family lived on the right side of Fifth (Bank) Street, five lots down from Bank Street church. After his death his wife Ida moved to Indianapolis with children Charley, Cody, Robert and Nelotine. Ida was still living at Indianapolis in 1930.

Walker owned lot number four in Norton’ Addition to the city of Russellville. Walker bought the lot from George and Maria Edwards in the early 1890’s. When he bought the lot it had a house in the middle, and a stable down by the creek. The house that was there burned in 1899. He sold the lot after a few months to Townsend Harper and his wife Kitty.

Paul Kennedy and Walter Blackburn are two African American who lived in Kentucky, whose stories were lost in time.

Source Citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: Bowling Green, Warren, Kentucky; roll: M593_502; Page: 82B; Image: 168; Family History Library Film: 552001

Logan County, Colored Marriage Book Dec. 18, 1878 book 2 page 168.

Source Citation: Year: 1880; Census Place: Bowling Green, Warren, Kentucky; Roll: 444; Family History Film: 1254444; Page: 50A; Enumeration District: 227; Image: 0489.

Source Citation: Year: 1900; Census Place: Bowling Green, Warren, Kentucky; Roll: T623_553; Page: 19A; Enumeration District: 102.

Report of the Attorney –General 1897 – 1898.

Indianapolis Freeman July 31, 1897.

Sunday, Oct. 17, 1897 Morning Herald Lexington Kentucky, Volume: 27, Issue 290, page 2.

Equity Case 6101 Logan County Archives Aug. 12, 1898.

Logan County, Kentucky Deed Book 43, page 241.

Source Citation: Year: 1900; Census Place: Russellville, Logan, Kentucky; Roll: T623_539; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 40.

Source Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Russellville, Logan, Kentucky; Roll: T624_492; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 0049; Image: 101; FHL Number: 1374505.


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