Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Charles H. Rector: His last letter from death row

Charles Henry Rector, 1999 photo

Who will cry for me when I die?

who will cry for me 
when I die?
will my children cry?
my father? my brothers?
my sisters? my friends?
will my mother cry
out from her
own lonely grave?
years ago she wondered:
who will cry
for me when I die? 

a poem for Charles Henry Rector
by dorothy charles banks

Charles Henry Rector 1954-1999 
 (1982 photo)
Lola Mae Edwards Chism
Charles Henry Rector came into the world April 16, 1954; born to Lola Mae Edwards Rector and Charles Daniel Rector. He was the first child for his father and the second for his mother. When he reached puberty, if not before then, Charles’ life took control of him, moving him too fast, pushing him onto the wrong lane of life. He found himself stuck in this dramatic lane until he landed on death row, charged with murder and rape of a White woman. By then it was too late rewrite the script for less  drama on his  life. It was too late to correct all past mistakes, now sitting on his in his lap, keeping him company on death row in Texas

Charles and his mother had a stormy relationship. Nevertheless, he was favorite, even though she had three daughters. However, she loved them all in her own way. None of them were physically abused or neglected.

Charles' father and Lola Mae separated when he was a small child. He had no contact with his father after he left Texas, and relatives on his father's side did not keep contact with him or Lola Mae.

While sitting on death row, starring at the  future he would never have, Charles did not lose faith that a miracle would happen. Transcripts from his trial and court testimony suggested his guilt was questionable. His court appointed lawyer was as useless as Donald Duck pretending to be F.Lee Bailey. He refused to let Charles testify. He wanted to testify and tell his side of the story about the night he was accused of a double crime.

After Charles was executed I decided to go to the Austin County Courthouse to read his court transcripts. I thought they were housed at the Courthouse, but they on file at another location. That's when luck led to me to a clerk who directed me to the correct location. I went to the there, and was allowed to read them. I scanned  copies for over a month, almost nonstop. 

At home I read the transcripts carefully. I  needed no attorney to tell me that something went terribly wrong with the trial. But that's what happens when a defendant is too poor to hire a capable attorney. Red flags hopped off pages of the transcripts like Mexican jumping beans. 

I learned that the victim's boyfriend rearranged pieces of furniture in the living room before calling the police. This puzzled me. There was no explanation in the police report explaining his actions.  Charles supposedly climbed a trellis to gain entrance into the apartment through a window. A trellis is a frame of latticework used as support for climbing plants. It is not strong enough to hold a small child, let alone an adult trying to climb it like a ladder. Unless it was custom made out of steel, a cheap trellis will crumble under a heavy plant. His attorney did not inject this information into the trial.

In addition to the transcripts I also made copies of police reports the night of Charles's arrest. He gave up his right to have an attorney present when the police questioned him. The report stated that Charles said he had not committed a crime, so he saw no reason to have an attorney present.  They fooled him, telling him he had nothing to worry about. That move was a big mistake. Charles sealed his own fate.

After reading the transcripts I contacted an attorney to see if he would look at them. I wanted to see if, perhaps, Texas has executed another innocent man. I had no other course of action in mind. I just wanted to affirm my suspicions. The attorney was reluctant to look at the transcripts, and advised me that Charles had been executed already, and there was nothing I could do. I was willing to pay him to look at the transcripts but he had no interest in looking at them. 

Charles was briefly married to Mabel O. Kekeocha, an African. The marriage took place July 1, 1981.  They got married so that she could get a green card.  The marriage was a charade. They divorced August 31, 1984. They had no children together. 

While on death row Charles became a prolific poet and song writer, mostly rap. He even got interested in art. I got his first and only drawing a few days before his execution. Despite his pending fate, Charles kept alive his dreams of getting his music produced. His dream died with him. Having death lay next to him on his prison bed, Charles did not shrink from what was awaiting him. He never lose faith that a miracle would happen.

In a brief letter dated February 20, 1998, Charles wrote to me: Sorry I’m just now writing you back, but as you know my mother died December 12, and that took a lot out of me because I loved the girl very much. So it’s taken me some time to deal with the fact that she would die before me. But I’m getting my head back together because I know I'll see her on the other side.

This last letter from Charles speaks for itself. Two days later he was executed.

March 23, 1999

Dear Dorothy,

I hope this letter to you find and all the family in the very best of health, and doing good. As you know by now I’m writing what looks like will be the last letter to you, and I wish to let you know that all of you are in my thoughts.

I have an execution date of March 25, 1999, and just about all of my counsel can do is file a motion for clemency, because he has no resources. I should say I have no money so he’s giving up. Even though we now have the evidence that I was in custody of the Austin Police Department at the time of the deceased was being murdered, I can’t get the court to give me a hearing so that I can show the court the evidence. So I just might die. I don’t have the money to pay an attorney to get me a hearing.

I am filing a motion on my own, and just maybe the court will hear my motion. It’s my last appeal. I don’t think the court is going to do the right thing. So they can just kiss my ass. That’s the way I feel about it. I have very little fear of death so I’m really ready for what they push my way. I know that they can’t make an innocent man guilty with a foul execution because they can’t execute the truth. I feel you can feel me and understand what I’m saying.

I have you and Jr. (Ernest Smith) on the list to come and see me off, but you may not get this letter in time. If not, then tell my Dawg Jr. that I love him, because he’s the only brother I know, and I know that he feels the same way about me. I will see him and all the family in another time and space. They are about to come to get me, so I must say Peace Out.

With love to all the family

Charles H. Rector

***Charles Henry Rector, 45, was executed by the State of Texas March 25, 1999, 6 p.m in Huntsville, Texas. He left behind to mourn his sisters Gigi Edwards, Barbara Jean Edwards, and Linda Gray, a host of cousins, nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his mother Lola Mae Edwards Chism, his grandmother Imogene Gray, his great-grandmother Leora (Leola) Fowler Sterling, his great-grandfather Mose (Mozell) Fowler, and several cousins. Rest in peace. 

Below are a couple of news reports regarding the rape and murder

Austin American-Statesman
Monday Morning Edition
Oct. 19, 1981

Lake yields body of kidnap victim

By Jerry White
American-Statesman Staff

A nude body pulled from Town Lake Sunday afternoon was that of a 22-year-old woman abducted Saturday after she returned home to find a burglar in her North Austin apartment, authorities said.

Police were considering filing murder charges Sunday against a 27-year-old man arrested on burglary and kidnapping charges three hours after the woman disappeared.

“This is the kind of case that makes me wish I was in a different profession,” said Municipal Judge Steve Russell, who presided at the suspect’s first court appearance. “It’s the kind of thing that could have happened to anybody.”

Authorities said the suspect, Charles Henry Rector, was on a pass from an Austin halfway house for parolees and drug abusers.

The victim, Carolyn Davis, was abducted about 9 p.m. Saturday from the La Paz Apartments, 402 W. 39th St. She had just arrived home from grocery shopping and had carried the first of four bags of groceries into the second-floor apartment when she was confronted by the intruder.

Police arrived at the scene about 9:15 p.m. Saturday after a neighbor reported hearing a scream. Officers found indications that the intruder entered through an open second-story window, but Davis was missing. The apartment had been ransacked and several items, including two guns, were missing.

About 2 p.m. Sunday, a group of people walking dogs found her body floating face down in Town Lake about 100 yards down river from Red Bud Trial near Tom Miller Dam.

Police officers said the body was unmarked. They said the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office would have to determine the cause of death. Police were unsure whether some scattered clothes found in the area belonged to the victim.

Rector was arrested near West 38th Street and Speedway about 11:55 p.m. Saturday.

The suspect, who lived at the Community Cross Road Home, 2935 E. 12th St., was arrested after police saw him rummaging through the trunk of a parked car, Russell said. A spokesman for the home would not say why Rector was living there but said he had been there only “for a very short time.”

“He saw police and jumped in the car and drove off with the trunk of the car still open,” Russell said.

After a short chase, police stopped his car and found articles in the trunk allegedly taken from Davis’ apartment, Russell said. Police also found Davis’ high school class ring in Rector’s pocket, Russell said.

Rector was charged Sunday with burglary with intent to commit theft and kidnapping, Russell said. Rector remained in City Jail Sunday night in lieu of $50,000 bond.

Police Sunday night were contemplating whether they had enough evidence against Rector to charge him with murder.

“The police are compiling all of the information they have right now to see if they can charge him (with murder),” Phil Nelson, assistant district attorney said. “It will be up to them whether or not he will be charged.

A detective said, “We’re trying to get all the information together right now. Everything right now is still under investigation.”

Davis and her boyfriend had lived in the apartment since the first week of September, said her stepfather, Joe Irvin.

“They had just moved in,” Irvin said. “Why would they have been robbed? Why would the burglar pick their apartment?”

Davis’s neighbors were asking themselves the same thing Sunday.

“It had been quiet here all day (Saturday),” Don Hueske, apartment manager said. “We had always felt relatively safe here. There are a lot of people wondering how close it came to being them instead of her.”

Hueske said he was in his apartment when the abduction took place. He said he heard the scream but didn’t think anything of it.

“There are always a lot of people wandering around here, doing their laundry and stuff like that. No one ever thought anything like this could happen."

Austin American-Statesman
Saturday, Morning
August 21, 1982

 Rector given death for Davis murder 

By Steve Sellers
American-Statesman Staff

A district court jury Friday sentenced Charles Rector to death by injection for the murder last October of Carolyn “Katy” Davis.

The seven-man, five-woman panel ruled that Rector was “a continuing threat to society.”
The death sentence was announced after little more than an hour of deliberation.
Rector, 27, was found guilty Thursday of the Oct. 17, 1981, shooting and drowning death of Davis, 22, whose bruised and naked body was found about noon the next day in Town Lake.
The young woman had just returned to her UT-area apartment from a shopping trip when she was abducted and robbed. Rector was wearing the victim’s blue jeans and was carrying her rings and necklaces when he was arrested.
Rector remained impassive when the sentence was announced. When asked later if there was anything he could do now, Rector replied, “Nothing, except for money, and I ain’t got none.”
Rector’s mother, Lola Chism, walked to the defense table and knelt behind her son after the verdict was read. “Peter didn’t cry, and you shouldn’t either,” she said. She was referring to the biblical Peter.
District Judge Tom Blackwell set formal sentencing for 2 p.m. Sept. 2. He said an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals is automatic in capital murder cases.
Prosecutors Phil Nelson and Rosemary Lehmberg said they were pleased with the swiftness of the deliberations. “It was a good jury and they did a good job. I’m not really surprised at all,” Nelson said.
District Attorney Ronald Earle said he hoped the quick verdict and sentence “send a message to criminals in our community.”
“The public is mad and they’re not going to put up with this kind of crime. And this shows the criminals just how mad people are,” he said.
Earle and the prosecutors met privately with jurors after the death sentence was announced. Afterward, several members of the jury said they had decided not to comment on their deliberations.
Nelson said the jurors “didn’t seem to show a great deal of emotion” during the 10-minute meeting. “There was some relief, but there was nothing traumatic,” he said.
Earlier Friday, in an emotional closing comment to jurors during the punishment phase of the trial, Nelson said it was “abundantly clear that when Charles Rector wants something, he kills.
He said Rector’s criminal record--a murder conviction in 1974, two robbery convictions in 1973 and two untried robbery charges in 1981--indicated the defendant should not be given “a second chance.”
Regardless of the jury’s decision, Nelson added, “A death warrant will be issued.” He said the death warrant would either have Rector’s name on it, “or it will be a blank one, and Charles Rector will fill in the name (of another victim).”
Throughout most of the two week-trial, Rector remained calm and showed little emotion. During the final minutes of the trial Friday morning, though, Rector on two occasions interrupted witnesses called to discuss his criminal record.
The first time to he interrupted a witness, lead defense attorney Rip Collins told him to “shut up,” and on the second occasion Collins remarked, “Are you going to handle this or am I?”
Rector soon asked to be excused from the courtroom for the remainder of the trial. Judge Blackwell denied his request.

Austin American-Statesman
January 7, 1984

Parolee is sentenced in church theft 

Anthony Michael Miller, acquitted a year ago in the abduction, rape and murder of Katy Davis, was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison for a burglary at the First Baptist Church of Austin.

Miller, 22, was one of three parolees arrested in October 1981 and charged with capital murder in the killing of Davis.

One suspect in the Davis killing, Howard Ray Simon, escaped from jail and was shot to death after a robbery in Louisiana. Another suspect Charles Rector, was convicted in 1982 of capital murder and sentenced to death.

Miller was charged with the Sept. 1 with burglary of the church at 509 Trinity St. 

***Also see September 27, 2011 post on Charles Rector

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lola wanted to be a wild west cowboy

Her dream of being a cowboy was not realized but it did not stop her dreaming.

Lola Mae Edwards Rector Chism
The story in the family is that Lola Mae, as we called her, was run over by a hit and run driver when she was a child. As a result of the accident she was late walking. Family members said she was about three years old, maybe older when she started walking. The hit and run driver was caught right away due to the fast thinking of a neighborhood grocery store owner. I cannot say if  this family tale is true, but I've heard it repeated more than one time by adults in the family.

As first cousins Lola Mae, Marie (my sister) and I practically grew up together. When her mother, Imogene Fowler, got married to a service man Earl V. Gray.  They were stationed in Washington, D. C.  Imogene came to Texas get Lola Mae, and she  lived in Washington a number of years. Imogene and Lola Mae did not have the best mother/daughter relationship. Most the time they tolerated each other. When she was about 14 Lola Mae returned Texas to live with Big Mama (Leola). We all lived in a white two-story house on East 7th Street in the rear. Lola Mae wore nice dresses, slips and shoes, all of which were much nicer that what Marie and I wore.

For a reason no one in the family could explain, Lola Mae fantasized about being a cowboy. Cowgirls were too girly for her. Of course, when we were young every kid in the neighborhood played cowboys and Indians. In fact, I cannot recall any of us girls playing a cowgirl. We were all cowboys, along with the boys. Wearing dresses did not make us less "cowboyish." Our horses were brooms and mop handles; our guns were sticks and pointing fingers. We yelled "bang, bang" every time we shot at each other.We hid behind the big tree surrounding our house or someplace else.

Linda Gray, Lola's oldest dgt
After going to see a western movie every Saturday afternoon, we would come home and Lola Mae challenged us to a western-style gun fight. She never doubted that she was the fastest draw on East 7th Street. She always won because we never took the cowboy gun fight as  seriously as she did. She even had the walk and stand like a gun fighter. She really thought she was a cowboy for a long time. She  imitated the way cowboys walked and talked.

When she was about 18 years old Lola Mae Edwards met and married Charles Daniel Rector in the early 1950s. He worked as a doughnut maker and short order at Woolsworth department store, located downtown on Congress Avenue. Black people could cook and wash dishes and shop at Woolsworth but they could not sit at the counter and eat.

After a “proper” courtship, Lola and Charles got married. In 1954 she gave birth to Charles Henry Rector. He was a little big eyed kid, who looked like his mother and father. He grew up to be petite in size like his parents. Lola Mae had two more children: Barbara Jean and Gertrude (she changed her name to Gigi).  Rector, Sr. was not their father. Lola Mae's oldest daughter, Linda Gray, was born a couple of years before her marriage to Charles. Linda was raised by her grandmother Imogene Fowler Gray. She gave Linda her last name. Imogene raised Linda until she  became ill with cancer. Linda, a teenager, went to live with Lola. Her stay with Lola Mae was short.

I assume Lola Mae and Charles got a divorce because of a "domestic incident" that took Charles by surprise. Actually, the incident took the whole family by surprise. Charles' mother quickly whisked him off to California to live. If he returned to Austin, he made no contact with Lola Mae.

Before she began to show signs of mental illness, Lola Mae was as good a mother as she knew how to be. Her children were never left alone by themselves or with babysitters.  Wherever she went she took them with her. Although she did not have the cooking talents of her mother, Imogene, she managed to cook good enough to feed her family. She did not drink alcohol or do drugs.

When Lola Mae was 35 she  married her second husband, George Chism, 50, May 2, 1969. He  had been married to a woman our grandmother, Leora Fowler Sterling, raised from a small child.  Lola and George had no children together. He was the stepfather to four children from  a previous marriage to Bernice, the woman Leora raised.

Charles Henry Rector
George died June 29, 1970. On December 12, 1997, Lola Mae Edwards Chism died of lung cancer.

She left behind to mourn her death three daughters Linda Gray of California, Barbara Jean Edwards, and Gigi Gertrude Edwards, one son Charles Henry Rector; one grandchild Latisha Wilkins, an aunt Gertrude Fowler Smith; a host of cousins, friends and other relatives. She is preceded in death by her mother Imogene Fowler Gray, her grandmother Leora (Leola) Fowler Sterling, grandfather Mose (Mozell) Fowler, great-grandmother Pearl Powell Brown of Bastrop, Texas, four uncles Raymond Fowler of Lorain, Ohio, Mike Fowler of Los Angeles, Isiah Fowler of Washington, D.C., and Johnny Mose Fowler of Austin, Texas.

Lola Mae Edwards Chism was funeralized at a local funeral home, followed by cremation.

Pictured below: Barbara Edwards (below center), her husband and child; Gigi Edwards Wilkins, mother to Marcus, Latisha (bottom). Arron, who was born a few years later is not pictured.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mike Fowler often relived his army days

Mike Fowler
Leora (Leola) and Mose (Mozell) always had a house big enough for their children to stay when they came home for a visit. When Mike Fowler returned to Austin after serving in World War ll, he was expected to live with his parents before striking out on his own.

On the surface Mike, my first favorite uncle, seemed to be "normal" until he was spooked by an airplane, gunshots or firecrackers. One afternoon the family was outside playing games and jumping rope. A plane flew over our house. What happened next was scary. It was the first time we witnessed Mike having a post war panic attack.

The instant he heard the plane I think he began reliving the war. Mike started running and dodging an enemy we could not see. Luckily, it did not take long for him to recover. Just as quickly as the episode started, Mike was his old self again.

Not knowing the seriousness of his war related condition, we silly kids laughed at him. Whenever we wanted to see Uncle Mike "have a fit" we would light fire crackers and throw them behind him. As an adult I now know that the firecrackers must have sounded like a succession of gunshots, sending him into a panic. Our poor uncle jumped toward the sky. He always looked frightened as he searched for a place to hide.

Every day we were outside someone managed to get a firecracker or two. We played that game with our uncle until it stopped being funny. As usual he took it in stride. The Army did not call his post war condition Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The word  was not used until the Vietnam war ended. It was obvious that Mike suffered PTSD before it was labeled as such. I heard older people in the family say he was "shell-shocked", which means combat fatigue.

"Uncle Mike" as my sister Marie and I called him, was the softhearted one of his sisters and brothers. He was not ashamed to cry when he got emotional. What I liked the most about him is, he thought I was good cook, no matter how awful it tasted. I was about 11 or 12 years old and knew nothing about real cooking. He never discouraged me. He and my Uncle Cluck were the first to send me to a real beauty shop to get my hair done by a real beautician. The woman, who liked to talk while she pressed and curled my hair, burned my ears and scalp each time she ran the hot comb through my hair. It was not a pleasant experience.

I also remember Mike having a couple of gold teeth, as did his sister Gertrude. That was the fashion back then. They polished the gold teeth with baking soda. Mike was also a "sharp" dresser. After he moved to Los Angeles he fell in love with the race track and playing the horses. Occasionally he and his wife Ann came to Austin to see his mother and family.

Mike Fowler was born to Mose and Leora Fowler January 20, 1919 in Justice Precinct 3, Bastrop, Texas. He had two sisters Imogene Fowler-Gray, Gertrude Fowler-Smith and three brothers Johnny Mose Fowler, Raymond Fowler and Israel Fowler.

When he died of a heart attack July 18, 1983 in Los Angeles, California, Mike was living with his second wife Ann. They had no children together. His first wife, an Austinite, was Erma Gene Elder, who he married June 4, 1940. He was 21.

Mike Fowler leaves behind to mourn him, his wife Ann of Los Angeles, a sister Gertrude Fowler Smith, a brother Johnny Mose Fowler both of Austin, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and other relatives. He is preceded in death by his mother Leora (Leola) Sterling, his father Mose Fowler, two brothers Israel Fowler of Washington, D.C. and Raymond Fowler of Lorain, Ohio, one sister Imogene Fowler Gray of Austin.

Mike is interned at Riverside National Cemetery, Section 3, Ste llll, Los Angeles, California.

This photo was taken in Los Angeles or in Ohio when Leora went for a visit. Pictured are (l) Ann (Mike's wife) Mary (Raymond's wife) Leora (c) Mike and Raymond (r).

Monday, June 21, 2010

A big bowl of vanilla ice cream, or a big bowl of fluffy butter?

Grandpa Mose (Mozell) Fowler was a simple man, who could not  eat a bowl of vanilla ice cream without a couple slices of bread. He said the slightly yellowish ice cream looked more like a bowl of butter than ice cream. Big Mama (Leola) could not convince his otherwise. That was the joke as told by Big Mama and his children. 

Leola (Leora) churned her own butter, and when she finished it was light and fluffy with a sweetish flavor. Maybe that's why grandpa thought the ice cream was a bowl of butter. It was not cold like ice cream because Leora had an ice box, which was no where close to a refrigerator. Basically grandpa was a country raised meat and potatoes man.

Mose Fowler and Leora Powell got married when they were both very young, October 10, 1914. She was 14 and he was around 18. A genealogy search reveals that he was born around December 25, 1894 in Bastrop, Texas, where he and Leora met. He registered with the draft board in 1917. I do not know his parents names or where they were born. We never met them. I have no idea if they lived in Austin, and did not talk about them. When Big Mama (Leora) was living I did not ask her, not realizing the information would come in handy when I began researching our family genealogy.

Mose, a laborer, held a variety of jobs to support his family. In 1947 he was employed by the City of Austin, probably as a janitor. A couple of years later he and Leora  separated. Their children were all grown. They divorced in 1948.  On September 23, 1949 Mose married Ida Mae Thompson, mother of two sons. She was a short dark skinned woman, who stuttered when she talked. No matter her speech impediment, she was proud to stutter that she was "Mrs. Fowler." My sister Marie and I liked her because she, along with grandpa, gave us money on weekends.

In late 1965 Mose fell ill, at which time he moved in with his daughter Gertrude and her family for a short time. He was bedridden Gertrude had him moved to a nursing home, where died July 15, 1966.

Mose (Mozell) Fowler left behind to mourn his death one daughter Gertrude Fowler Smith and son Johnny Mose Fowler, both of Austin, sons Mike Fowler of Los Angeles, Raymond Fowler, Sr. of Ohio, several grandchildren, friends and other relatives. He is preceded in death by a daughter Imogene Fowler Gray and one son Isiah (Israel) Fowler of Washington, D.C.

Funeral service was held at King Tears Mortuary Chapel at 2pm. Internment was at Fairview Cemetery in Bastrop, Texas.

Mose's first wife, Leora Clark. She was 14 when 
they married; he was 18. They had six children.

A smiling kid named Raymond

Raymond E. Fowler was a playful kid, full of mischief and quick to smile. We first met our cousins from Lorain, Ohio after their mother, Priscilla, died during or after giving birth to Freddie, the baby of six children. Priscilla had an enlarged heart, the cause of her death.  Our Ohio cousins came to Austin to live with Leora (Leola) Fowler, their grandmother, in 1954. Their adjustment to Texas, their cousins, aunts and uncles--was not immediate.

They did not have a Texas accent like we did, and I loved the way they said certain words, especially "hair" and "car." They were good kids but kind of sad. All of them except Freddie, were old enough to remember their mother. 

They did not stay in Texas long enough to get in real trouble. They lived with Big Mama in Booker T. Washington Projects until 1963. Some years later after they had grown up they came back for visits.

They returned to Austin when we thought Big Mama was dying in the late 1970s. The doctor told us to call all out-of-town relatives if they wanted to see her before she died. She was not looking good. Her breathing was shallow and labored. She had a serious heart attack. We made the necessary calls. Big Mama did not die that night. She lived for six or seven years! What a surprise!

I was researching our family genealogy when I discovered that our cousin Raymond Fowler had died in Los Angeles. Over the years we lost contact with each other. None of us had each others addresses and telephone numbers. Needless to say, I was shocked to learn of his death. I still remember the little smiling kid. I only saw him a couple of times as a grownup. He had the same quick smile.

I found his obit in The Morning Journal, Los Angeles, July 28, 2005. The rest of the family in Texas were just as shocked to hear of his passing.

Raymond E. Fowler was born to Priscilla and Raymond Fowler, Sr., March 7, 1947 in Lorain, Ohio. He was the oldest of four brother and two sisters: Wayne, Jerome, Freddie, Leola and Sandra Elaine. He died July 17 at his home in Los Angeles after suffering an asthma attack.

Raymond attended elementary school in Austin until he returned to Ohio. He attended Ohio's Admiral King High School where he played football, and was on the wrestling team. He worked as a truck driver at the Assistant League of Southern California. He completed his cross-country training at Camino Rio Trucking School. Prior employment was at Modern Tool and Die in Parma. Raymond liked trucks and riding his motorcycle. He was a member of the Talking Radios CB Motorcycle Club.

Raymond left behind to mourn his passing his stepmother Mary Fowler-Trapley, sons Aaron Fowler, Andre Calhoun and Raymond Fowler lll, all of Lorain; daughters Charlena Fowler of Avon, and Priscilla Fowler of Lorain, brothers Wayne Fowler of Los Angeles, Jerome of Cleveland, Freddy Fowler of Orlando, FL., Bruce Fowler of Greensboro, N.C., Dwayne Pryor of Elyria and Mike Byrd of Kentucky; sisters Sandra Fowler and Leora Hill of Los Angeles, and Lynette Pryor of Vallejo, Calif., and six grandchildren and many nieces, nephews and other relatives. He is preceded in death by his parents Raymond Fowler, Sr. and Priscilla Fowler (nee Douthit), and paternal grandparents Mose (Mozell) and Leora (Leola) Fowler.

Funeral service was held at Worship Cathedral Church in Lorain, Saturday, 11am. Rev. Terance Bivin, officiated. Internment was at Elmwood Cemetery.

Raymond's father the late Raymond Fowler, Sr.

Raymond, Sr. and Mary Fowler, stepmother to Raymond.

Imogene was the 'glamorous' sister

Imogene Fowler Gray
Imogene Fowler Gray was the "glamorous" daughter who loved expensive shoes, clothes, perfumes, and hosting fabulous parties. Her home always smelled like Estee Lauder or some other expensive perfume. Everyone in the family was happy to see her when she returned to Austin, because she bought home presents we could not afford to buy ourselves. Her mother, Leora (Leola), got the biggest and best presents.

On one memorable visit to Austin she and I went grocery shopping at a neighborhood supermarket. She was not dressed up, but she wore a mink jacket. The jacket angered the White cashier, who made some unflattering remarks. Out of the blue she called my aunt an "uppity nigger." Remembering the way she looked at my aunt, contempt in her eyes, I assumed the cashier could not afford to buy a mink jacket for herself. Sounded like she was jealous and resentful.

Imogene certainly did not like the cashier's attitude and she let her know it. Instead of paying for the groceries, Imogene left the items on the counter, along with a few choice words for the seething cashier to swallow. We walked out of the store, listening to the White cashier demanding that she pay for the groceries. Aunt Jean had always been my hero, but she became a bigger hero to me that day. She refused to be insulted by a racist cashier who resented her for having the gall to wear a mink jacket to a grocery store.

In addition to being a woman of fashion, Imogene was an excellent cook. She cooked a lot of fancy foods when she came to visit. I say fancy because what she cooked did not look like the foods my mother and Big Mama cooked. She taught my mother, Gertrude, how to make homemade rolls. She set the table to eat, something we never did. She had matching dishes and silverware.

Imogene was born to Mose (Mozell) and Leora (Leola), April 7, 1917 in Bastrop, Texas. She is the oldest daughter of two girls, and the sister to four brothers. When she married U. S. Army Sgt. Earl V. Gray in 1947, she had a 14-year-old daughter, Lola Mae Edwards. Gray accepted her as his own. However, Lola liked coming to Austin to visit her immediate cousins, who were me and my sister Marie. Imogene and Gray had no children together, making Lola an only child. Imogene did get pregnant but she had a miscarriage. The pregnancy was complicated, leaving her unable to have more children after that.

Because Earl was in the Army they traveled a lot. When they traveled overseas, Imogene usually left Lola to live with Big Mama. Because she married a soldier, Imogene got a chance to travel and see the world. When they finally settled down in Seattle, Washington, she came to get Lola Mae. Eventually Lola decided she wanted to return to Austin to live with Big Mama. At least with us, she had someone to hang out with.

After the death of her husband, Imogene moved to Austin permanently. Within a few years her own health began to was fail. Her cancer had been in remission for years but it returned with a vengeance. It took her life August 24, 1961. She died at Brook Army Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

Imogene is survived by her daughter Lola Mae Edwards, three grand-daughters Barbara Jean Edwards, Gigi Gertrude Edwards, Linda Gray, and one grandson Charles Henry Rector, all of Austin. Also her mother Leora Fowler Sterling, her father Mose (Mozell) Fowler; one sister Gertrude Fowler Smith, four brothers Mike Fowler of Los Angeles, Raymond Fowler of Lorain, Ohio, Israel Fowler of Washington and Johnny Mose Fowler of Austin. She left behind a host of nieces, nephews and friends. She was preceded in death by her grandmother Pearl Powell Brown of Bastop, Texas.

Funeral service was held at King Tears Mortuary at 2pm. Rev. R. A. Grant, officiated. Internment was at Evergreen Cemetery.

Imogene's only   daughter Lola Mae Edwards and her mother Leora Fowler Sterling.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Johnny Mose was Big Mama's pet

Johnny Mose "Cluck" Fowler
Johnny Mose "Cluck" Fowler was born to Leora and Mose Fowler, December 12, 1925 in Bastrop, Texas.

"Cluck" or "Johnny Mose" as everyone called him, was the fun uncle of the family. His best buddy was a guy nicked named "Catfish." He was tall, slim and dark skinned and actually looked like a catfish!

Cluck could be as childish as his nieces, and he made us call him Uncle Cluck. If we refused to call him uncle he would wrestle us to the floor, pull our hair or pour water on us. It was always something fun and playful. Younger children who did not know him were terrified of him until they got used to his rough play.

A lot on the skinny side, Cluck liked to wear khakis pants that were starched and perfectly ironed. His favorite shoes were Stacy Adams with pointed toes. That was the style of dress and shoes worn by African Americans and Hispanic males. They wore their pants low but with a belt. None of that low hanging, underwear showing "fashion" today. Cluck could walk and run without fear of his pants falling down around his ankles. Guys took pride in the way they dressed.

Johnny Mose was his mother's pet. He had her wrapped around his finger. She spoiled him. If she had $10 and he wanted $9.95 of it, he got it. He was 26 years old before he got married. Funny thing is, he always bragged that he would never marry a woman whose hair was shorter than his.

Guess what? He fell in love with, and married a woman whose hair was shorter than his. Her name was Irene Riggins. She was cute, lively, loud and shapely. Needless to say we were shocked when we met her. We looked for long hair that was not there. We liked her anyhow. They got married in 1951. Her short hair was always neat, and her penny loafers looked like they had been professionally shined every day. I would sit on the porch with her and watch her shine them. She was a friendly as Uncle Cluck.

When they separated Johnny Mose did not remarry until several years later. In 1956 he married Jennie V. House, a woman who was older than him. A marvelous cook, she cooked for a sorority house at the University of Texas. Every night she bought home delicious foods and shared it with us. She and Cluck lived in the house in front of us. Big Mama (Leola) lived in the rear; so did Gertrude and her family. We all lived on Salina Street.

Jennie V. and Johnny Mose were separated by the time he died September 17, 1991 of natural causes. These were the only two women he ever married. He had one daughter but he and the mother never married. I remember her name was Henretta. She was light skinned, petite and cute. We stayed on East 7th during that time.

Johnny Mose "Cluck" Fowler left behind a daughter, a host of nieces and nephews and friends to mourn his death. He is preceded in death by his father Mose (Mozell) Fowler, his mother Leora (Leola) Fowler, his sisters Imogene Fowler Gray and Gertrude Fowler Smith of Austin, his brothers Mike Fowler of California, Raymond Fowler of Lorain Isiah Fowler of Washington, D. C., and his second wife Jennie V. Fowler.

Funeral service for Johnny Mose Fowler was held at Phillips-Upshaw Richard Chapel, Wednesday, September 25, 1991, 1PM, Elder R. D. Reese, officiated. Internment was at Onion Creek Cemetery.

Replica of funeral program

In Loving Memory 


Johnny Mose "Cluck" Fowler

Wednesday, September 25, 1991


Phillips-Upshaw and Richard Chapel

1410 East 12th Street

Austin, Texas 78702

Elder R.D.  Reese, Officiating

Order of Service 



                                      Scripture                                         Elder R. D. Reese
                                      Old Testament

                                      New Testament

                                      Prayer                                              Elder R. D. Reese

                                      Eulogy                                               Elder R. D. Reese


by Mary Stevenson 

One night I had a dream
I was walking along the beach with the Lord
and across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints,
one belonged to me and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you would walk with me all the way,
but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in
my life there is only one set of footprints.
"I don't understand why in times when I needed you most,
you should leave me."
The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child,
I love you and I would never, never leave you
during your times of trial and suffering.
"When you saw only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you."

Casket Bearers

Ernest Smith, lll                                      Ken Titcherson

Michael Smith                                         Donald Carter

William Files                                            Dwight White

                               Tambie Winn


The family would like t express their appreciation to their many friends for their words of comfort. Internment: Onion Creek Cemetery, Austin, Texas.

We loved Terrance and wanted him with us, but God wanted him more

We loved him dearly but God loved him more.
One sunny September afternoon he needed an extra angel to complete his angelic choir.

Terrance was born to Tracy Murray Smith and Ernest Smith Jr., July 22, 1974. He was the baby of three brothers: Michael Anthony, Peter Cornell and Ernest, lll.

Terrance Jermaine Smith was with our family for a very short time. He was a lovable child, who died unexpectedly of bacteria meningitis in September. Many children were admitted to Brackenridge Hospital that night with the same virus. Terrance was the only child to die. 

He was on life support for a week before the doctor suggested that Tracy and Ernest take him off life support. He said the machine was breathing for him. My sister Marie and I insisted that they not listen to the doctor. We were aware that his short life had come to an end but we could not let go. They listened to the doctor rather to us. We were racked with emotions, rather than common sense. We knew he had passed to the other side. Saying good-bye was hard.

We wanted to hold onto the dream and that wish of a last minute miracle. It happened in movies all the time. Why not now . . .  for us? How grateful and thankful we would have been! But the miracle did not come. Reality shoved its self into our brains. On September 30, 1976 at 3PM, we cut loose Terrance's spirit, letting it fly freely towards his final destination. He was two years old.

I was angry at God for weeks, but the anger subsided. I resented God's power to take away someone so precious and young as Terrance. I had to remind myself that we all had a certain time, day and hour to leave this earth. Our little Terrance's hour had arrived, and we had to let go. Several family members were at his side when he was taken off life support.

The official cause of death was cardiac arrest due to meningitis. Ironically, at the minute of his death, our sister Kaffey gave birth to one more niece. God took one child to his Kingdom, but he blessed us with another baby to ease our pain.

Despite his limited days on earth, Terrance Jermaine Smith left a number of relatives behind to grieve his passing: his mother Tracy Murray Smith, his father Ernest Smith, Jr., his brothers Michael Smith, Peter Cornell Smith, Ernest Smith, lll; his grandparents Ernest and Gertrude Smith, Christina Murray; his aunts Rose Ann Smith, Kaffey Smith Watts, Dorothy Charles Banks, Marie Ockletree and a host of relatives.

Terrance Jermaine Smith, 2, was funeralized at King Tears Funeral Mortuary Chapel, Saturday, October 2, 1976, 2:30pm. Interment was at Evergreen Cemetery.

Replica of funeral program

Funeral Services


Terrance Jermaine Smith

Saturday, October 2, 1976


King Tears Mortuary Chapel


Terrance Jermaine Smith was born July 22, 1974  in Austin, Texas to Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Smith. He departed this life Thursday, September 30, 1976.

He leaves behind to mourn his passing, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Smith, Jr., three brothers, Ernest Smith lll, Michael Anthony Smith and Peter C. Smith, maternal grandmother, Mrs. Christine Spears, maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Smith, Sr., all of Austin; aunts Ms. Rose Ann Smith, Mrs. Dorothy Banks, Mrs. Marie Ockletree, Mrs. Kaffey Watts, all of Austin and Mrs. Joy Murray of Houston, Texas and a host of relatives. 

Funeral program


Song                                       Nearer My God To Thee


Song                                       Precious Lord

Eulogy                                    Rev. R. A. Grant



The family gracefully acknowledges all cards and flowers, messages of comfort, and other expressions of sympathy extended during the passing of our darling angel.

Officiating                                 Rev. R.A. Grant
Internment                               Evergreen Cemetery

Ernest, 111 and Michael Anthony, two of Terrance's older brothers

Terrance's father, Ernest Smith, Jr. a week before his death June 5, 2010.

Terrance's mother, Tracy Murray Smith and granddaughter