March 12, 2015

Willie Newton Coffey

There is no doubt that Willie Newton Coffey was a son of Mathew and Emily Troxell Coffey.

Willie was born in Kentucky in 1903, probably in Wayne Co.  He was in that county in 1910.  In 1920 he and his family lived in McCreary Co.  

Mathew, the father, was born to Henry Baker Coffey and Sarah Elizabeth Dobbs in June of 1875, married Emily, a daughter of Jacob and Salena Steel Troxell in about 1896.

Between Oct., 1896 and Jan., 1917 Emily and Mathew had at least six children. They were: Sarah Jane; William "Willie"; Salena, who is said to have married Lark Bell in about 1924; Sallie; Ed Lincoln, born 1911, married Edna Hatfield; and Goldman, born in 1917.

Willie is something of an enigma.  I write that with some misgivings because he may have been no puzzle at all over his lifetime* and did not try to hide from the law.

A newspaper article appeared in the Lexington  (KY) Herald in July, 1946 announcing the arrest of Willie Newton Coffey in Birmingham, AL for killing his father, Mathew Coffey, in Wayne County in 1928.  It was reported that "shortly before the elder Coffey was slain, his son had escaped from a Wayne county jail where he had been held on a "drunkenness charge."  

That was the first and last article that I have been able to find in any KY newspaper so it is not possible for me to tell you if he was tried, convicted and jailed, or if found innocent or not guilty of his father's death.
News Item, The Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY, Thu., Jul. 11, 1946, Page 9, Col. 4
Arrest Suspect in 1928 Patricide
Monticello, Ky., July 10 (AP) - County Judge S. E. Anderson announced today the arrest of Willie Newton Coffey, 44, wanted in Wayne county for the past 17 1/2 years in connection with the slaying of his father.
Judge Anderson said Coffey was picked up on a disorderly conduct charge at Tarrant, Ala., a Birmingham suburb.  He said Birmingham police notified Wayne county officials that Coffey admitted he fatally shot his father, Matthew Coffey, in 1928.
"Coffey hadn't been seen in Wayne county since then," declared the judge, adding that a murder indictment had been returned in March, 1929, against Coffey.
The judge said Sheriff J. J. Gibson would go to Frankfort, probably Thursday, to get a requisition for the extradition of Coffey from Alabama to Wayne county.
Judge Anderson said that shortly before the elder Coffey was slain, his son had escaped from jail where he had been held on a drunkenness charge.  The judge said Coffey had been quoted as saying he fired as his father was about to attack his mother.
What I do know is in 1930 a William Coffee [sic] appeared in the McDowell Co., WV census with Minnie Jane Carter Coffee.  He was 26 years-old; Minnie was also 26.  With them was Helen Blaylock, a five year-old step-daughter to Willie.  Willie was employed as a coal digger.

There is a 1938 marriage license in  McDowell Co. that tells us he and Minnie were married on Oct. 14 of that year.  The application tells us that he was born in Crossville, TN, and named his parents as George and Mary Coffey**.  Minnie named her parents as Ernest and India Carter.

The 1940 census for Birmingham, Jefferson Co., AL includes William [sic] and Minnie as well as Gladus [sic], a daughter, age 8, born WV; Hershel, a son, age 7, born WV; and William J., a son aged eight months, born in AL.  The step-daughter Helen was no longer with the family.  

Gladys, born in Matewan, Mingo Co., WV, had at least three children:  Lynda Sue Coffey, born KY in 1950; Glynda Gaye, born 1955 in Birmingham and Viola Coffey, born 1965 in McCreary Co.  Glynda Faye died by drowning in 1970 at Birmingham where she had been taken by her grandfather, Willie Coffey to visit relatives.  The obituary reports she was survived by sisters Viola and Lynda as well as a half-brother, Robert Lee Pearson, all of Stearns, KY.

Willie died in Jan., 1973 in McCreary Co. and was buried at Sherd Dobbs Cemetery in Whitley City.

Minnie died Feb. 7, 1986 at Somerset in Pulaski Co., KY.  She was 84 years-old.  Her obituary reports that she was the daughter of Lee and India Carter.  Her husband, William "Willie" Coffey preceded her in death in 1972.  A daughter, Helen Thompson, granddaughter Glynda Coffey, two brothers, Robert and Walter Carter and one sister, Gertrude Sloan also preceded her in death.  She was survived by children Herschel Coffey and Elsie Reynolds of Birmingham, AL; William, Jr. of Wayne Co., KY; Gladys Coffey and Lynda Dobbs of Sterns and a brother, Ray of WV.

Minnie is also buried at Sherd Dobbs.

Comments, corrections and additions welcomed.

*Apparently, the law was not actively searching for Willie from 1928 until 1946 for killing his father.  It was only after he was arrested near Birmingham for "disorderly conduct" in 1946 and perhaps volunteering information about killing his father that he was returned to Wayne County to face the law.  Certainly, with all of the people who went back and forth between KY and WV to work in the coal mines, someone would have known and reported the whereabouts of Willie to the KY authorities.

**Well, he may have tried somewhat to misdirect any leads to his birthplace and involvement in the death of his father.

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