Bessie Smith

“Bessie Smith died in a car accident in Mississippi on September 26, 1937, while on her way to do a show, which would have marked the beginning of a possible comeback tour.  According to some old newspaper articles, Bessie Smith, known as the greatest female blues singer of all time, was killed on Highway 61 located between Memphis and Clarksdale, Mississippi. Dr. Hugh Smith, a witness who happened upon the scene around 2 a.m. that Sunday morning, stated that Bessie Smith was riding in a Packard that was going too fast on the highway during those early morning hours.

“Richard Morgan, her lover and the driver of that old Packard, had underestimated the distance between their vehicle and a tractor trailer that was looming ahead. Morgan hadn’t noticed that the tractor trailer had come to a complete stop in the road, causing the driver of Bessie Smith’s Packard to swerve and go under the truck. The truck left the scene of the accident. Those who saw Bessie Smith’s body stated that she had been thrown from the vehicle and into a ditch with her badly damaged arm nearly severed from the rest of her body. Richard Morgan survived the accident, according to the book Blues Traveling: The Holy Sites Of Delta Blues by Steve Cheseborough.

“Rumors swirled that Bessie Smith died at an African-American hospital because the white hospital refused to admit her. Also, it was not clear if the tractor trailer had stopped on purpose. At Bessie Smith’s funeral, thousands of people turned out as the queen of the blues was laid to rest. Bessie Smith was buried in an unmarked grave in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, until 1970 when one of her biggest fans, Janis Joplin, bought her a headstone about two months before her own tragic death. As for Richard Morgan, they say that he never got over what happened to Bessie. He died around 1943—most likely from a broken heart, sources say.”

Fact 1:
U.S. Route 61 (US 61) is the official designation for a United States highway that runs 1,400 miles (2,300 km) from New Orleans, Louisiana, to the city of Wyoming, Minnesota. The highway generally follows the course of the Mississippi River, and is designated the Great River Road for much of its route.
Fact 2:
Nicknamed The Empress of the Blues, Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s.
Fact 3:
Cardinal John Patrick Foley grew up in Holy Spirit Parish in Sharon Hill and was ordained a priest in 1962. In June 2007, he was named Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem by Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to that appointment, Foley was President Emeritus of Pontifical Council for Social Communications and Titular Archbishop of Neapolis in Proconsulari. He was elevated to the College of Cardinals on November 24, 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Blues singer Bessie Smith is buried at Mount Lawn Cemetery in Sharon Hill. Her grave remained unmarked until August 7, 1970, when a tombstone—paid for by singer Janis Joplin and Juanita Green, who as a child had done housework for Smith—was erected. (

Fact 4:
Tennessee suffered crippling cholera epidemics during the nineteenth century, most notably in 1834, 1849, 1873, and 1892. The disease claimed many thousands of lives throughout the 1800s. James K. Polk died of cholera in Nashville just after leaving the presidency in 1849.
Bessie Smith

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