J. B. Addington (1858–1919)
Casual in shirt sleeves and vest on his own Worth Street porch, James Benjamin Addington sported the walrus mustache and pocket watch signifying his place in the larger world. He was a turn-of-the-century Dallas businessman, a respectable church-goer and good citizen with a wife and two sons, the kind of man a jury will select as foreman, a mourner will ask to be pallbearer.
Born in Mississippi to a farmer who served the Confederacy and his Georgia-born wife, J.B. grew up with 10 brothers and sisters. In 1880, he married Sarah “Sallie” Frances Whitson and, for a time, took up farming near his brothers in Yalobusha, Mississippi. By 1891, he and Sallie had moved to Dallas, where J.B. found another line of work. He cleaned and repaired clothing in a “steam dye works” on Elm Street.
J.B. not only stuck with the clothing business — he added “tailor” to his resume within a half-dozen years — but he also stuck with Elm Street. Once he learned the trade, he opened a tailor shop in Deep Ellum, and there he stayed from 1904 until 1919, undoubtedly drawing business from friends and associates he made as an active member of his community.
J.B. and Sallie had two sons: Wayne Whitson and Glenn Goodwin, both born after the couple moved to Dallas in the 1890’s. In 1903, the family put down roots on Worth Street, investing $1,000 to have a small house built in the 600 block, then described as being “on the outskirts of the city where the lots are comparatively cheaper.” By 1911, they were living a few blocks away, at 4817 Worth Street.
Old issues of the Dallas Morning News account for many of J.B.’s leisure hours: He served on the board of stewards for Grace Methodist Church, hosting dinners for the pastor and supervising a city-wide census to ascertain Dallas’s religious inclinations. He helped the Texas-Mississippians organize the annual Mississippi Day at the State Fair of Texas. He was an officer for a fraternal order/secret society popular among local businessmen.
And — just once — he came to the rescue of a woman whose husband was trying to kill her. On a May afternoon in 1903, a domestic washing clothes in the backyard of her employer’s home on Worth Street was stabbed 26 times by her estranged husband with a dirk, a knife designed to inflict serious bodily injury. Jack Graham had lain in wait for wife Olivia, angry that she refused to move to Oklahoma City with him.
Olivia’s screams alerted her employer and a boarder in his home; the two men ran outside, where J.B. Addington joined them to intervene on Olivia’s behalf. The boarder waved his pistol, and the 6-foot-6-inch Graham ran across the street and into the alley behind “Mr. Munger’s” house. There, he began to slice at his own throat. Police transported Graham to the county jail, where a surgeon tended his wounds. When Olivia arrived at City Hospital, doctors did not expect her to survive.
By the next day, Olivia’s condition was upgraded, and Graham entered City Hospital, having cut open his own windpipe. Within a week, both parties were on the mend. In September, Graham was tried for “assault (with intent) to murder.” A native of South Carolina, the 30-year-old illiterate laborer was sentenced to five years in the penitentiary in Huntsville. He served a few months less than his sentence. While there, he received 65 “licks” for impudence, laziness and disobedience.
Soon after helping foil an attempted murder, J. B. presumably resumed his more prosaic occupations. His name popped up in the Dallas Morning News over the next few years when family and friends paid visits or when he participated in “planting week” on his block of Worth Street. He most regularly went to his tailor shop and to Grace Church. Once, there was a fire in his flue that made the news.
Sons Wayne and Glenn, like their father, grew up to be respectable men, though they did not remain on Worth Street. Wayne, a family man with a home on West Lawther Drive, was assistant treasurer for Texas Power & Light. Glenn, a college-educated executive in an advertising company, lived on Lovers Lane in University Park.
The day before Thanksgiving in 1917, J.B. lost his wife of 37 years to cancer. She was 55 years old. She was buried in Oakland Cemetery.
James Benjamin Addington died July 27, 1919 of what his death certificate calls an “aortic insufficiency.” He was buried the next day at Oakland Cemetery.