#27 – The Story of Mr. Black – circa 1920

Written by Russell Burrows:

Mr. Black informed me that the farmer was his wife’s grandfather and that the land had passed down through the family. (The legendary cave, and the one I’d found, were very probably part of the same cave system.)

From that time onward, I had no more problems with the people living in the area. However, I was to have many other problems. Some of them would be serious and a few actually life-threatening. In the next two years I was shot at, and I was to have a hair-raising encounter with people from the Near East which would be as frightening as anything that has ever happened to me. That is another story.

It is with Mr. Black’s approval that I am writing these pages and I can honestly say that if he felt otherwise I would not be telling this story.

Mr. Black is a throwback to the time when some bitter feuds and battles were being waged in southern Illinois between the coal miners and their unions and the KKK, which was a power in Williamson County. He had gotten his start working for the Shelton brothers; they are long dead, so you can see he is not a young man. He has told me many an interesting tale about the experiences of the people who lived and worked in the area around the city of Herrin, Illinois. From what he has told me, I gather that he was raised in that city or at least spent a lot of time there.

Since the Shelton boys were big in moonshining, it stands to reason that Mr. Black was also involved in that practice, and I gather from what he told me that he may have picked up where the Sheltons left off many years ago.

Whatever his interests are now, I can find no fault in the man. He has gone a long way to help me in my efforts and has he never asked for anything in return except that, when the time comes that the archaeological investigation is completed, the museum which is planned for the site, or any museum dealing with the cave materials, wherever it is, will be named for the original owner, his wife’s grandfather.

Now to say that Mr. Black is wealthy is putting it mildly. He owns the majority of southern Illinois and has hundreds of business establishments in this state and others. Mr. Black is also very powerful in politics and I am sure that he has some influence on who is elected to office in Illinois. I am told he also carries a very big stick in Washington, D.C. I don’t know these things to be a fact but I am reporting just what I have been told.

I have no trouble believing these statements, though, because I have seen how he is respected by anyone who has dealings with him. I have not heard anyone who is associated with the man say the first unkind word about him. It seems to me that a sure way of making the grade in business is to have Mr. Black backing you.

His home is in Detroit and his wife lives there full time. Mr. Black spends much of his time in southern Illinois and St. Louis, although he seems to spend all of the holidays with his wife in Detroit. They have been married for more then fifty years and the wife goes to St. Louis once or twice a month.

Mr. Black is a great believer in education and does not feel that anyone should be deprived of that opportunity. I know for a fact that at the time of this writing he is putting many many young men and women through college. It costs them nothing, not even the cost of their clothing. He pays for it all. It certainly would be nice if there were more people like him in the world.