The Way It Was, Kentucky Edition
By Nelson Weaver

Posted on September 22, 2016 11:40 PM

Nelson Weaver, who grew up in Russellville, has written a book about the integration of Southern schools half a century ago. It's all based on what he experienced in Logan County, as a student at the University of Alabama, his historical research and his vivid imagination. Entitled The Way It Was, Kentucky Edition, the book is newly available on Amazon and at some locations in Russellville, including Riley-White Drugs and the Shoppe on the Square. Weaver will be here throughout the Logan County Tobacco & Heritage Festival in a couple of weeks. He has graciously shared the opening pages of the book with readers of The Logan Journal. The following includes the Introduction and Prologue. Watch The LoJo in the next few days for the first chapter.

The Way it Was

Kentucky Edition

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or taping, or by any means without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles and reviews. Inquiries should be made by contacting the publisher at Muddy River Publishing, 51 Carriage Creek Way, Ormond Beach, Florida, 32174, or call 270-625-1883. Also see


Copyright © by Nelson Weaver, 2016, Published 2016


Interior and cover illustrated by Melinda Weaver

Cover design by Sagaponack Books and Design


ISBN  978-0-9978563-1-6 (soft cover)

978-0-9978563-0-9 (e-book)

Library of Congress Control Number 2016914529


This book may be purchased from local and on-line retailers


Muddy River Publishing

Ormond Beach, Florida


Printed in the USA

First edition 2016


This is a book of fiction. Although based upon documented history, the author took great creative liberties in the writing the book.  Every event, every conversation, every incident, within every story, is a product of the imagination of the author. Although some of the characters are real, the events, incidents, and the conversations are also a product of the imagination of the author.  Any resemblance of actual persons, either living or dead, to fictional characters, is purely coincidental. The reader is, however, encouraged to use their own imagination to bring realism to their enjoyment of the book.


About This Book

The Supreme Court of the United States mandated public school integration with its ruling on Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954.  School Boards across the nation requested additional time to prepare plans in order to end segregation. Some school districts did not begin their integration process until the late 60s.

Russellville and Logan County, Kentucky were two of the first public school districts to integrate their high schools in 1956. Most of the facts are public record, but the mystery of the “why” always intrigued the author. The more he thought about the timing, the more obsessed he became to understand why two tiny southern school districts, a small rural town, and a small county district, would rush to integrate their public school systems so quickly after the Supreme Court decision.

An experience, while a college student in Alabama, further inspired the author to write about his home, his family, the South, the history, and the people who make it unique and special.

Readers from Logan County, from Kentucky, and from across the South will recognize many of the locations and characters.

This work is a succession of stories. They chronicle two families, a special interracial relationship, and the journey of that relationship through the times and the culture clashes of society. A society that still wears the scars of all that was the old South, even while it continues its journey to a new South.

If you are from the South, are intrigued by the South, or are interested in developing some southern charm; or if you have ever had a good friend, you may enjoy reading this book.


 This is a work of historical fiction. It tells far too much truth to be total fiction, but not nearly enough truth to be classified as nonfiction. My African American friend, Rub, is the sum of several friendships. He has become very real to me. I am blessed to have known him.

I proudly chose Logan County as the background for my story. I am fortunate that my home provided me with so much rich story material.

Some characters in the book are real. Some are not. The entire text is roughly based on historical events and the facts as I understand them. As the author, I took a giant share of creative license to bring the story onto the pages. Note: No animals were harmed in the making of this book.

It was also intended that no humans or be embarrassed or hurt, or even offended. I apologize in advance for any disasters I did not anticipate.

I have spoken with dozens of people who lived in the era of the 1960s, both black and white. Some were friends and some were casual acquaintances. I have asked them all the same questions. Why were we so disconnected from our black classmates and friends? Why were our black classmates disconnected from us?

The dominating answer was, “That's just the way it was.

For African Americans, it was a statement of acceptance, at that time. There was a desire for change, but many felt that change was waiting for leadership or a better moment.

For whites, it was a statement of acceptance that we failed our African American friends. Everyone said they would do things differently if they could go back and do it again.

Because the “Do Over” option is not available, there comes a time in life when we need to take inventory and decide what we can change and what we have to accept. Once that inventory is complete, then we can decide how to attack the changes, and what to do with the other stuff.

Some changes progress so slowly that they can get stuck in the wrong column. We can't remember how they started. This book is a story about two efforts. Two young boys, and later two men, who share very little except a desire to stay friends. It just so happens that the two boys are of different races. As some might say in the South, “That shouldn't make any never you mind,” but, in fact, it does mean something. It means something because of where, how and when the relationship was born, grew, and survived.

In writing this book, I learned some important lessons. I came to understand that to white people, the Civil War was about many things. It was about economics and politics. It was about states' rights and cotton and taxes. And it was about slavery.

To the African American community, the Civil War was about one issue and one issue only, slavery.

Today, differences still remain on how the two races see the past, live together in the present and approach the future. Our only hope for peace is to find common ground and grow from that anchored position.

History is written through the eyes of inspired writers. A complete history can only be understood through the reading of more than one perspective.

All history, including the history of Kentucky, Logan County and Russellville, is a mix of horrible stories and also wonderful stories. It has stories of great people and great achievements. As with most southern communities, the total history is not complete until all of the history is written and examined. I look forward to more books by African American writers who will help complete the picture and give us the rest of the story.

There is an expectation that we all have to be in the same place to have progress. I pray that is not true. It is our differences that define us as individuals, and as a nation. The two main characters of this book never find agreement. They find something more satisfying. They find that friendship is more important than agreement. Their friendship is worth more, and it is greater than, the issues and the differences that divide them.


The Way it Was

Kentucky Edition





Nelson Weaver



Muddy River Publishing

Ormond Beach, Florida




“Down south, white folks don't care how close I get, as long as I don't get too big. Up north, white folks don't care how big I get, as long as I don't get too close.”

 Dick Gregory, 1971 issue of Ebony Magazine

Friendship is a perfectly natural occurrence between young boys with common interests, unless the time is the 1950s in the South, and their skin is, you know, not the same color. I am your basic southern cracker. To be called a cracker would have been fighting words at one time in history. Crackers are actually residents of the southeast coastal region. My mother's family is from that area, so I qualify for some claim to the title.

People in Kentucky are often referred to as either rednecks or hillbillies. That is the kind of generalization that is common among the uninformed and uninitiated.

The south central part of Kentucky around south Logan, has rich, flat farmland. There are some hills but no hillbillies. Now a redneck is more an attitude than a culture. Sure, there are a few rednecks around; however, Pulitzer Prize Poet and novelist, Robert Penn Warren, was also from that area.

To truly understand the many stories of the South, especially if you are not from the South, it is necessary to get down near ground level. Forget what you think you know. Step up and take a deep breath of hot, humid air; relax and enjoy the slower pace, and a cold glass of sweet tea. Every experience, from the sounds of the crickets to the smell of the flowers, speaks to a place deep down inside. In no time, you just know that everything is going to be just fine, thank you.

A common expression amongst people of the South who quote common expressions is, “Southern folks love black people in particular, but don't care so much for them as a group.”

“Yankees, on the other hand,” it is said, “have no interest in black people as individuals, but love them as a group.”

Short quips, as everybody knows, never tell the whole story about anything. The good white people of the South are defensive about the culture of the old South, and also the bumpy parts of the newer South. Most wish the world would “get over it” and move on to something, my God, to anything else.

If you find yourself swinging on a southern front porch swing some hot summer day, or if you are just passing through some part of the South, good advice you should remember in casual conversation is that some history is not discussed in polite southern society.

Because the where and when of our birth is not our decision, destiny dictates that we drop in and play the cards we are dealt. No one disputes that our environment has a major impact on our social development. We learn what we see. We repeat what we hear. Our first impressions become the foundation of all of our beliefs. I accept that I am a part of all that was the South in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and that the South is a part of all that is me. I would, however, like a few “do overs.”

The outside world has a Hollywood picture of the South. They do not understand that the South has many faces. It is not a single place and it is not represented by any particular group, philosophy, or ideology. The South has, since the end of the Civil War, seen more change and has evolved farther and faster than any society in human history. However, all who suffer injustice, are justified in their impatience with the areas that lag behind.

I think people want to be proud of where they are from, don't you? It says something about us. “Where are you from?” is one of the first questions asked when getting to know people. I always say, “I’m from Southern Kentucky.” Not just anywhere in Kentucky. No siree!

Southern Kentucky, my southern Kentucky, in the southern Kentucky that borders Tennessee near Nashville, is as southern as any partof the South. The first thing you may notice is the vast amount of farm land. The second thing you notice is the churches. There are churches everywhere in the South. Nothing defines the South more than the strong element of faith that is common in every community. Faith is alive and well in the hearts, minds and spirits of the South. “Jesus” is not a cuss word there. On Sunday mornings, the streets are as quiet as a graveyard because the pews are full of the faithful. Sure, the prisons in the South are full too, just like everywhere else; but trust me, it is different.

There is no Spanish moss on the south Kentucky oak trees, but don't let that fool you. The rivers flow north out of Alabama and Tennessee, and so does the culture. Jefferson Davis, the first President of the Confederacy, was born about 20 miles to the west in the next county over. In a strange quirk of fate, Abraham Lincoln was also born in Kentucky, just north and east of Logan County.

Four Kentucky Governors were Logan County residents. Governors from Florida, Illinois, and Texas also came from the land of Logan.

In our current age of terrorism, it is interesting to remember that the Barbary Coast pirates were America's first encounter with Jihad.

The pirates had kidnapped American seamen and were holding them ransom. In response to a ransom demand, President Thomas Jefferson sent the Marines to Tripoli. The first U.S.M.C. landing and the first raising of an American flag on foreign soil was led by Logan County resident, Lt. Presley N. O'Bannon. The pirates were subdued and the sailors were rescued. The O'Bannon home still stands at the corner of Ninth and Main Street in Russellville.

Also, I find it amazing that four citizens from Logan County died at the Alamo. No other county, outside of Texas, contributed so many in the famous siege of the mission in San Antonio, Texas. The 180 men of the Alamo were led by Colonel James “Jim” Bowie, Colonel David Crockett, and Colonel N. B. Travis. James Bowie was born in Logan County. The famous “Bowie Knife” is credited to him. Legend has it that the weapon became well known after he used the big knife in a duel.

Three other Logan County men died in the battle against a Mexican force of over 4,000 soldiers and led by Santa Anna. They were Peter James Bailey, David William Cloud, and William Fauntleroy.

Another dueling story also has its roots in Logan County, Kentucky. The duel was fought in the south part of the county, close to the Kentucky-Tennessee line, near Dromgooles' Station, or what is now the small town of Adairville, Kentucky. Since dueling was illegal in Tennessee, Andrew Jackson rode across the state line into Kentucky for his duel with a wealthy attorney from Nashville by the name of Charles Dickinson. Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel because Dickinson had made disparaging comments about Jackson's wife, Rachel.

Rachel's first husband, Lewis Robards, of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, had petitioned for divorce in 1791, accusing Rachel of adultery with Jackson. Unfortunately for the Jacksons, Robards did not finalize the divorce. Jackson and Rachel were married believing the divorce to be signed and recorded. In fact, the divorce was not final until late in 1793. Jackson and Rachel remarried the next year.

By 1806, the story about Jackson and Rachel and their “sinful” living arrangement, was well known. Drunk and angry over the loss of a horse race to a horse owned by Jackson, Dickinson's mouth got the best of him. He lashed out at harshly at Jackson regarding Rachel. Jackson lost his patience and challenged Dickinson to a duel. They met at a place called Harrison's Mill on the south fork of the Red River in Logan County.

Dickinson was known as the best marksman, with a pistol, in all of Tennessee. Good thing, too, because angry drunks with big mouths did not live long, unless they could shoot. Both men stood in the early morning dew, with their seconds.  They bowed and each took their pistols. After walking off the paces, each man stopped and turned. Dickinson fired first. The shot was dead-on but struck Jackson in the rib. Dickinson's aim was off due to the cut of Jackson's coat. “Great God, have I missed him?” Dickinson is reported to have said. Jackson's second ordered Dickinson back to his mark because Dickinson had stepped back a few paces after firing.

Jackson then fired on Dickinson. His weapon misfired and Dickinson had to stand while Jackson took aim and fired again. Jackson's second attempt was a success and Dickinson fell mortally wounded. Dickinson died later that evening at the William Harrison farmhouse, located nearby and just above the river valley.

Dickinson's wife heard of the duel, panicked, and left immediately by buggy for Kentucky. She hoped to comfort her husband if he was wounded. She met her husband's entourage making their return trip to Nashville. Her greatest fear was realized. She was a widow.

Jackson was wounded but not fatally. The duel did hurt his reputation for a while. Some thought he should have spared Dickinson's life by firing into the air or simply wounding him.

Since Dickinson fired first and had attempted a lethal shot at Jackson, Jackson harbored no guilt for the manner in which the duel was concluded.

As was the custom between gentlemen, Jackson sent a bottle of brandy to his victim as he lay dying. The brandy, it was hoped, would ease the pain. Jackson was certain that Dickinson would have done the same if the fortunes of fate had been reversed.

Most historians agree that Henry Clay, of Kentucky, upended Jackson's first run for President against John Quincy Adams. It is a widely accepted rumor that Clay leaked the story of Rachel to the Cincinnati Press.

Clay, who was Speaker of the House, and also a candidate for President, threw his support to John Quincy Adams after no candidate won a majority vote in the presidential election. Adams won the Presidency through an election by Congress. Adams then named Clay Secretary of State. Jackson never forgave Henry Clay.

Jackson, commonly known as “Old Hickory,” lived to win his second election attempt for the office of President of the United States. Andrew Jackson took the bullet with him, along with his hatred for Henry Clay, to the White House. In fact, the wound never fully healed and he carried the bullet he acquired in Logan County to his grave.

It was this same southwestern part of Kentucky that seceded from the Union during the Civil War. Delegates from 64 Kentucky counties, over half of the total counties in the state, met at Bethel College in Russellville and voted to separate from the Union and join the Confederate States of America. The “Convention House,” now known as the Clark House, still stands near the town square.

There, they voted for Kentucky to secede from the Union and become the thirteenth star in the Confederate flag.

A session of the Kentucky legislature in Frankfort, however, voted to stay in the Union and that was the vote that mattered. Kentucky, however, was divided, brothers against brothers, sons against fathers.

The whole confederate thing had little or no meaning to me growing up. I read about it and there would be the occasional comment, but there was no Klan sneaking around in the dark of night, at least not that I saw, and not that I was told about, and not in the era when I grew up, the era after World War II. The years before the war were another story altogether.

Few would know the answer to the question, “Who is Woodson James?” It is not much of a clue that his father was a Baptist minister. Woodson James is better known today as Jesse James. He and his brother, Frank, first rode with the Quantrill's Guerillas. Many know them now as Quantrill's Raiders. They were never in the service of any army but were regularly associated as free agents of the Confederacy. The bunch was famous for their profitable raids on northern towns.

When the war ended, the raiders continued using the profitable bank robbery skills they had learned and perfected.

In 1868, the Old Southern Deposit Bank stood at the corner of Sixth and Main Streets in Russellville. One fateful day, the little bank in Russellville became the site of the first documented, post-war bank robbery, by the James-Younger Gang. That robbery by the James-Younger Gang is reenacted each fall during the Logan County Tobacco Festival that is now called the more acceptable name of Logan County Tobacco and Heritage Festival. To the casual observer, it might appear that bank robbery has come to be held in higher regard than tobacco.

After the robbery of the Old Southern Deposit Bank, all was quiet for a few years. The Black Patch Wars were a notable break in the peace. The Wars occurred for several years around the turn of the century. One night during the Wars, fires were lit in the tobacco warehouses in Russellville. Several businesses near the warehouses also burned.

Hopkinsville, a larger town to the west, got most of the publicity. Princeton, Kentucky still celebrates the Wars with an annual Black Patch Festival each fall. The Black Patch Wars was a battle between big tobacco and local farmers against the local farmers who refused to sell. Hooded vigilantes burned barns and terrorized residents who sold directly to tobacco barons.

Because it was a war on common ground between common people, the sides were difficult to define. Secret codes were devised to protect the identity of the vigilantes and keep infiltrators out of the inside circle.

Cryptic conversation was developed to identify fellow vigilantes.

“I see you've been there,” one would ask and then wait for the correct response of, “on bended knee.”

Both the man who asked and the man who answered then knew they were on the vigilante side of the war.

As in most southern towns, there is a Confederate soldier statue in the Russellville town square, now known as Carrico Park Square.

The statue faces south. Now, I confess that I have no clue of statue rules regarding the direction a stone or concrete southern soldier should face. There was once some discussion, as I recall, on whether this particular soldier was in retreat or was facing south as a sign of respect. I personally believe he fit better on that end of the park, so that's where they put him.

The Logan County Courthouse once occupied the square. It has moved twice since the olden days where its presence once dominated the center of county commerce.

Carrico Park Square now hosts a central fountain, a beautifully restored cannon, the Confederate statue, and several historical information markers.

Granted, the statue is adorned with symbols of the rebellion. But, it is actually only an old relic of an almost forgotten period in Kentucky history. It reminds us of the way it was.

Every town has a history and a “Historic District.” It is simply a fact, however, that some places have a history that is more interesting than the history of other places. I always thought Logan County had more than its fair share of interesting “historic” history.

One thing is for sure, Logan County has had more than a little excitement over the years. With the good, not so good, but mostly good of all that was my old Kentucky home, this is the place I called home while growin' up. This is the place where I got my “raisin'.” This is the place I met my friend, Rub Wells.

For a white boy to have a friend who is black, and, they both lived in the old South, well, it took some “gettin' there.” 

Copyright © The Logan Journal 2009 - 2024