Abe Fortas may be the only Supreme Court Justice whose first career was in a dance band. The son of Jewish immigrants from England, Fortas grew up on Pontotoc Street in downtown Memphis. His father encouraged him to play the violin, and, by thirteen, he was playing in a dance band called “the Blue Medley Boys.”
The young sensation, nicknamed “Fiddlin' Abe,” earned enough to supplement his college scholarship at Southwestern University, today's Rhodes College. His passion for music and the arts remained with him throughout his life.
In August of 1870, the brutal murder of Colonel Thomas Dickins was reported in the Memphis Avalanche. According to the article, Col. Dickins, returning to his farm near Raleigh, "was way-laid by some fiend, and his life destroyed, in daylight, on a public road."
The assassin had ambushed the victim and fired both barrels of a shotgun into Col. Dickins' body from close range.
Allen James Walker was born a slave near Germantown in 1845. During the Civil War, Walker was one of the thousands of local slaves who escaped from their bondage. Walker joined the Union Army, which raised 51 black companies from Shelby and Fayette County alone.
As a soldier in the 7th US Colored Heavy Artillery, Walker was stationed at Corinth, Mississippi and Ft. Pickering, here in Memphis, but was ultimately sent to Ft. Pillow, overlooking the Mississippi and Hatchie Rivers.