Oral History Of (Jessie) Willis Keith

Interview conducted by Cindy Hall on December 8, 1997, for Professor Tom Forgey's class in Arkansas History at Southern Arkansas University. The interview took place at Keith's home in the Sharman/Bussey community near Taylor, Arkansas, and was part of "Golden Reflections," an intergenerational project organized by Nancy Bailey of the Area Agency on Aging of Southwest Arkansas, Inc. The transcript below is an excerpt of this taped-recorded interview. The original audio tape is archived at Magale Library at Southern Arkansas University.


"The focus of this oral history account is to present the frame of mind in the southwest Arkansas area in early 20 th century rural America. Focus will be placed upon rural racial relations, World War II, and home life. Mr. Willis Keith is my uncle by marriage on my father's side of the Kauffman family. He is a life-long resident of the Sharman / Bussey community."

Cindy Hall



Cindy Hall (CH): Was a midwife present at your birth?
Willis Keith (WK): No. A doctor. Dr. A.W. Keith. He was my second cousin.
CH: How many siblings do you have?
WK: 2
CH: What years were your siblings born?
WK: My oldest brother [Hubert] was bom 5 years before [1907] and my younger brother [David] was bom 5 years after me [1917].
CH: Where exactly were you born? (specific location)
WK: Well, I don't know how to give it. In Columbia County, I live about 6 or 8 miles from where I was bom. In the southern part of Columbia County south from here. Go up to the crossroads towards Hwy. 160 going into Taylor in the Sharman community. Go to the crossroads south about 6 miles.
CH: Is it still standing:
WX: Oh, no. It's not still standing, but you can tell it was a home place. It's been done away with.
CH: Where did you attend school?
WK: Sharman country school. Sharman and Bussey schools consolidated. When I quit school I was going to Bussey. It was close to the cemetery, the old house is still there but it has been remodeled. It is now the Baptist parsonage where the old school was. The Bussey school, I know where the building or the houseplace is, I know where the old house was. The old well is still there. You go over there west from here and hit the highway and go straight across [northwest]. You go down to there and you can tell where the school was.
CH: Sharman was a town?
WK: No, it was a community.