‘The Green Book’ offered safety to African Americans traveling more than 70 years ago

SOUTHEAST MISSOURI (KFVS) – Original Post

Every old house has a story, but some have more chapters than others.

It’s a seemingly forgotten book that takes you across southeast Missouri uncovering little-known stories of the Heartland’s Black history.

Some incredible stories were uncovered in six months.

It starts with The Green Book.

A book first published in 1936 for African Americans traveling during Jim Crow laws.

Are the locations still here? Who are the people behind them?

It seemed like a simple trip, only three addresses to visit. However, none of them were there.

426 Short Oak – an empty lot.

And at 1800 North Alice – all you’ll find is a water tower.

As for Margarett Street – well…

“Never existed as far as we can tell,” said Poplar Bluff City Planner Dennis Avery.

When he was approached about the book and the location, he pulled out blueprints.

When asked if there had ever been a house there, he didn’t think so.

“No. It would have had to have been there prior to 1928 for it to have existed there,” said Avery.

It didn’t make sense, but Avery had another idea.

“I think that they are references for meeting points,” Avery said.

According to him, there was a place for travelers to stay.

“There is a house on Short 5th that was a black boarding home. We can’t find accurate records as to when that was in use for that purpose, but we do know that it existed,” Avery said.

Even though any connection to The Green Book seems to be gone, Avery said it’s an important part of Poplar Bluff, Missouri’s history.

“It’s a good thing to know that we didn’t just start doing the right thing a few years ago, we’ve been doing it for a long time,” he said.

An hour east of Poplar Bluff, in Charleston, Mo., there was more luck.

The Creole Café sat at the intersection of what is now Sy Williams Avenue and West Marshall Street.

Run by Helen Currin and her husband.

Helen’s son, Marshall, grew up in an apartment above the restaurant.

“Everyone came to the café on the weekends. It was a restaurant, it was a dance hall, it was a barbershop, it was a pool hall, and a hotel all combined. Just imagine about 300 people and dancing, and just having a good time,” Currin said.

Marshall said his mother’s door was always open.

“Everyone was welcome. Black, white, red, blue, green, you know, you was welcome. It was a spot where people knew they could come there and enjoy themselves, and not be hassled,” Currin said.

Helen Currin not only ran the café, but Marshall said she had a deeply positive impact on Charleston’s community, serving as the first black woman on the school board, and in 1970 the city honored her as Woman of the Year.

“It just gave her the recognition that she so deserved, and that was one way of the community showing that, and that being my mother, I felt really proud. It felt like I had got an award,” Currin said.

Helen was also an active member of the NAACP during a time that was uncertain, even for Marshall.

“We might get a phone call at two o’clock in the morning, you know, people threatening to come here and blow the place up.”

He said they were just idle threats and that it was mostly just intimidation, rather than action.

The Currin’s fought for civil rights in the ’60s. Marshall protested outside the now-closed McCutchen’s movie house.

“They didn’t allow blacks to sit downstairs, and we were demonstrating, boycotting, and we was arrested,” Currin said.

How old was he?

“About ten. I was arrested. I didn’t stay in jail long, but you know, it was the principal of the thing,” Currin said.

Looking back, Marshall said The Green Book puts a lot in perspective.

“I wasn’t aware of the book, but as you explained it, why this book was published, you know, to help travelers out, I could see our restaurant being in the book,” Currin said.

The restaurant closed in the 1970s when his parents retired, and the land was sold to make way for government housing, but the lot where Marshall grew up stays with him wherever he goes.

“Every time I see this I think about it, and it’s sad that it’s not here anymore, but I still have the memories. That’s something that I’ll always have,” Currin said.

Cape Girardeau, Mo. is the next stop on the journey, where history has a way of repeating itself.

The Green Book is long out of print, but for thirty years it gave traveling African-Americans safe places to stay, even here in Cape Girardeau.

“I think it’s important that Cape Girardeau have an awareness that we were in The Green Book. African-Americans could not buy gasoline here. There was a necessity for us to be in The Green Book, which tells us something about ourselves,” said Cape Girardeau Historian, Frank Nickell.

Three listings in The Green Book left little to go on.

Only a first initial and last name for each.

We wanted to know who these people were, and the stories behind the historical places we pass every day.

So, we cracked open the records at The Cape County Courthouse.

For two of the listings – the ones on Frederick and North streets – we had to dig a little deeper.

Two spots – now empty lots.

The house on Frederick Street – demolished, and on North Street only stone stairs remain.

“We’re sitting right here on the steps of one of the houses that was in The Green Book,” said Frank Nickell with The Kellerman Foundation.

Nickell was not surprised these two houses are gone.

“They’re very old and rundown, so that’s what we do. We tear them down, and I think that’s a great loss of history,” Nickell said.

Nickell learned about The Green Book years ago, and said he’s proud Cape Girardeau was a part of it during a time where the color of your skin could mean you were turned away.

“They couldn’t buy gasoline, they couldn’t stay all night unless they found someplace like 38 North Hanover,” Nickell said.

“I always knew there was something special about this house, ” Yvonne Cardwell Johnson said.

Johnson lives in the only standing ‘Green House’ in Southeast Missouri.

38 North Hanover in Cape Girardeau was built by William Martin in the 1930s – Johnson’s blood relative.

Both Yvonne, and her mother Louise, spent a lot of time there as children.

“As I got older I began to wonder – how were they able to afford a house like this,” said Louise Cardwell.

Louise said she would see people come and go, but never understood the importance of what her family was doing.

Until her long Doctor Nickell told her.

“She realized it when she saw that book. That’s why there were so many strangers in her house,” Nickell said.

“‘I knew it. I knew it was something special about this house,’ and I had always felt it. Ever since I was a little kid. I’d always felt that,” Johnson said.

Yvonne rented the house she knew as a girl, but was able to buy it shortly after.

“God made it possible for me to purchase the house. That was the real dream come true,” Johnson said.

“At 38 North Hanover the tradition was you were never turned away. I don’t think anyone’s turned away there now,” Nickell said.

“It’s always had an open door, and still has one, because sometimes the house is running over with grand kids, and great-grand kids, and friends,” Cardwell said.

Between the years that these women owned the home, it got a surprising upgrade – a painted green porch.

Yvonne said if she could talk to Martin today she would say thank you.

“I’m glad I’m related to you. You were about your father’s business, and I would ask them everything I could think of,” Johnson said.

Because while the other buildings are gone, their importance hasn’t faded.

“If we tear down all of our buildings we have nothing left but a shadow and a story,” Nickell said.

Buildings that were here in Cape – and across our nation.

“I would love to visit some of those places. I think our children should know this. I think young children, they should know what our ancestors had to go through,” Johnson said.

The other two homes left little to no local connection to current residents in Cape Girardeau, and were torn down years before this story was published.

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Man rewarded for fending off alleged robber at Paducah, KY bank

PADUCAH, KY (KFVS) – Original Post

A man was rewarded on Friday, July 14 for his effort to fend off an alleged robber.

Regions Bank in Paducah, Kentucky gave Jason Sesock a $500 reward and a customized skateboard.

In June, Sesock stopped a robbery in its tracks when he came to the rescue using his skateboard.

Despite the recognition, Sesock said he was just in the right place at the right time.

“I appreciate the recognition but I still, the divine timing of it all, deserves more recognition and to be acknowledged more often,” he said.

A Tennessee man was charged with robbery in connection to the incident on Friday, June 30.

A 20-year-old woman was making a deposit at Regions Bank, located at 2921 Broadway, at around 10:30 p.m.

“At first I was just kind of awestruck, like, what am I seeing?” said Jason Sesock, 26, who stumbled on the attempted robbery.

“It seemed laughable at first,” Sesock said.

He said a man jumped out of the bushes with a plastic bag on his head.

“Then he started running at the lady who was parked getting ready to make a deposit,” Sesock said.

Paducah police reported the man threatened her with a piece of rebar, demanded her money and tried to hit her with the bar.

Sesock said he ran over to help.

The two fell to the ground and began struggling when Sesock, ran over from the sidewalk and hit the man with his skateboard.

“I just used my skateboard to hit his hands for him to drop the weapon, and then I pushed him off of her, and pushed him away from her car and then chased him off,” Sesock said.

Sesock hit the man’s arms and the victim grabbed the rebar and hit the suspect in the head, who then ran away

While Sesock knows he helped her out, he said she held her own.

“She handled it really well. He swung at her with a stick of rebar, and she managed to stop him and actually got ahold of it, and hit him with it before he grabbed her and took her to the ground,” Sesock said.

The woman sustained an injury to her wrist and was treated at the scene by Mercy Ambulance personnel.

Sesock was not injured.

Once it was over, Sesock said they were happy to be safe.

“At first we were just like – That was crazy! Like, I can’t believe that happened, and then we laughed about it for a little bit, and then I mean – she was just nothing but gratitude,” Sesock said.

The management of Regions Bank is grateful for Sesock’s actions as well.

“We truly appreciate Jason’s bravery. While we never want someone to feel as though they have to put themselves at risk, Jason saw someone who needed help, and he took quick and decisive action. For that, we are tremendously grateful.”

Sesock said he’s just happy he was walking by.

“I can’t take credit for – I was put here, like I said, by divine timing. The circumstances I still don’t understand, and I don’t think I ever will,” Sesock said.

Russell Zonca, 58, was arrested on July 7 after he was released from the hospital.

According to Paducah Police, Zonca told a detective that he and his wife came to the area about five or six weeks ago to go to the casino in Metropolis. He reportedly said they got into an argument and his wife left him there. He said he’d been living on the street ever since.

Remains of Lynn Messer laid to rest, death investigation still active

STE. GENEVIEVE COUNTY, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

A Ste Genevieve County woman is laid to rest nearly three years after she went missing.

But, plenty of questions still surround the death of Lynn Messer.

“Thank you for the daily adventures of life, and for the adventures of a lifetime, as the love of my life.”

Kerry Messer reads the letter he wrote for his late wife Lynn’s burial earlier this week.

“We will still have a memorial funeral where we will focus on her service. Her life. Her love of the lord. I just don’t know when that’s going to be, Messer said.

The small private ceremony took place in Greene County, Arkansas where Kerry’s family is from.

Even though Lynn’s body is now at rest the investigation into her death is moving forward.

“We have a group of dedicated detectives that since day one when this case came out have been working this case, and we won’t stop until we determine what caused Lynn’s death,” said Major Jason Schott with The Ste. Genevieve Sheriff’s Department.

Major Schott says extensive testing on Lynn’s remains came up inconclusive.

“There’s a thousand unanswered questions still, and I don’t know that I could ever find closure without that,” Messer said.

KFVS asked Major Schott what he would say to someone who might think the case is dead, that there are no suspects, and no evidence at this point.

“There may be stuff that we’re currently looking at that we can’t talk about, because it is an active investigation. Our hope and our dream is to be able to determine what caused Lynn’s death, and to be able to give them some closure on that,” Major Schott said.

Something Messer says he is hoping for too.

“It would sure be nice to have some of those questions answered so the family could pull back together again,” Messer said.

Because while Lynn is now at peace – those she left behind are still hurting.

“Rest assured that our love cannot fade from the shredded heart of a proud husband,” Messer read from his letter.

Major Schott says Messer’s cause of death is still considered unknown, and no cause of death will be entered until the investigation is closed.

Butler Co. enacts prescription drug monitoring program

BUTLER COUNTY, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

At least 9 Heartland counties are joining The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program that started in St. Louis County.

They’re taking action after state lawmakers failed to pass a statewide program.

This now includes Butler County who approved the new city ordinance on Friday, June 23.

Not only are city leaders pleased with the ordinance, but recovery programs as well – like, Solid Rock Recovery in Poplar Bluff.

The organization is using a number of tactics to help fight opioid addiction in Butler County from narcan education, 12 step recovery groups, and mentoring those in need.

“It doesn’t discriminate. It’s an equal opportunity destroyer,” said Dustin Siebert, a member of Solid Rock Recovery.

Seibert says the hardest thing he’s done is quit prescription drugs.

Same with Rebecca Shaver.

“Prescription drugs is what had led me to heroin. I was in a car accident, and they put me on prescription pain pills, and then you know, I got addicted to the prescription pain pills and then it just wasn’t enough,” Shaver said.

Together they help people toward sobriety with their faith-based organization that is working to help anyone in Butler County with an addiction find a way out.

The group holds a Jesus Walk on Wednesday nights, and relies on donations to stay afloat.

The prescription drug monitoring program is something Poplar Bluff Police Chief Danny Whiteley has been hoping for.

“We need something done now, and I commend all of them for doing that,” Chief Whiteley said.

Robert Hudson, The Director of Butler County Public Health drove the program forward in the county, and says he is pleased with leadership’s decision to enact the ordinance.

“”We are excited that we have a local PDMP ordinance. We were waiting for the MO Legislature to pass a statewide system but that has apparently failed. We are pleased that our PDMP will be up and running in the next couple months,” Hudson said.

Siebert is shocked at the amount of opiates some people are taking.

“Six hydrocodone a day, plus oxycontin, and Percocet. “

“I think it’s going to make a good, big impact. The difference in our community. I love it that it’s here,”Shaver said.

The program won’t go into effect until this fall, but they all agree it’s going to make a big difference.

“I’m hoping this will at least make an opportunity to be aware of – hey, these people are shopping around, and getting multiple prescriptions. I think this will be a good tool to combat that,” Chief Whiteley said.

“The fact that they stepped up and did that shows that people are sick and tired of what’s been going on, what’s been happening. People are sick and tired of losing their children, and children are sick and tired of losing their parents,” Siebert said.

However, both Siebert and Shaver are hoping to help those who are already affected by prescription drugs.

“The one step that they’re going to be able to make is to find The Lord, Jesus Christ, and to be able to make that way in their life. They can’t do it alone. With the strength from him they can do anything,” Shaver said.

If you are dealing with opiate addiction and need immediate help through Solid Rock Recovery you can contact Pastor Austin Montauge at (573) 686-3892.

Court finds probable cause for arraignment on felony charges against former Mississippi Co. sheriff

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

The judge on one of the criminal cases against former Mississippi County Sheriff Cory Hutcheson has recused himself from the case.

Judge David Dolan asked the Missouri Supreme Court to assign a new judge to the case on July 5.

Court documents show Dolan is one of the people Hutcheson is accused of tracking by illegally pinging his cell phone.

In that case, Hutcheson faces seven felony counts of forgery, seven felony counts of tampering with computer data, and one misdemeanor count of misconduct by a notary.

In the second case, Hutcheson faces a charge of robbery for allegedly taking a document from his sister-in-law’s employer. He is due in court for arraignment on the robbery charge at 9 a.m. on July 11.

On Friday, June 23, a judge denied a request to revoke the former Hutcheson’s bond.

According to court documents, the state failed to prove Hutcheson violated the conditions of his bond.

The bond hearing on June 22 was in relation to the criminal charges filed against Hutcheson in April.

During the hearing, the state argued that Hutcheson is a danger to the community and violated the rights of Tory Sanders, who died in the jail in May. The state submitted evidence of two photos showing Hutcheson “in control of the situation” before Sanders died.

Hutcheson’s lawyer, Scott Rosenblum, argued that he was not acting as a peace officer, but as an experienced jailer. Rosenblum also said that Hutcheson was not giving officers directions, but rather was offering suggestions.

Cape Girardeau County Associate Circuit Judge Gary Kamp is presiding over the case. Mississippi County Judge S. Rob Barker recused himself from both criminal cases. The Missouri Supreme Court then assigned Kamp to the case.

After the hearing, Hutcheson addressed a group of more than 30 supporters and said, “I appreciate everyone coming and showing your support.”

The group gave him a round of applause.

He then made a statement on Facebook:

“I’d like to thank everyone who came out to offer their support at my bond hearing. I’m amazed by the outpouring of support and I appreciate each of you more than you know. The judge took the matter under advisement and will issue a decision before my preliminary hearing on Tuesday at 11 a.m. Thank you, Cory Hutcheson”

Branden Caid is serving as the acting sheriff of Mississippi County as the case against Hutcheson moves forward. Caid previously served as the chief deputy of the department.

Hutcheson pleaded not guilty during a court appearance on April 20. He was in the courtroom with his lawyer. Hutcheson was quiet and polite to the judge, according to KFVS multimedia journalist Sherae Honeycutt who sat in on the arraignment.

He is accused of illegally pinging the cell phones of several members of law enforcement and a judge in one case. In the other, Hutcheson is accused of robbing a woman.

His attorney, Scott Rosenblum of Clayton, Missouri, drafted the following statement on April 11 on Hutcheson’s behalf:

Sheriff Cory Hutcheson sincerely thanks everyone for the tremendous support he has received from the community. We are confident once the facts come out, the prosecution of Sheriff Hutcheson will be shown to be misguided and politically motivated.

Sheriff Hutcheson will enter a plea of not guilty, and he looks forward to addressing these charges in court. The sheriff is looking forward to continuing his work and dedicating himself to the citizens of Mississippi County.

Timeline of Events

April 5, 2017: Hutcheson was arrested following investigations by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the FBI. He was booked into and released from the Cape Girardeau County Jail the same day.

April 6, 2017: we learned Missouri DPS Director Drew Juden signed an order to suspend Hutcheson’s peace officer license.

April 20, 2017: Hutcheson waived formal arraignment and pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

May 5, 2017: A man who was being held in the Mississippi County Jail, Tory Sanders, died.

May 9, 2017: Attorney General Josh Hawley filed an emergency motion to strip Hutcheson of his duties as Mississippi County Sheriff.

May 10, 2017: Hutcheson was suspended of his duties and ordered to turn in his service weapon. He can no longer conduct any law enforcement business.

May 16, 2017: Attorney General Josh Hawley asked the Circuit Court of Mississippi County, Missouri to revoke Cory Hutcheson’s bond in the pending criminal case against him.

The Criminal Cases Against Hutcheson

According to Attorney General Josh Hawley, in the first complaint, Hutcheson is charged with seven counts of forgery, seven counts of tampering with computer data, and one count of notary misconduct. The alleged crimes happened in 2014 when Hutcheson was a deputy.

Hawley said Hutcheson is accused of using his position to illegally ping the cell phones of several members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, former Mississippi County Sheriff Keith Moore, and Circuit Judge David Dolan.

In the second complaint, Hutcheson was initially charged with second-degree assault, first-degree robbery, and false declaration. Those charges stem from an incident that happened in March 2017. The assault and false declaration charges were dropped on June 27.

Hutcheson is accused of handcuffing a 77-year-old woman with enough force that she had a heart attack. Hawley said that the victim was in the hospital for three days.

Investigators said Hutcheson arrested the woman because she was in a civil dispute with one of his family members.

He reportedly went to a business in East Prairie, while in uniform, to get his sister-in-law’s paycheck.

The victim said that Hutcheson’s sister-in-law had taken something from the business and the owner said she would not get her final paycheck until the property was returned.

Court documents show he is charged with robbery for allegedly forcibly stealing a paycheck from the victim who is an employee of the business.

She told investigators that Hutcheson told her he would arrest her for assaulting his sister-in-law if the paycheck wasn’t handed over.

According to the probable cause statement, after the victim refused, Hutcheson grabbed the woman’s arm and put on a handcuff and pulled on it until the cuff broke the skin and the woman started to bleed. He then reportedly grabbed her other arm so hard she was bruised. After grabbing the check from the victim, he reportedly uncuffed her and left.

The victim told police that about 15 minutes after Hutcheson left the business, she started experiencing chest pain. Doctors at a Sikeston hospital determined the victim was having a heart attack and she was taken to a Cape Girardeau hospital by ambulance. She was treated for a heart attack and spent three days in the hospital.

Investigators said Hutcheson went to a bank in town and deposited the check in his sister-in-law’s account.

Later that day, he filed a probable cause statement claiming the woman kidnapped and assaulted his sister-in-law. Hutcheson wrote that she was “held against her will by two elderly females when she went to pick up her final paycheck from them.”

Hutcheson was housed in the Cape Girardeau County jail for several hours after his arrest. He posted bond the same day. A judge set bond in the forgery case at $25,000 cash only. Bond in the assault case was set at $50,000 cash or surety. Court documents show a cashiers check of $25,000 was posted.

Mississippi County Sheriff’s Department Captain Barry Morgan released a statement on Thursday, April 6:

“Sheriff Cory Hutcheson does not have a comment at this time other than the allegations are untrue, and that it will be resolved in court. Today is business as usual, and he cares about his citizens. Deputies will respond to every single call as he promised since the first of the year. This will not slow us down whatsoever.”

That same day, KFVS12 received a copy of an emergency order, issued by Missouri Director of Public Safety Drew Juden, saying that Hutcheson’s peace officer license had been suspended. The order said the charges against him presented a “clear and present danger to the public health or safety” if he remained commissioned as a peace officer.

Many people in the community we talked to in the days after his arrest said that they believe Hutcheson has done a lot for Mississippi County. Others said he may have done too much to try and get drugs off the street.

Plans for new Heath High School shooting memorial announced

PADUCAH, KY (KFVS) – Original Post

The Heath High School Memorial Committee will announce the details about a new memorial to honor those who died in the 1997 school shooting.

On December 1, 1997, Michael Carneal opened fire inside Heath High School in Paducah as a group of students were ending their prayer circle. Three people, Nicole Hadley, Jessica James, and Kacye Steiger, were killed. Five others were hurt.

A memorial garden was set up on the campus of the high school which now serves as Heath Middle School.

Because the garden is on school property, members of the public can only visit the memorial at certain times. Members said it is also rundown. The fountain does not work and is in need of significant repairs.

The new memorial will be similar to the current one. It will be a circle to represent the prayer circle. A stone from the current memorial will be moved to the new one. A cross will be formed using the stones from the original memorial that contain the names of the five victims who survived. There will also be yellow rose bushes inside the circle. Yellow roses were used as a symbol for the victims after the shooting, and members of the committee wanted to honor that within the memorial. There will also be three lights that are aimed at the middle school to represent the three girls who died who are still shining their light.

Committee members started fundraising in an effort to create and build a new memorial that the entire Paducah community can enjoy. It will be moved to a field across the street from the middle school.

The group hopes to raise $80,000 to cover the cost for the new memorial. Monetary donations, which are tax deductible, can be mailed to:

  • Community Foundation of West Kentucky
    P.O. Box 7
    Paducah, KY 42002

They are also looking for people who could donate services: general contractor, dirt work, electrical work, landscaping, and masonry work. They will also accept concrete, bricks, lights, benches, and landscaping. If you are interested in donating any services or material, you can contact Christina Ellegood at heathmemorial97@gmail.com

Members of the committee aim to have the new memorial ready by Dec. 1, 2017 for the 20 year anniversary of the deadly shooting. They are planning to hold a service at the site to remember those who lost their lives and honor those whose lives were forever changed.