They say you can’t go home again, but while I was back in Missisippi, the other radical Watkins cousin Thomas Naylor hosted a cousins’ dinner for a few of the surviving descendants of the first Thomas Watkins.
This was held, with some irony, at a southern mansion called Fairview, once owned by the segregationist head of the White Citizens Council. We ate wonderful food, drank too much wine, and told stories.
My cousin Julia shared a wonderful one. The first Thomas Watkins, who enlisted as a private in the Confederate Army at 13, came home from that war, married (the first Julia) and fathered eight children.
He died young. His widow moved to the capitol, Jackson, and opened a boarding house. She told the oldest child: I will send you to college and you will help the next in line. Each child did this and all eight became lawyers, doctors and ministers. When our own children or grandchildren complain about this or that, point out this example.
Another cousin, Vaughn McRae, said he had always thought there was a thing called “The Watkins Brain,” which resided somewhere in a bell jar, probably at the local Methodist college. Since only Watkins were present, no one disagreed that there was indeed such a glorious thing, and that we, by virtue of kinship, must possess a piece of it.