Thursday, May 29, 2014

Udolpho Sikes Underwood (1891-1972), Udolphus Cato Ellis (1913-1995)

Portrait courtesy of

   A one-term state representative from Georgia, Udolpho Sikes Underwood's first name is truly unique in the annals of public office, and there appears to be some confusion as to how his first name is spelled, as it is variously given as ""Udolpho, "Udolpha"  and "Udolphus". These spelling discrepancies, as you can imagine, have made locating information on Underwood a bit more difficult, but with the discovery of a World War I registration card for him (where Underwood himself spells his name as Udolpho Sikes Underwood), I can be fairly certain that "Udolpho" is the correct spelling.
    A lifelong resident of Georgia, Udolpho S. Underwood was the son of John Howard and Martha Jane Underwood, being born on June 28, 1891 in Reynolds, Georgia. Underwood is recorded as having attended the Reynolds, Georgia High School in Taylor County and married on January 4, 1911 to  Martha Jane Brown (1895-1978). The couple would later have a total of eleven children over the course of their sixty-plus year marriage and are listed as follows: Winnie Melba (1911-1983), Millard Brown (1912-2003), Frederick Sikes (1914-1980), Edna Myrtice (born 1916), James (born 1918), Harold (born 1921), Ralph Rudolph (1923-1972), Nellie (born 1926), Betty Ann (1928-1983), Amie Jean (birth-date unknown) and Sarah Jacqueline (birth-date unknown). Of these children, Ralph R. Underwood followed his father into politics, serving as a state representative from Taylor County for three terms between 1961 and 1967.
  The majority of Udolpho S. Underwood's life was centered in the private sector, being a farmer in the town of Reynolds. He is also recorded as being the proprietor of a general store in that town, and in November 1944 was elected as one of Taylor County's representatives to the Georgia State Assembly. He served one term in the legislature, 1945-1947, and returned to private life after his service. Little else could found on Underwood's life, excepting notice of his death, which occurred on February 17, 1972 at age 80. He was survived by his wife Martha, and following her passing in 1978 was interred alongside her husband at the Mount Olive Freewill Baptist Church Cemetery in Pottersville, Georgia.

U. Cato Ellis, from the Tennessee General Assembly composite portrait, 1951-52.

   Tipton County, Tennessee native Udolphus Cato Ellis is another man endowed with a very peculiar first name. Although most sources list him under the name "Cato" or "U. Cato" Ellis, one can wonder if he ever had difficulty explaining that his actual first name was "Udolphus"! 
   Born on June 2, 1913 in Munford, Tennessee, Ellis attended the Tennessee Normal College (now the University of Tennessee) and would begin a career in teaching while still a young man. He'd later serve as Principal of the Elementary School at Munford and would also engage in farming and cotton production, being the owner of a cotton gin. Ellis was married to Susie M. Bibb  (1916-1999) and would later have three children, Cato Jr., Clara Jo and Frankie Wade.
  Ellis first entered politics in the 1930s, serving as a justice on the Tipton County, Tennessee Court. He was later elected as the Mayor of his hometown of Munford during the 1940s and in November 1950 was elected as one of Tipton County's representatives to the Tennessee General Assembly, where he served one term (1951-1953). Following his legislative service, Ellis was appointed as U.S. Marshal for Tennessee's Western District, and was the incumbent in this office in 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis. A day before the legendary civil rights leader was slain, U. Cato Ellis visited him at the Loraine Motel in Memphis to serve him a temporary restraining order issued by a judge that prevented King from leading a march during an ongoing sanitation strike

U. Cato Ellis and Martin Luther King, a day before the latter's assassination on Apr. 4, 1968.

   After leaving the marshal's service Cato Ellis resumed his banking interests in Munford, serving as the Munford Union Bank's board chairman and director emeritus, eventually retiring in the 1980s. Ellis died at age 82 on September 21, 1995 and was survived by his wife and three children. He and his wife were both interred at the Helen Crigger Cemetery in Munford.

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