When Uncle Jimmy arrived in Kentucky from his home in California most every summer in the 1950s and 60s to visit his nieces and nephews, it was an event. Jimmy was the youngest and last surviving brother of my paternal grandmother. My father and his siblings adored him, and Jimmy returned the feelings.
James Bailey Hankins was born on 27 March 1901 at his Uncle John Hankins’s house near Dalton in Hopkins County, Kentucky. He was the youngest of Thomas Leander Hankins and Samantha Angeline Petty’s seven children.
In April 1912, when Jimmy was eleven and his brother Perry was thirteen, their best bird dog contracted rabies and attacked them. On 20 April, the boys were out on the road with the dog in the Grapevine area of Hopkins County where they lived. The dog had been acting strange for several days before it turned on them. According to the report published in The Hustler, one of the boys carried a shotgun and was able to shoot the dog after a desperate fight.
On 30 March 1917 at Earlington, Kentucky, just three days after his sixteenth birthday, Jimmy enlisted in the U.S. Army. The United States was only days away from entering World War I. Jimmy’s brother Perry had joined the Army five months earlier, and their brother Elvie joined a year later. Jimmy, Elvie, and Perry all went to France, and they were together there in 1918, at least long enough to have a picture taken.
Jimmy sailed for France from Hoboken, New Jersey, aboard the USS Great Northern on 2 May 1918. Before he left, he wrote a letter to his parents that was published in a local newspaper, probably The Bee (Earlington) or Madisonville Messenger. That letter shows the somber side of a young soldier heading into war.
“Camp Merritt, N. J.
Mr. and Mrs. T. L. Hankins.
Dear Father and Mother: – I write you my farewell letter. I received your kind letters. I was so glad to hear from you all. Mother, you ask me why I had to go to France. They wanted some good men over there and I thought it was my duty to go. I didn’t have to go. Just wanted to go, and when you are reading this letter I will be sailing across the briny deep. But don’t grieve or worry about me. If I never get back you can say I died fighting for my country and nobody can say I was a slacker, and if I get back, like I feel I will, I can tell you something of this war. So do the best you can and have a good time. Don’t grieve for me. I will be back some day if I live, and if we never meet here on earth any more we will meet some day where parting is no more and there are no more goodbyes, for there is a better land than this, and if we never meet here we will meet up there. So I will close [my] farewell letter in the good old U. [S. A.] Good-bye.
Your loving son,
Jimmy returned from France, on the USS Mount Vernon, leaving from the port of Brest on 28 June 1919 and arriving in Hoboken on 5 July. He was discharged from the Army on 29 July 1919 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Jimmy returned home to Hopkins County. In 1920, he lived with his parents on McEuen Avenue in Earlington and worked as a car repairer for the railroad.
On 16 March 1923, Jimmy entered the Pacific Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at Sawtelle in Los Angeles County, California, for tuberculosis treatment. His brother Perry had died of the same disease the previous year. Another brother, John, died while Jimmy was hospitalized, and he could not return home for the funeral.
Jimmy recovered and was discharged on 20 March 1924. The hospital record reports Jimmy’s residence after discharge as Denver, Colorado, but he lived at 112 S. Oliver Street in Los Angeles and registered to vote in Los Angeles County sometime that year. He made his home in California for the rest of his life.
Jimmy married Rachel Lesh on 26 March 1927 in Glendale, California. He worked as an electrician for a studio, probably Warner Brothers where he worked for many years. Rachel worked as a bookkeeper for an electrical contractor. Jimmy still lived at 112 S. Olive Street in Los Angeles. Rachel lived at 515 S. Middleton in Huntington Park.
Rachel, who went by Rae, was the daughter of James R. Lesh and Gay Reagan. She was born on 16 June 1903 in Aberdeen, Washington, which is on the west coast in Grays Harbor County. Her family moved to Kettle Falls in Stevens County, Washington by 1910 and to Spokane by 1920. According to Jimmy and Rae’s marriage record, she was single, and this was her first marriage. However, she had married John Chalenor on 2 September 1925 in Spokane. John did not die until 1977, so they apparently divorced or had the marriage annulled.
Jimmy and Rae moved many times over the years, mostly in the Los Angeles area, until Jimmy retired. In addition to moving often, Jimmy and Rae also changed their party affiliation on voter registration records numerous times. Jimmy was a Democrat in 1924, 1928–1930, 1942, 1944, and 1948. He was a Republican in 1930, 1932, 1934, 1936, 1938, 1950, 1952, 1956, and 1958. Rachel was a Democrat in 1938, a Republican in 1928–1930, and refused to state a preference in 1932 and 1934. She was registered the same as Jimmy in the other years.
In 1928 Jimmy and Rae lived in the Morongo Precinct in San Bernardino County. They lived at 748 N. Dillon Street in Los Angeles according to 1930 voter registration records but at 1344 West 4th Street based on their 1930 U.S. census record. Their address was 1168 Bellevue Avenue in 1932. In 1934, Rachel was still at the Bellevue Avenue address, but Jimmy was at 318 1/4 North New Hampshire. It is unclear if they were separated or if Rachel simply had not updated her voter registration information after a move.
They lived on Twenty Nine Palms in San Bernardo County in 1936 and 10833 Blix Street in Los Angeles in 1938. From 1939 to 1942 they lived at 814 North Pass Avenue in Burbank, then moved to 4823 Satsuma Avenue in Los Angeles by 1944. They remained on Satsuma Avenue until at least 1948 but lived at 3003 Riverside Drive in Los Angeles in 1950. 4140 Franklin Avenue was their address from 1952 to 1958.
Jimmy and Rae did not have children. When Jimmy retired from Warner Brothers Studios, they moved farther south to Carlsbad in San Diego County. Rae died there on 9 May 1967. Her final resting place is unknown.
Jimmy married Lucille Goldie McCord Favor on 11 October 1967 at the 1st Baptist Church in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona. His nephew, Jewel Hankins, and his wife Thelma hosted the wedding reception at their home. After a honeymoon in Hawaii, Jimmy and Goldie settled in Carlsbad.
Goldie was born on 16 November 1903 in Christian County, Kentucky, to David Fletcher McCord and Eugenia Boyd. Jimmy and Goldie had known each other growing up in Hopkins County. She married Roy S. Favors on 13 October 1929, and they lived in Earlington. Roy died on 22 September 1958. Like Jimmy and Rae, Goldie and Roy did not have children.
Jimmy and Goldie spent time in California and Kentucky. Before their marriage, Goldie had a trailer near Kentucky Lake, and they spent summers there for several years.
Jimmy died on 26 November 1974 in Carlsbad. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California.
Goldie returned to Kentucky to live after Jimmy’s death. She died on 20 February 1997 at Versnick Health Care Center in Madisonville. She was buried beside Roy in Oakwood Cemetery (now known as Earlington Cemetery) in Earlington.