Sometimes, it’s just wiser to close the book on a research pursuit and promise yourself to revisit it at a later time. Perhaps that would be a more profitable approach, at least as far as time management efficiency goes.
But you know those research rabbit trails. They exert some tremendous pull.
So, before we move on from Flavius, or Franklin, or Luther, the elusive Mr. Kite (or perhaps Kyte), I need to slip in two additional bits of documentation.
In the midst of the Great War, it just so happens that, among the many men filing for exemption from the draft on account of their support for family dependents, there was a man in Erwin, Tennessee, who claimed he was born in Elizabethton, in nearby Carter County. His name—at least according to that particular document—was Luther Kite. While never naming his dependents, he stated, one day in June, 1917, that he was responsible for the support of a wife and child, which he accomplished through his employment as a locomotive fireman for the C. C. & O. Railway, Erwin’s local line.
With a flourish—much different from that affixed to his marriage license only six months previously—he added his signature to the bottom of the government form.
We at least gain an idea of his appearance from this preserved piece of micro-history: he was tall, slender, and had light brown hair and blue eyes.
Quite a few years after this point, what appears—at least from the details about his birth—to be the same person emerges, back in Tennessee, following passage of the federal legislation that established the Social Security program. Those who sought to play this new game needed proof of their age. Along with so many others who were born before government records took note of such occurrences, Luther Kite returned to his home town to prove he was born there.
Sporting a different spin on his name—this time declaring himself to be Franklin Luther Kite—but still toting around that same birthday, he made the necessary legal arrangements to obtain a delayed certificate of birth from the Tennessee Department of Public Health.
By then, the year was 1954. Calling for the notarized, signed affidavits of an aunt (Mary, who interestingly signed her name as Kyte) and a neighbor (Minnie Sims), Luther officially established his first name as Franklin from that point onward.
By the way, he also gave, as his current address, a street in Jacksonville, Florida.
Why doesn’t that provide sufficient ammunition for me to blow my doubt away? I mean, after all, the birth dates match. The place of birth matches—well, at least the county. Who cares if the guy lived a life of many names?
But then, take a look at his signatures.
Could it be the flourish of an in-your-face attitude at the draft board that added the panache to his 1917 signature?
What about the straightforward, steady hand applied to his routine request for governmental verification at the Tennessee Department of Public Health?
Is he? Isn’t he? Is he? Isn’t he? I feel like I’m Alice in Wonderland, singing along to the Mock Turtle’s jingle for the Lobster Quadrille.
And with that, I’m putting this merry chase to bed for a long winter night’s break.