Tidbits of Shelby County History
Biographies, Part II

This week’s article is a continuation of last week’s “A Way of Life – Collection of Shelby County Biographies compiled by 8th Grade Social Studies with Jim Ann Taylor as teacher. The information was compiled in 1970-1971.

James Clifton Bowlin

James Clifton Bowlin was born on February 5, 1885, in a windowless log cabin in Nacogdoches County near Martinsville, Texas. His father’s name is Robert James and his mother’s is Annie Bowlin. James had only four brothers and eight half-sisters. His mother was his father’s second wife. She died when James was just a small boy, but then later his father married Katheryn Harville. James went to school in an old church in San Augustine County and completed the sixth grad in the Sardis community about six miles from Center. He grew up on a farm and his father always told him to attend to is business and let the other man do the same. He sold cotton for five cents a pound and sometimes he sold corn for just about a penny.

When he was a child, he made up his own games and invented his own toys. “He didn’t have anything to play with.” He hunted for squirrels and fished for just about anything he could catch.  One of his hobbies was horseback riding.

When he was a kid, they had these old muzzle guns and there was a rod to punch or pack the gunpowder down in there with. He got the rifle out just to see how it felt. His father caught him and took the rod and gun away from him and tore him up with it. Until this day he still doesn’t know what he did wrong.

On September 2, 1927, James married Maggie Collins, who died August 9, 1967. Today James has twenty-three grandchildren and twenty-eight great grandchildren.

He has never driven a car. So up until the last few years he has been driving a horse and wagon. Written by Sharon Holloway. (Note: Mr. Bowlin died September 1972.)

Jack Motley

Jack Motley, President of Farmers State Bank, Center, Texas, was born in Tenaha, Texas. Although his family was able to provide many advantages, they expected him to do his part and they would do theirs. They believed in discipline both at home and at school. As part of his obligations, he had to get an education. He graduated from Baylor University.

Mr. Motley comes from a family of bankers. He probably picked banking because his grandfather and father were both bankers. Mr. Motley thinks that banking is a fine business, because he like to help others both financially and with advice.

Fishing and traveling are his hobbies. Mr. Motley thinks that the most exciting events in his life were when his children were born.
Mr. Motley believes that knowledge and a willingness to work to achieve your goals is a must. By helping and encouraging others, you will find great satisfaction. If you take on a project do not give up – see it through. If the road gets rough just work harder. Overcoming the hard spots in life develop one’s character and his or her ability to meet the next challenge.

His advice to teenagers today is not to be too impatient. It takes time to achieve your goals, both happiness and financial. Do not neglect your church life as this is most important.

He thinks that respect for others will bring their respect of you. Develop your talents and character. These are assets that will carry you far and will be necessary if you are to be a success in business.

Mr. Motley has been honored by being allowed to lead at one time or another practically every organization in Center. He has been a member of the School Board, Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, Center Development Foundation, Fair Association, and many others. He remarked he appreciated these honors, but that these positions also carried with them an equal responsibility that you must serve well.  Written by Ronnie Gewin. (Note: Born 1910 and died in September of 1998. Mr. Motley and his wife Martha are buried at Oaklawn Memorial Park in Center, Texas.)

N. W. Clark, Sr.

Mr. N.W. Clark was in the grocery business. He ran Clark’s Grocery for 40 years in James. He was born in western Tennessee on December 23, 1889. His parents died when he was eight years old. Living conditions were poor, but everyone did his own part on the farm. They raised cotton for money and raised all they ate. The sheared their own sheep, made cloth from the wool, and then made pretty bedspreads.

Mr. Clark or Pa as we call him got into the grocery business, because he had to have lighter work as he grew older. He had already raised his family and had no one to help him on the farm.

Pa came to Texas from Tennessee. One day his brother and he decided to come to Texas, so they started walking. They walked nearly all the way from Tennessee to Texas.

Pa’s favorite hobbies are traveling and going to church. He has traveled nearly all over the United States.

Pa’s most exciting moment of his life was when he established a church in Houston and one in Arkansas. He believes everyone should go to church. The church behind Rushing’s Grocery, formerly Clark’s Grocery, was built by Pa and Mr. Manning. Pa taught bible classes for 40 years.
Pa’s advise to teenagers is to lead a good Christian life and obey parents, and get the best possible education.  Written by Steve Jeans

Polk Burns

Not quite a real Abraham Lincoln, but the nearest I could ever think possible would-be Mr. Polk Burns.

Retired schoolteacher and farmer, Mr. Burns was born in Salem Community about six miles south of Center.

I asked Mr. Burns to tell me about his young day in his childhood. In his exact words, Mr. Burns replied,

“A poet has said, “Backward turn backward, oh, time in your flight.” Bu alas, I know I can not turn back time, but fortunately, I can stretch my memory to cover a lifetime and remember the days of my youth. Living conditions were those of any average family on farm. Only a few food items were bought, such as flour, sugar, and coffee, also spice and two or three other small items not raised on the farm. All clothing was bought from clothing merchants. My parents were members of the Primitive Baptist Church. My father was a minister for sixty-three years. In their (my parents’) Discipline, they were strict, but not severe in their punishment. Their guidance is one I shall always remember.”

Mr. Burns began school when he was seven. At that time that was the age you had to be before you started school. All the country schools were taught by one teacher, and the school was terribly crowded. He attended his school through the sixth grade under one teacher. Little by little the school became bigger and better.

Mr. Burns chose to get in his field of work, which is teaching, by careful study and great ambitious determination. Some of his hobbies are exploring and studying history. He loved to learn all he could about the time before his life. He majored in history at Stephen F. Austine State University.

One of his most rewarding or exciting moments was his first day in school as an assistant teacher. He tired to make the students understand what a great advantage it was for them to attend school and get a good education, so that when they grow up in life, they could be whatever they desired.

Mr. Burn’s philosophy is “To do for others as he wishes to be done by.” He says we are living in a fast age of tie and his advice is to all humanity is to slow down and loo and trust in the true and living God above for guidance every day of our lives.

Mr. Burns lives by himself. He is a self-made man, obeying and respecting the rights of others. He doesn’t have any means of transportation, only his two feet, and the lack of catching a ride ever once in a while to where he is going.

Strong, loyal, honest all describe Mr. Burns. You would have to know him to understand what I mean, but in case you never meet him, he is another image of Abraham Lincoln; living life and its problems as they come. Written by Janette Porter(Mr. Burns full name was Robert Polk Burns. He was born 27 December 1896 and died 17 July 1983 and is buried in Old Salem Cemetery. He registered for the draft on 5 June 1918 and his enlistment in September 1918 took his to Camp Travis, Texas. He was assigned to the Medical Department and was discharged on February 16, 1919 and was awarded the WW I Victory Medal and honorable discharge lapel pin.)

Ollie Mae Sharp

Mrs. Sharp was born November 8, 1934, in Shelby County. When she was a baby, she was well taken care of by her Aunt Veola Blount and Uncle Tucker Blount. They were very nice people. They also lived in the country. Mrs. Sharp stayed there about one year after she had finished high school. Then she moved into a house of her own and looked for a job. Her first job was working at a café.

She had four children, three boys and a girl. About five years ago, Mrs. Sharp took a full-time job at Memorial Hospital. Her hobbies are fishing and boat riding. The most rewarding moment in her life was after having the three boys she had a girl which was what she wanted. Her philosophy in life is based on religion and her advice to teenagers is keep away from drugs and bad company.  Written by Joyce Blount