The 1870 Talladega County Census, Childersburg Post Office, lists my 3 month old grandfather as "D Okely." All my life I was told my grandfather Oakley added the "D" prior to his name because others had two names and he felt left out. This census is proof his parents gave him the "D." It was only an initial and didn't represent anything that I know of. (His grandchildren knew him as Paw-paw)
b. 16 Feb 1870 Talladega County, Alabama, United States
m. 9 Aug 1906 Ironton, Talladega, Alabama, United States
Penoma Ophelia "Oma" Seay
d. 4 Jun 1955 Bessemer, Jefferson, Alabama, United States
Buried at Oakhill Cemetery in Talladega, Talladega, Alabama, United States
Aaron, Celia, Oakley, Evelyn, Andrew, Houston, William, Wilburn, James, & Harry
Most of the children had nicknames given them by their maternal grandmother or (as in Celia's case) by their grandchildren:
Celia = "Cee-cee"
Oakley = "Slats"
Evelyn = "Effoon" (sometimes spelled with an "m") or "Took"
Andrew = "Sam"
William = "Doot"
Wilburn = "Hap"
James Nathaniel = "Nat" or "Mot"
Height: 5 ft. 11 in.
Weight: 165 lbs. at age 50
Oakley was too old to serve in the Spanish American War, as did his brother Alvin, or WWI as did his brother Grover.
Oakley reached the 9th grade according to the 1940 census which is remarkable for someone born in the rural south 70 years before then. "... few rural Southerners... went beyond the 8th grade until after 1945." (source Wikipedia). National records for grades completed were not kept prior to 1940 according to the National Center for Education Statistics report, "120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait" (CLICK HERE for a copy of the 3MB, 115 page report), however, records were kept for the number attending school, etc. Only about 60% of the white kids between the ages of 5 and 19 attended school when Oakley was school age (see chart on page 6 of the report). In 1940, the median years of schooling completed by white males 25 and over were 8.7 years.
Until about 1940, less than 5% of the kids attended 4 years of college as did Oakley's brother, Grover. Less than 10% of kids even graduated high school before 1910 (Page 31 of the report). Oakley was born in 1870. On page 9, the report says, "In 1870, 20 percent of the entire adult population was illiterate." People with Oakley's education earned 33% more in 1939 than those with less than an 8th grade education. His education was probably thorough even though kids only attended school about 80 days a year when Oakley was growing up (Page 28 of the report).
Oakley was 36 years old when he married for the first time. He spent his early life as an overseer of a widow's plantation in Selma, Alabama. Later in life he farmed. He continued to farm prior to and subsequent to his retirement but was never successful.
He worked for the railroad 3 different times in his life: for Southern Railway as a Flagman and Brakeman in Selma, Alabama, from Nov. 1, 1898 to Feb. 20, 1899, again for Southern in Selma as a Flagman and Brakeman from Nov. 1, 1900 to Feb 17, 1902, and for the Louisville & Nashville in Birmingham, Alabama as a car repairman from Aug. 28, 1922 until his retirement Dec. 9, 1937. His salary was $160.00 a month in 1922 and $180.00 a month between 1924 and 1931. During the Great Depression he was out of work from Jun. to Sep. 1932 and from Mar. to Jun. 1934. Click HERE to see Oakley Vincent's retirement certificate from L&N Railroad.
It was Oakley's lot in life to own valuable land. After his elder sister's commitment to an insane asylum, he inherited his father's farm of nearly 600 acres in Talladega County, Alabama. His wife, Oma, persuaded him to move to the city. He sold the family farm which had a small country store and blacksmith shop then moved to Tarrant City, near Birmingham, Alabama where his 6 youngest children grew up. For a photo taken in 1908 when their oldest child Aaron was a baby, click HERE. The black lady at far left was "Aunt" Febbie, who worked as a "Mammy" (domestic) for the children. She and her husband were land owners who lived near the Vincent Place in Talladega County. For a closeup of Oakley and Oma, (from the same photo) click HERE.
On the 1930 Census, he states he owned a home in Tarrant City that was worth $1,500.00. They did not have a radio but he bought a battery operated radio later which he used to listen to the news at his next home. By the time of the 1940 Census, all the children had moved out but Harry and Oakley was living in Calera, Shelby County, Alabama. Oakley's boys helped him build the log home which he said on the census was worth only $500. He didn't mention the hundreds of acres of land but did mention he owned his farm. The home was under construction at the writing of a 1936 letter Oakley wrote Oma while she was on one of her many trips away from home.
In the same letter, written shortly before Oakley retired, he spoke of renting his "shack" for a $1 a month. This was a work shack he lived in all week while at work on the railroad. He only came home on weekends where he worked the farm and his boys helped him build his log home. Oakley's son, Hap remembered how hard it was to level the logs his father used for floor joists. He complained that his dad could have afforded sawed lumber which was already straight and level but was too cheap to purchase it. Hap, himself was later accused of also being "tight" (thrifty) repeating what his father had done by building his own home.
Some years after Oakley retired, between 1945 and 1953, his wife persuaded him to sell once more. They bought a house and 5 acres of land near Irondale on U.S. Hwy 78 E near Birmingham, Alabama. It was just across the road from what became Eastwood Mall. His 5 acres was in the middle of what later became Century Plaza, another large shopping mall. Oakley's grandchildren remember the artisian well bubbling above the pond across from Oakley's home near Irondale. Grandson Ron Vincent remembers Oakley getting his sons to help him slaughter a hog in his back yard there as they prepared for a holiday meal one Thanksgiving.
Oakley was put in a nursing home for old age while his wife continued to live in Irondale in their last years. His bed sores became so serious that his daughter Evelyn took him to live with her. That's where he stayed, in a bed on the screened in porch of her home in Hueytown, Alabama, where he died in 1955. Hueytown was unincorporated at the time so his death certificate lists Bessemer, Alabama as his location at the time because it was on a Bessemer post office RFD route.
June 29th, 2013, 3 of Oakley's great-grandsons and a great-great-grandson visited the Vincent burial plot at Oakhill Cemetery in Talladega, Alabama. Click HERE for a photo (Note: The tall monument is a Family marker. Oakley and Oma's markers are ground level in the right rear of this photo). -Ron.V
Follow the hyperlinks on this page for Oakley's wife Oma and other info on Oakley's family.
For more photos of Oakley Vincent, click the following links:
A 1945 letter from Oakley to his daughter Evelyn (Note: "Jes" is Jessie Grice, a hired hand)
Oakley Vincent and Penoma Seay's Marriage License
Oakley's 1955 Obituary
Oakley's 1955 Death Certificate
A Photo of Oakley outside his Calera home about 1945
Photo of Oakley Vincent taken in Selma about 1906 framed in heavy oval paper
(NOTE: His right ear appears smaller. It wasn't. It was redrawn by the photographer)
Oakley Vincent - Same 1906 Photo but closeup
A pencil drawing made of the same photo