Tall and slim, shoulders stooped slightly from age, the familiar and beloved figure of Willie Brandon enters the Rutherford County Courthouse. With shining eyes and a ready smile, he returns any greeting with "ahright!" He takes measured, careful steps to the supply room to retrieve his trash cart. It's three p.m. and he is on the clock. This is just another day of work to add to the ninety-four years he has already completed. Mr. Brandon is 102 years old.
He was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on June 12th, 1906. His parents, Charles and Jimmie Brandon were sharecroppers in a small town called Readyville, a few miles east of Murfreesboro. Although his beginnings were humble, he never lacked for love. Charles and Jimmie were resilient individuals, determined to give their young son the ideals and strength that would carry him through many hard times. This goal was an exceptionally hard one for the Brandon family, as they were African Americans living in a very unstable time period.
The young Willie started working the fields with his daddy at just eight years old. If you ask if this bothered him, he'll smile, shake his head, and tell you, "no, that's just the way it was." He treats his lack of education in the same resigned manner, but with obvious regret. His schooling at Kittrell School in Murfreesboro was finished after the sixth grade. This was the highest grade of education available to him as a child in the south. The Jim Crow laws, ever present during his childhood, young adult and middle age life, allowed Southern officials to sanction the segregation of blacks into separate public facilities. This included schools. Typically, the women chosen to teach in these schools were previous "well-behaved" students of the school, who only had a sixth grade education themselves. Young Willie had first hand knowledge of this since his mother and auntie were two of those teachers in his school.
The Journey continues