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You're Reading Stone Mountain To Dallas - The Untold Story Of Roy E Davis



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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 

1933 was a troubling year for the nation, but a good year for Roy. Adolf Hitler started the year by giving a Proclamation to the German Nation which was a call for action, with undertones suggesting war if Germanys fallen condition did not improve.[220] This came one day before an international conference on disarmament ended without results, Germany refusing to cooperate and leaving the conference. The German military began working on the first Nazi concentration camp, which would open just a few weeks after the speech. Immediately after it opened, Jewish immigrants in New York City began crying out in protest,[221] requesting a boycott of German goods in the United States. Persecution continued to get worse, and the Nazi party formed the Gestapo secret police, forcing closure of both Jewish and Jehovahs Witnesses facilities in Germany and outlawing sacred Jewish ritual. By June, all non-Nazi parties were forbidden in Germany.[222]

Without Upshaw lobbying for Prohibition in Washington, the idea of dry states became less appealing. Upshaw had tried, unsuccessfully, at a presidential run in 1932[223], and it was clear that the nation was not aligned with his agenda. The Blaine Act was passed in the United States Senate[224], and this brought hope back to the people in Jeffersonville and Louisville. If the amendment was ratified, some people felt that the distilleries could bring comfort in the financial crisis. The vast majority of Kentuckiana natives, however, feared the crisis was too widespread. In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn into office, and during his inauguration speech he tried to calm the fears of the public over the Great Depression, saying, The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself. But the economy was struggling so badly that he declared a Bank Holiday, closed all of the banks in the United States, and froze all financial transactions[225].

The drought in the Midwest had become so intense that the unanchored soil turned to dust. Winds turned into black dust storms, and the large black storms looked like the apocalypse to those living through it. Black blizzards began traveling across the country, reaching as far as New York City and Washington, often reducing visibility to a meter or less.[226] A hundred million acres of farmland was rendered useless, forcing tens of thousands of people to abandon their farms and migrate to another state. But with the Great Depression crippling the nations economy, they migrated to conditions that were not much better than they left behind.

Chicago, just a few hours drive from Jeffersonville, was designated to hold the World's Fair Century of Progress International Exposition.[227] Designer Norman Bel Geddes was the main attraction, having been very successful automotive, marine, railroad, and even household design. He had published a book called Horizons at the end of 1932, and newspapers and magazines could not seem to get enough of his predictions of the future. From automobiles that would be designed in the shape of an egg, to radio-controlled vehicles that would avoid accidents resulting from human failure, to basement plans that included theaters; his designs took the minds of the people away from the troubling times to a glimpse of the future.

At the news of the Prohibition laws becoming at risk of being overturned, former congressman Upshaw also began a country-wide campaign of speeches against alcoholism. As one of the largest opponents to his political campaigns against alcohol, the state of Kentucky became a target. He formed a motorcade of dry adherents to travel caravan through 101 Kentucky towns. Named the Bluegrass Flying Squadron, the group started their meetings just outside of Louisville in the small town of Shepherdsville, and then held a rally in Louisville.[228]

With signs of another global war, troubling financial times, and an arsenal of new predictions based on the future of technology at a Worlds Fair, Davis saw another golden opportunity to rebuild his evangelistic ministry. His only hindrance was the negative publicity from the news of his trials in Louisville, but he had come out victorious on both accounts. Also, many of the rural towns in Indiana and Kentucky would be unaware of his troubles. Roy hit the trail once again as an evangelist.

Things began to change during the times of his absence. Elders William Branham, C. E. Meyers, and George DeArk[229] did their best to maintain public image, but other churches were beginning to talk about his trouble with the law and his unusual connection to Miss Laura Belle. Roy had created the impression of a very normal church, enrolling the church baseball team in the Southern Indiana Church League and inviting all churches to their frequent revival meetings, but some were starting to notice that this was far from a normal church. When Miss Laura Belles health took a sharp turn for the worst, Roy was forced to put a hold on his meetings and return to Jeffersonville. When he arrived, it was morning, and he headed straight for Miss Laura Belles house.

Miss Laura Belle, he asked. Can you hear me?

She doesnt respond for most of the day, Allie said. Shes sick, Roy, real sick. Roy went into the back room and started digging through stacks of papers.

What are you looking for, Roy? Allie said.

I know she said that she made out a last will and testament, he said. Ive been asking her to put me on it, so that I can put her money towards the mission.

Do you think that she added you to it? Allie asked. I dont think Ive seen her come in this room since weve been here.

Im not sure, Roy said, worried. I meant to take care of this before I left for up north. He found a book filled with loose pages of documents. Flipping through them, he found a page of interest and pulled it out of the book.

Shes willed her money to half this town![230] Roy exclaimed. Practically everyone but the mayor is listed here!

Everyone? Asked Allie.

No, not everyone, said Roy. He showed her the page. But theres at least thirty names here. And entire churches! The Methodist church, the Episcopal church .

Do you see your name on there? Allie asked, now looking over Roys shoulders. Roy was now writing down a list of names. After the list was complete, he wadded up the page and threw it into the wastebasket. He stood up and walked over to the cupboard and dug through it until he found a piece of paper. Sitting back down at the table, he began creating another last will and testament.

Can you do that? Allie asked.

It took several days, but Roy was able to catch Miss Laura Belle in a state of awareness that was good enough for a signature, though she wasnt entirely sure what it was that she was signing. Roy thanked her, folded the paper, and tucked it inside his suit coat pocket. A few weeks later, she died.

The funeral procession for Miss Laura Belle looked like a parade. Wilmer Fox, Miss Laura Belles legal guardian was present, as was his children and grandchildren named as heirs according to the first will. Several friends and neighbors, also included in her will came, though many of them had not seen her for years. The Wall Street Methodist Episcopal church congregation were present, all of their trustees in the will. Listed in the will were the unknown heirs of three of the Tuttle family, and there were several automobiles filled with children, all looking for their piece of the fortune. Even the trustees of the cemetery in which she was buried were included in the will.

After the body was laid to rest and the multitude had said their goodbyes, they made their way to Miss Laura Belles house for the reading of her last will and testament. Even in the large house, it was bursting at the seams with people. The children played outside while the adults congregated in the family room. Wilmer Fox had a copy of the will, and pulled it from his pocket and began reading. But before he could get to the names, Roy interrupted.

Im sorry, Mr. Fox, Roy said, but you appear to be reading Miss Laura Belles older version of her last will and testament.

Older copy? Fox said, confused. The others around the room turned and looked at Roy.

Why yes, Roy said. Allie was cleaning for Miss Laura Belle a few weeks ago, and she found this lying on her bedside stand. He pulled the updated copy from his coat pocket.

He wrote that himself! someone yelled from the back. A few others joined in, encouraging Mr. Fox to keep reading.

Gentlemen, Roy said, waving his hands for silence, the updated will waving in the air. Im a man of the Gospel, just like you are Jim, he pointed to one of the trustees of the Wall Street Methodist Episcopal church.

Hes no man of the gospel! another screamed. He runs that club he calls the Pentecostal Baptist The others joined in his anger, and a few added a few insults.

You see this signature, Roy said, holding the paper up for Fox to read. Youll recognize this as Miss Laura Belles own handwriting, not my own. Fox looked down at his copy and back at Roys.

Get him out of here! yelled another. By this time, many were in agreement. Two large men walked towards Roy, planted their feet and crossed their arms.

Were going to have to ask you to leave, mister, one of them said. Allie took a step back but Roy stood firmly before them.

Now boys, Roy said, but before he could finish they started walking forward. Roy stumbled backwards and Allie backed out of the door.

Roy, Fox said. I know that you were taking care of Miss Allie. But I was there when she told me exactly how the money was to be divided. Before Roy could object, the two large men escorted him out of the house and to the street. But Roy did not stop there.

Immediately, he began to gather support for yet another trial, this time as the plaintiff and not the defendant. Within a few weeks, every one of the people listed in the original will received a summons to court by the offices of Miranda, Bohannon, and Allison. And before long, Roys name made headlines in the local news once more, a pastor of a local church suing for the estate of a deceased member of the community.[231]

The trial in Jeffersonville was long and drawn out. It started in March, and within a few months, things got very heated. Roy started receiving threats, members of his church had to dodge protestors as they entered the building on Sunday morning. People in town began turning a cold shoulder, not only to Roy, but also to everyone who attended his church. By May, someone had burned Roys church to the ground along with the printing presses and his other equipment. He signed what was left of his property to Roy Jr, and decided to focus on his evangelism instead of starting another church.

Even the members of the Jeffersonville Klan were divided. Some stood to receive a great deal of money, and the Great Depression had placed many into hardships. The trial was turning his own church against him, alienating himself from the local people, and placing him at risk for bodily harm. But he was persistent. Roy had the will, and it was signed by Miss Laura Belle. The defense argued that she was not fully in charge of her mental faculties when the second will was signed, but upon cross examination by the witnesses, nobody but Roy and Allie were spending time with Miss Laura Belle. And according to Roy and Allie, she was fully aware of the content of the document and it was her desire to give the estate to Roy. By mid-September, Roy walked out of the courthouse victorious.

This isnt the last youll hear from us, Roy! shouted one of the defendants as they left the courthouse. You wont get away with this!

Others joined in, but Roy and Allie ignored them. They got into their automobile and headed away from the courthouse.

 

 

While Roy was consumed with his court trial and travel, his elders William Branham and George DeArk began working towards rebuilding the church.[232] Branham had been ordained as a minister by Davis a few years prior[233], and had quickly become a pillar in the church before it was burnt. Branham held the baptismal services in the Ohio River, and preached the tent revivals in his absence.[234]

During the trial, Branham had married the leader of the student ministry[235] [236] in Roys church, Hope Brumbach. As the worship leader, Branham fell quickly in love with the very talented mandolin player[237], and Branham fancied himself to be talented enough to one day become a singing evangelist. But with all of the negative publicity against Davis in Jeffersonville and Louisville, Hopes mother wanted Branham to keep her daughter away from Roys church[238]. Somehow, Roy managed to smooth things over for them, and they were wed. As a result, Branham felt indebted. Roy knew that his loyalty would be long lasting.

Branham was the perfect replacement in his absence. He absorbed everything Roy taught like a sponge, and was able to preach it with the same passion. They did not see eye-to-eye on all topics, but you could be sure none of the congregation would be thinking about interracial marriage with Branham behind the pulpit, and local Catholics were almost shunned by everyone who came in contact with Branham. Roy taught him how to whet the appetites of the congregation for more by using vague statements of prediction, how to persuade the people towards the Klans political agenda without even having to represent himself as a member, and how to appeal to their emotions and weaknesses to fill an offering plate. Together with George DeArk, a medium and a spiritualist[239], Branham worked towards rebuilding the church. By 1935, Branham had a strong enough following to purchase a plot of land and start building the Billie Branham Pentecostal Tabernacle.[240] While the building was under construction, however, the church services were held at the Masonic Hall, which gladly welcomed Davis and Branham.

Soon after the ground was purchased for Branhams Tabernacle, Roy found himself in trouble in New Albany, Indiana. At a meeting of the Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky Volunteers of America hosted by Rev. Walter Ulrey, Roy Davis was asked to speak. The next day after the meeting, to his surprise, Rev. Ulrey entered the building to find his pulpit and his piano missing.[241]

But this did not concern Branham and his congregation who were enjoying their newly donated piano and pulpit. As the pianist played the instrument and Branham sang, the congregation sang along and filled the Masonic temple with old hymns.

Late one evening during the sermon Roy decided to stop in. But he was stopped at the door. A young Henry Branham quickly pulled him out of the building and into the shadows.

Theyre looking for you, Roy, said the Henry.

Whos looking for me? Roy asked. He could see a finger over the deacons mouth signaling him to lower his voice.

Those government men, said the deacon. Theyve even sat through some of our services.

The government men? Roy asked. What are they looking for now?

I dont know, said the deacon. They ask around if anyone has seen you, but havent told anyone why. I think one of them is in the service right now.

Roy walked towards the window to look inside, but black curtains covered his view. Just then, they heard a car door slam, and both men looked to see the sheriff and a man in a black suit step out and walk towards Roys car.

Get back! the deacon said, placing his arm across Roys chest. Theyre here. Both quickly rushed to the back to the building.

Ive got money in that car! Roy hissed through his teeth. Weve got to get it.

Its too late, said the deacon. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a small roll of paper money. Take this, it will be more than enough to get you out of town.