Young JD (age 1) and the Tippit farmstead | Credit: Dale K. Myers/Tippit Family Collection

BIOGRAPHY: 1924-1943

A Boy Named J.D.

J.D. Tippit was born on September 18, 1924 in Red River County near Annona, Texas. [1] His father, Edgar Lee, was a devout Baptist earning a living on rented farm lands just as his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him had done. J.D.'s mother, Lizzie Mae Rush - "May Bug" to her family and friends - was a shy woman from Tennessee who perfectly complimented her strong willed husband.
They were plain folk, descended from a long line of pioneers whose sweat and toil had shaped the backbone of America. Together they carved an existence out of the rolling prairies of east Texas and raised a close, loving family.
Credit: Tippit Family Collection Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Edgar Lee Tippit
Lizzie Mae Tippit
Power lines, telephones and paved roads were a long way from rural East Texas. Modern conveniences were only a dream. Water was drawn from a well, clothes were washed in wooden barrels, family meals were prepared over a hot, wood-burning stove, and oil lamps lit the dark.

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D. Tippit, age 11
Edgar and "May Bug" named their first born son after a character in a book that Edgar had read about once. "He use to read a little you know, when he was hunting," J.D.'s brother Don recalled. "He'd read a story about a guy named 'J.D. of the Mountains,' and gave him that name. Guess it fascinated him." The initials, despite some claims over the years, never stood for anything. [2]

To young J.D., free of the worries that burdened his father, country living was a paradise of wild flowers, fishing,
hunting and adventure around every bend. Of course, as he grew older, there were the inevitable chores that consumed more and more of his time. There was nothing easy about farm life in East Texas.

In the fall of 1939, when J.D. was 15, Edgar and "May Bug" moved their family to Baker Lane, a rural stretch of dirt road six miles southwest of Clarksville. By then, two sisters and two brothers had joined the Tippit brood - Don, Wayne, Christene, and Joyce.

Credit: Dale K. Myers
Tippit farm site on Baker Lane, Red River County

Daddy farmed the bottom land," sister Joyce remembered. "And we all loved that place. We just thought that it was just the most wonderful secluded place. And mother always liked a place that was surrounded by trees. And this was. You couldn't see any of the neighbor's homes from our house." [3]

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Edgar Tippit (right) and friends
In rural Texas, populations were scattered over many miles with little or no way of traversing distances except by foot or horse- back. Trips into town were limited to weekends.

Small communities sprang up banding a dozen or more families
together under the banner of a common school and place of worship. Families learned to rely on each other for help and companionship. "Every day or so," Wayne Tippit recalled, "somebody'd go down to the box on the main road and get everybody's mail and take it down to them." Brother Don smiled, "And if a car ever came down the road, why, everyone would come out to see who it was." "And where they were going," Wayne laughed. [4]

In Texas, cotton was king. Bringing in the money crop, as it was called, consumed every hour of the day.

"Now the farming then, of course, is not like it is now," J.D.'s brother-in-law, Jack Christopher, recalled.
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Cotton picking in Red River County

"We farmed with teams of horses instead of tractors, and we picked cotton by hand instead of with machinery, and we cut wood and all those things by hand. All of it was done by hand. And let me tell you, whenever it came time to go to bed, nobody had to rock you to sleep." [5] Families were close and many enjoyable hours were spent in the company of brothers, sisters, and cousins.

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
The Tippit children and their cousins on Baker Lane (ca.1940)

L to R: (Back row) Wilburn Harland Causey (goggles, age 12), U.J. Mauldin (with fedora, age 10), J.D. Tippit (age 16), William Edgar "Alton" Mauldin (with cap, age 21), Della Mae Causey (hidden, age 15); (Middle row) Donald Ray "Donnie" Tippit (with cap, age 10), Dorothy Christene "Chris" Tippit (age 13), Doney Janett Baker (age 15), Sol Leonard Causey (age 7); (Front row) John Wayne Tippit (age 4), Joyce Florenze Tippit (with hands on face, age 7), Billy Gee Causey (age 5), Carl Gene Baker (age 5).

Money was scarce and the Tippits learned to enjoy the simple pleasures, like their mother's home-made pies. And J.D. wasn't above bargaining for an extra piece with phantom cash. His youngest brother Wayne was his favorite victim.

"Well, J.D. would eat his piece of pie and some of us younger ones would save part of ours," sister Joyce remembered. "Later on J.D. would come around and try to talk us out of ours by buying part of it. Of course, he didn't have a dime, but he would tell us that he would pay us whenever he got some money." She laughed. "That was a real inside joke between J.D. and Wayne. He would always eat all of his own pie and then talk Wayne out of his." [6]

Credit: Dale K. Myers/Tippit Family Collection
J.D.'s favorite uncle, George Rush of Tennessee

Uncle George

One of J.D.'s favorite relatives, a favorite shared by all the Tippit children, was their mother's brother, Uncle George Rush. "Going to see "Mammy" and Uncle George was just such a treat for us," sister Joyce recalled. "They always seemed so happy to see us, too."

George and his mother Margaret "Mammy" Rush had come to Texas from the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee in 1913. Uncle George was a terrific banjo picker, and after family dinners he would often entertain his guests. But to his young nieces and nephews, Uncle George will always be remembered as a master storyteller.

"And it was always tales of Tennessee," J.D.'s sister Joyce remembered. "We knew every trail, every hill, every hollow. And he always ended every story, with an elaborate fabrication about how he got into it with a big bear.
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Uncle George Rush (ca.1940)

It'd chase him up a tree or in a cave. And then he'd watch us to see our reaction, and when we'd say, 'Ah, Uncle George!' why then he'd laugh and stomp his foot." She smiled, a twinkle in her eye."

"I think J.D. was a lot like Uncle George," she laughed. "He was a prankster, and a cutup, and a ham. He always loved being with folks who he could cutup with; people who understood his humor, and all his inside jokes." [7]

In the early 1940's, Fulbright, Texas, was a thriving town with two cotton gins, two banks, and a two story brick high school. J.D. rode the bus there to attend school.

Credit: Red River County Historical Society
Fulbright High School
He was shy and reserved when away from family and friends and some mistook his quiet side for fear. But, the rowdier boys soon learned not to mess with "Uncle Fudge" - a name J.D. hung on himself. [8] Advanced schooling was a rarity in
rural Texas in those days. Like their fathers before them, farming was the ultimate destiny for most of the school boys in Red River County. It seemed that way for J.D., too. He stayed in school through the tenth grade before quitting and settling in behind the family plow.

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Jack and J.D. in Levelland, Texas (ca.1943)

In 1942, Lem and Mary Christopher, and their eleven children, moved to Baker Lane and the farm next to the Tippits. The Christophers were boisterous, fun-loving people and it didn't take long for them to become acquainted with their neighbors.

"J.D. and I just hit it off," Jack Christopher recalled. "He was a little older than me, I was 16 and he was 18, but we found out that we had just about everything in common. He liked to fish, and I liked to fish. He loved to hunt and I loved to hunt. He loved the same music that I liked, which was Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.
Credit: Tippit Family Collection Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Jack Christopher, age 17
J.D. Tippit, age 18
And he liked western picture shows, which I liked and still do. And, we just became inseparable friends. And I just loved the guy. I always called him 'Tip' from the very first time I saw him." [9]

Jack and J.D.'s personalities, their character, everything about them just meshed immediately. "They had a friendship and a closeness that even brothers don't have," J.D.'s sister Joyce recalled. "Both of them were funny, humorous; and always playing jokes on each other. And when they could pull a joke on the other one, that was even funnier." [10]

"J.D. was mischievous, alright," Jack Christopher laughed. "He liked to pull tricks on people. And I did too, I guess. One time, he said, 'Come on, I've got an idea.' " The pair made their way over to a dozen or so horses that were tied up and J.D. started loosening all the saddle cinches, knowing that the riders would unexpectedly be dumped to the ground when they mounted and rode off. Jack joined in and as they went along he spotted J.D.'s own horse named 'Bill.' A devilish grin crept across Jack's
face as he reached down and loosened ol' Bill's saddle cinches along with the rest.

"Well, a little while later the party was goin' pretty good," Jack chuckled, "and J.D. decided he was going to do a little trick riding for us, you know, do a Buck Jones mount. So, he got up on ol' Bill and started to ride away real fast and over come the saddle on top of him and ol' Bill just kept on a goin' down the road."

Embarrassed, J.D. took off his hat, threw it down and said, "Whoever did that just stomp this old hat and we'll have it out right here. Fist to fist."

"Naturally I had something else to do about that time," Jack laughed. "Until the day he died, I don't guess I ever told him about loosening ol' Bill's saddle cinches."

"But there's no question that J.D. was a good horseman," Jack added fondly. "He was a good rider. I was a good rider. We rode together often. That Sorrel horse of his stood about fifteen hands high. And ol' Bill could run like the wind. He held a high head. It was a beautiful thing." [11]

J.D. and Jack did everything together. Hunting and fishing in Red River County was plentiful. And there was no shortage of fond memories and funny stories.

"We did lots of hunting," Jack remembered. "One time we found six possums in a tree. We thought they were dead. We pulled 'em out and were going to skin 'em and sell the hides and all this stuff and make us a whole bunch of money. We brought 'em home and laid them out on the ground there and went in to eat dinner.

"When we came back out, why there wasn't a possum to be seen anywhere. They probably went back to the same tree and went back to bed. I don't know. Needless to say we didn't get to sell any possum hides." [12]

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D. on the hunt
There were plenty of places to fish around the farm. Most of the time, the two boys fished Scatter Creek and Cuthand Creek. There was one place along Cuthand Creek that they called the 'Henry Hole.'

"I remember one time my Dad, Tip, and I were down there spending the night fishing," Jack recalled, "and I forget who else was there but they were all excited and told my Dad, 'We've got a big catfish on the line.' It was dark and my Dad said, 'Now, everybody take it easy. I'm gonna sneak down there and see how big he is.' Well, he went down there and came back and said, 'That thing must be huge. I've never seen such a catfish in all my life.'

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Wetlands in Red River County

So, J.D. and I went down there to see this big catfish. Anyway, it turned out to be a big, soft shell turtle that they'd hooked in the foot. And the way his shell was sticking up out of the water looked like two eyes. We laughed about that for years." [13]

After war broke out, J.D.'s father, Edgar, left the farm to work in the war plant in Hooks, Texas. Jack's father, Lem Christopher, shipped out to Pearl Harbor as a metal worker to aid in the recovery of the war ships that had been bombed to the bottom of the harbor during the Japanese sneak attack. Back home, Jack and J.D. were left to work the farm, a burden heavy with responsibility. The demand for cotton, to support the war effort, was at an all time high and the need to produce a bountiful harvest was keen. [14]

For the teenagers of Baker Lane, the war seemed far off. Amid the monotony of hard work, they still managed to find time for occasional fun, giggles, and merriment.

Credit: Red River County Historical Society
Clarksville, Texas (ca.1943)

On The Town

Saturday afternoon was a big day for the families living along Baker Lane. Most of the time they didn't have to work Saturday afternoon. That's when they'd go to town - Clarksville, Texas, a small community of about 4,000 people located six miles north of the Tippit farm. The town square was the focal point. Folks would come to town, buy goods, and then pass the afternoon walking around the square meeting and greeting people they knew.
Credit: Red River County Historical Society
Avalon Theater, Clarksville, Texas
The Tippit and Christopher teens usually went to town together and spent the afternoon walking the square and taking in a movie at one of the local theaters.

"You could go to the movie for a dime," sister Joyce remembered.

"There were two shows - the Avalon and the State. The Avalon was a little more affluent, they showed a little more of the newer movies and things. So usually we'd go there." [15] "We'd take a quarter to town and have more fun on that quarter than most people have on twenty dollars today," brother Wayne laughed. [16]

J.D. loved westerns and all the stars of his day but his favorite movie star of all time was Clark Gable, according to boyhood pal Jack Christopher.

"He wanted to be just like Gable," Jack said. "In fact, I know that week to week he could grow an instant mustache because one time his Dad come in and said, 'I saw J.D. in town and I didn't even know who he was.' He said J.D. had painted a mustache on his lip and he didn't even recognize him. [17]
Clark Gable

As they grew older, the Baker Lane teenagers, affectionally known as "The Baker Lane Gang," would hang out in Clarksville until after dark on Saturday nights and catch the late show at the Avalon Theater. Then, they'd head home in a borrowed car with J.D. usually behind the wheel.

Credit: Dale K. Myers/Tippit Family Collection
Stretch of Baker Lane where Mary Ethel Christopher (inset) died at age 14

In 1943, amid the laughter of a foot race to a nearby revival meeting, Jack's fourteen-year-old sister, Mary Ethel Christopher, dropped dead along a stretch of Baker Lane, the victim of an apparent aneurysm. The family would never know for sure - an autopsy was an expense the Christophers could ill afford. [18] The shocking and heartbreaking death of one so young carved deep impressions into the young people of Baker Lane.

Later that fall, the Tippits faced their own crisis. Edgar Lee and Mae separated and filed for divorce, a scandalous thing in those days. Despite a brief attempt at reconciliation, J.D.'s parents parted for good, his mother moving to Oklahoma City to live with her sister, Sadie Hamilton. J.D.'s oldest sister, Chris, took on the motherly duties around the Tippit household. The younger siblings shuttled back and forth between Oklahoma and Texas until they finally settled for good with Edgar and his new wife, Mary Lee Daniels, in Red River County. It was a sad and hard time for the Tippit's, one that was especially trying for the oldest son. [19]

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
A page from Christene Tippit's memo book
The life of innocence on Baker Lane was drawing to a close. Childhood memories and teenage anxieties were giving way to thoughts of an uncertain future. For J.D., it was the end of an era.

A faded page from sister Christene's memory book records the signatures of the close-knit Baker Lane gang
who together learned the value of hard work and friendships; lessons that would last a lifetime. Each signed their name along with a phrase or nickname they were known by. In the lower right corner of the page, J.D. scrawled his own ironic rememberance.

"J.D. was always talking about how he was going to go someplace," Jack remembered as he looked at the faded page, "and everyone was going to miss him when he was gone. That's why he wrote, 'My farewell.' " [20]

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D.'s memo page signature (ca.1943)

The few surviving pictures of life on Baker Lane have long since faded. The dirt road J.D. Tippit knew in his youth is overgrown with foliage. The farms that once dotted the countryside along Baker Lane have vanished. But the warm memories of good times and good friends linger still in the hearts of the Baker Lane gang, as it should be.

Next: 1943-1952


  1. CE2985, p.3; Interview of Marie (Tippit) Thomas, October 12, 1977, p. 1, HSCA RIF 180-10120-10047; Tippit Family interviews, 1998-2004, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  2. Videotaped interview of Wayne, Don and Edward Tippit, November 13, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  3. Videotaped interview of Joyce DeBord, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  4. Videotaped interview of Wayne, Don and Edward Tippit, November 13, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  5. Videotaped interview of Jack Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  6. Videotaped interview of Joyce DeBord, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  7. Ibid [RETURN]
  8. Videotaped interview of Jack Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  9. Ibid [RETURN]
  10. Videotaped interview of Joyce DeBord, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  11. Videotaped interview of Jack Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  12. Ibid [RETURN]
  13. Ibid [RETURN]
  14. Videotaped interview of Jack and Christene Christopher, November 12, 1999; Videotaped interview of Joyce DeBord, November 12, 1999; Tippit Family interviews, 1998-2004, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  15. Videotaped interview of Jack Christopher, November 12, 1999; Videotaped interview of Joyce DeBord, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  16. Videotaped interview of Wayne Tippit, November 13, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  17. Videotaped interview of Jack Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  18. Tippit Family interviews, 1998-2004, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  19. Ibid [RETURN]
  20. Videotaped interview of Jack Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]