John Wright McMurry: My Granny’s Brother

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is Brother.  (To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


My “Unk” – John Wright McMurry, December 1981

Photograph of John Wright McMurry, December 1981, digital image, privately held by John Dewey Horne, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Louisiana. Photo taken by John or Gwen Horne during Christmas celebration at home of Ethel McMurry Horne.

I only knew one of my granny’s brothers, my great-uncle John Wright McMurry. Everyone else in my family called him “Uncle Wright,” but I affectionately shortened it to “Unk.”

Unk lived with my grandmother in her house trailer on our property. Every afternoon when my dad came home from work, he, my mom, and I walked next door and had coffee with Granny and Unk. The only distinct memory I have of Unk is burying my face in his rust-colored recliner anytime he got up to refill his coffee cup. I thought if I couldn’t see him, he couldn’t see me — and that was a fun game of hide and seek for a toddler.

Unk died when I was three years old. I don’t remember any details, just lots of food brought to Granny’s house and my wondering where Unk was. Now that I’m older, I realize how amazing it is that I have any memories — even faint ones — of him.

John Wright McMurry was born August 9, 1918, most likely in Franklin Parish, Louisiana.¹ He was the youngest child of George Washington McMurry and Lula McKaskle.²

John was two years old when his father died, and his mother died when he was 13.³ John probably lived with his sister Ethel after she married in 1933, but I have not yet located him on the 1940 census.

John was inducted into the United States Army in October 1942.⁴ He appears in a list of draftees from Franklin Parish in the October 15, 1942, edition of the Monroe News-Star:

“Franklin Will Send 124 Men,” The Monroe News-Star, 15 Oct 1942, p. 9, col. 1; image copy, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/?clipping_id=32523161 : accessed 4 Aug 2019).

John seems to have served his country longer than just World War II. He re-enlisted on October 26, 1945, at Hayward Army Air Field in California.⁵ John’s enlistment record contains additional information about his background and work:⁶

  • His enlistment was for the Hawaiian Department, perhaps indicating he spent some time in Hawaii.
  • His level of education was grammar school.
  • His occupation was “Skilled occupations in manufacture of electrical machinery and accessories.”
  • His marital status was single, without dependents.

It was during this second enlistment that my aunts recall John returning home to Franklin Parish for a month-long visit.⁷ He brought with him a woman named Hazel and her son Doyle, who was about the same age as my Aunt Lillian. My aunts were not sure if John and Hazel were married, but it soon became apparent John intended to leave Hazel and Doyle at my grandparents’ home when he returned to service. My grandfather supposedly took John outside and told him that plan wasn’t going to work. My aunts say Hazel and Doyle left with John at the end of his leave, and they never saw or heard about them again.

John’s military service ended on February 18, 1954.⁸ I’m unsure if he immediately returned to Franklin Parish or if he lived or worked elsewhere. My aunts tell me he spent some time with my Aunt Lillian’s family in Fresno County, California, during these years.⁹ He eventually returned home and worked on a farm driving tractors and operating heavy machinery. He lived with his sister Ethel, my granny, after my grandfather died, and remained in her home until his death on June 19, 1984.¹⁰

One final interesting tidbit I learned from my aunts:

My granny once helped Unk regain incorrect withholdings from his military pension.¹¹ He was receiving a reduced amount, perhaps because of some relationship with the mysterious Hazel. I’m not sure what Granny did to have the full amount restored, but it seems the government couldn’t find Hazel or Doyle, meaning Unk could then receive all his pension. I would love to solve the Hazel/Doyle puzzle, but if the United States military couldn’t find them, I doubt my investigation will end any differently. But I’ll still give it a try, of course…


¹Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images ( https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13566606/mcm : accessed 4 Aug 2019), memorial 13566606, John Wright McMurry (1918-1984), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana.

²1920 U.S. census, Franklin Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Ward 8, p. 2-A, dwelling 27, family 27, George Murrie household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6061/4300967_00921: accessed 31 May 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 612.

³ “Louisiana Deaths, 1850-1875, 1894-1960,” database with images; FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QLHZ-BLDQ : accessed 9 Mar 2019); citing Louisiana State Department of Health, death certificate 13374 (1920), George McMurray, Louisiana State Archives, Baton Rouge. 

“Louisiana Deaths, 1850-1875, 1894-1960,” database with images; FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QLHZ-BLDQ : accessed 9 Mar 2019); citing Louisiana State Department of Health, death certificate 6426 (1932), Lula Horne, Louisiana State Archives, Baton Rouge. 

⁴Department of Veterans Affairs, “BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010,” database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/vadeaths/ : accessed 4 Aug 2019), entry for John McMurry (1918-1984).

⁵John W McMurry, WWII Army Enlistment Records, 26 Oct 1945, Hayward AAF, California; digital image, Fold3.com ( https://www.fold3.com/record/90457649-john-w-mcmurry : accessed 4 Aug 2019), citing NARA record group 64, box 1321, card 1.

Ibid.

⁷Lillian Horne Killen, Georgia Horne Lofton, and Mary Horne Brown, daughters of William George Dewey Horne (ADDRESSES REDACTED FOR PRIVACY), interview by Jessica Horne Collins, 20 November 2018; audio recording privately held by interviewer, Houston, Texas, 2018.

⁸Department of Veterans Affairs, “BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010,” database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/vadeaths/ : accessed 4 Aug 2019), entry for John McMurry (1918-1984).

⁹Lillian Horne Killen, Georgia Horne Lofton, and Mary Horne Brown, daughters of William George Dewey Horne (ADDRESSES REDACTED FOR PRIVACY), interview by Jessica Horne Collins, 20 November 2018; audio recording privately held by interviewer, Houston, Texas, 2018.

¹⁰Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images ( https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13566606/mcm : accessed 4 Aug 2019), memorial 13566606, John Wright McMurry (1918-1984), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana.

¹¹Lillian Horne Killen, Georgia Horne Lofton, and Mary Horne Brown, daughters of William George Dewey Horne (ADDRESSES REDACTED FOR PRIVACY), interview by Jessica Horne Collins, 20 November 2018; audio recording privately held by interviewer, Houston, Texas, 2018.

One thought on “John Wright McMurry: My Granny’s Brother”

  1. In all our memories, I’m finding the widespread daily family get-togethers over food and/or coffee the very nest. At the same time its sad because its something that seems to have mostly died out, with most of us working away from home in non farming jobs.

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