Black Sheep Sunday: Jesse Earl Linville

My great-grandmother’s younger brother, Jesse Linville, had a troubled life for reasons I don’t fully understand because nobody talks, even all these years later, about Uncle Jesse.

Jesse was born in 1908 in Tippah County, Mississippi. He was the tenth child of David Hezekiah Linville and his wife, Mary Frances Shelton.

He grew up farming with his father and brothers and all seemed normal growing up.

Jesse Earl Linville

Perhaps there was an physical injury whose pain caused him to seek relief or a mental one, I don’t know. But for whatever reason, Jesse got hooked on drugs as a young man. I don’t know when it happened, because I cannot account for him between the years of 1920 and 1935.

I find him living in Longview, Texas in 1935 with his brother Frank and working as a cook. It wasn’t long after that that Jesse was arrested for burglary. On 1 March 1936, he was sentenced to serve two years in the Texas State Penitentiary. He entered prison that June and only served just over a year. He was released on 25 June 1937. You will notice the drug addict notation in his record.

Convict Register for Jesse Linville, top entry
Convict Register for Jesse Linville, top entry

I find no record of his draft registration for World War II. I surmise he was considered unfit and ineligible for service because of his drug addiction.

Sometime in between all of these arrests and prison sentences, he found time to be married at least two times, probably three. I found no names of any of his wives, just prison records that he was married.¬†Frank had probably had enough of Jesse’s troubles, family or not. A desperate drug addict is capable of anything and Frank had a wife and two children to think about.

So, Jesse finds his way back to Mississippi and the huge farm in the Delta owned by his oldest brother, William. It was here that the story of Jesse Linville took its sharpest turn. I’m sure Jesse was not the easiest person to deal with, being hooked on morphine. Wild and crazy in the high and violently angry and paranoid when it wore off. So his marriages didn’t seem to last long enough to be counted and children were out of the question. He had also lost both parents in 1934 and went wild. With his last (probably fourth) wife Christine and her two children, he tried to get his life back together.

In 1949, it all came to a head.

The microfilm copy of this article from the Southern Sentinel didn’t want to cooperate so this was the best copy I could get.A murder-suicide. How incredibly tragic. What’s worse is the fact that the children witnessed this. Jesse and Christine fought, probably a lot since he couldn’t afford the morphine lately. He was probably angry and paranoid and just shot her. Then the fact that he did caught up with him and he shot himself. Thankfully William was close by and could help the children.