by Richard John Stapleton
A great-grandfather of mine many times removed, the Reverend Doctor James Maury, a French Huguenot, taught four American presidents, Washington (a distant relative down the branches of my family tree), Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, in a boarding school in Virginia.
A distant cousin, Matthew Fontaine Maury, was a West Point graduate, a commodore in the Civil War, fighting for the South, who published a book still in print, Physical Geography of the Seas. He was a founder of Virginia Tech, retiring as a professor of physics at Virginia Military Academy. Another distant cousin Dabney Herndon Maury, also a West Point graduate, a general in the Civil War fighting for the South, published a book titled, Recollections of a Southerner in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars.
My great great grandfather Thomas Sanford Gathright, a Confederate draft dodger who opposed the South’s seceding from the Union, was the first president of Texas A & M University, recommended for his post by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.
My father’s uncle, Richard Gathright Maury, was a prominent lawyer in his time, the youngest district attorney in Harris County history, the county in which Houston just got flooded, who once served papers in person on a golf course in New York to John D. Rockefeller, indicting him and his Standard Oil Trust for violating Texas anti-trust laws, whose gravesite in Center, Texas, replete with a statue, is now a designated historical site recognized by the Texas Historical Society. As near as I can tell Richard Gathright Maury never went to school at all. Based on genealogical records produced for me by Frank Parker, a real estate developer and investor and a hobby genealogist, here in Statesboro, he was home schooled on a plantation in Mississippi and read law with a law firm to pass the bar exam.
His father, my great grandfather, Matthew Henry Maury, attended the University of Mississippi two years and was later killed by an African on a plantation in Mississippi, probably a freed slave, or the son of one.
My grandfather, Elbert Harry Coston, a Methodist minister, the son of Isom Alexander Coston, who was blind, according to my grandmother, Darlie Brown Walker Coston, whose father David Montgomery Walker was a cotton farmer and a wagon manufacturer, “never did a day’s work in his life. All he ever did was sit up on the front porch with his brothers and read.”
She said most of the work on the Coston farm near Palestine, Texas was done by Africans, freed slaves apparently, managed by her mother-in-law, Mattie Elizabeth Allen Coston, born on a ranch in Texas in 1854, shortly after Texas stopped pretending to be a nation and joined the Union as a mere state.
My mother told me in her last days in Willow Pond here in Statesboro that her grandfather Isom would swat each of his five boys on the rear one time with a razor strop when they came in for supper, telling them he didn’t know what they had done wrong that day but he knew they had been up to somethin’. She also said somebody had to read the whole newspaper to him every day.
My Coston grandfather took a few courses at East Texas State College before he became an ordained minister, becoming a minister according to my hard-working father so he wouldn’t ever have to work at all.
I lived with Moma and Snazzy, my maternal grandparents, for two years while I was working on my doctorate. My aunt Ted, Edna Mae Coston Thompson, at one point had Snazzy examined by a psychiatrist, thinking he was going insane. The psychiatrist said quite to the contrary he had the highest IQ of any man his age he had ever examined. This confirmed my judgment. Snazzy always seemed to understand anything. He had a personal library he had collected through the years containing a thousand or more books.
My mother Ida Belle Coston Stapleton took a few business courses at a Draughn’s Business College somewhere after she got out of high school. She told me shortly before she died here in Statesboro, at age 92, that she never made less than an A in school.
My father Richard Gathright Maury Stapleton took some courses in agronomy at Texas Tech before he dropped out to become a successful entrepreneur, having never taken a single business course or read a single business book, or a book of any kind after I was born, to my knowledge, except maybe an arcane treatise or two on Free Masonry, to become a third degree Scottish Rite Mason, as I understand it. He saw to it I became a DeMolay in high school but I never had any interest in that sort of thing.
All he ever read was the local newspaper, farm magazines, and the US News & World Report. He put me to work in his enterprises when I was eight years old.
I made mostly C’s in grade, junior, and high school, but did better in college. I was according to the Lubbock Avalanche Journal probably the youngest and smallest Class A high school starting quarterback in the US in 1953, at age thirteen, weighing 110 pounds, standing five feet three inches tall. I played basketball on an athletic scholarship at Hardin-Simmons University two years before transferring to Texas Tech College (now university).
I had a 3.0 in economics in undergraduate school but did better in the doctoral program, graduating with a 3.67 grade point average in a program that included all business disciplines in which A’s were not easy to come by. One of my classmates who became the dean of a business school graduated with a 3.0.
Despite scoring 840 on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), at a time when 1000 was about average, Texas Tech accepted me provisionally into their doctoral program and gave me a part-time instructor position in economics that paid $3000 per academic year, enough for me to pay my way through the doctoral program and write my dissertation in three years.
The Office of Manpower Evaluation and Research of the US Department of Labor awarded me a $6500 grant to write my dissertation, An Analysis of Rural Manpower Migration Patterns in the South Plains Region of Texas.
Frank Parker traced all four of my grandparents back to Virginia before the American Revolutionary War, in which several ancestors fought. Their descendants, many of whom were cotton farmers, spread out from Virginia migrating into South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, and New Mexico before winding up in the cotton country of Northwest Texas where I grew up.
I was working at a full time job in a Litton Industries electronics plant as a production control expediter and dispatcher and publishing my weekly newspaper the Wolfforth-Frenship Gazette when I took the GRE, having stayed up most of the night before the exam putting out the paper. I fell asleep several times taking the exam, not thinking it was important, just something I had to do to get into graduate school, filling in the remaining blanks for the various timed sections without reading the questions. I saw the exam proctor, the head of the psychology department at Texas Tech at the time, staring at me in amazement when I woke up from one of those naps.
Considering the GRE computerized grading system took off more points for questions answered wrong than for those left blank, I was lucky to have scored as high as 840.
I was hired at the associate professor rank after finishing my doctorate, skipping the assistant rank, at the University of Southwestern Louisiana after completing my doctorate in business administration, management science major, economics minor, at Texas Tech, becoming a full professor at age thirty-six at Georgia Southern College (now university), where I was the senior professor of the business school for about fifteen years, carrying the mace as the senior professor of the university for the spring graduation ceremony the year I retired in 2005.
I was the highest paid professor in the business school and maybe the second-highest-paid faculty member at Georgia Southern in 1970, behind Jim Oliver, in biology, maybe third after Fielding Russell, in English, when I started at age thirty, hired by President Pope Duncan.
My son, Jonathan Walker Stapleton, was the Star Student for our Congressional District in Georgia in 1990, scoring 1520 on the SAT back in the days when 1600 was the maximum score. He maxed the math part of the GRE when he finished his undergraduate degree at Rice University in Houston, Texas in 1994, almost maxing the verbal part.
He now invents and makes things in his home workshop and teaches physics and Earth sciences in a high school near Burlington, Vermont. Hunting and fishing and organic gardening in his spare time, in a beautiful environment, he is a smart son indeed.
He is the inventor and designer of Reptangles™, a plastic educational toy comprising twenty-four parts that snap together and pull apart to assemble into more than one hundred mathematically identifiable geometric shapes and symmetrical configurations, manufactured in China, licensed to, marketed, and distributed around Earth by the Fat Brain Toy Company, which was demonstrated on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Jonathan is married to Renee Doney Stapleton, MD, PhD, who teaches, researches, and practices pulmonary medicine at the University of Vermont. They have three children, Walker, Emmerson, and Orion, each of whom is learning well in and out of school.
According to Frank Parker’s data, one of my great great grandfathers William Anthony Stapleton, according to the 1850 US Census, was a farmer in Dale County, Alabama, owning twenty-one slaves. According to a first cousin, Stephen Carter, who got involved with genealogy, this great great grandfather made several trips to England, for reasons unknown, apparently doing business of some sort. According to Frank Parker, William Anthony Stapleton was relatively wealthy, since slaves at the time according to Frank were worth about $100,000 each in today’s money. According to Stephen Carter, who had his Stapleton mother’s DNA line searched using Ancestry.com, the Stapletons and Maurys in our family tree were descended from English, Irish, Scottish, and French nobility.
Here is a passage from my book Business Voyages, a family business bible, first published by me in 2011, pages 47-50. Read all about it free at https://www.amazon.com/Business-Voyages-Schemata-Discovering-Co-Constructing/dp/1413480810.
“In October 2009 I told and showed my friend Frank Parker a genealogist here in Statesboro, Georgia I had recently found proof on the Internet my grandmother Katharine Gathright Maury was related to Matthew Fontaine Maury, that one of her Maury ancestors taught four American presidents in Virginia, and she was descended from French Huguenots and the Randolphs of Virginia, starting with a family tree furnished me about 1985 by Mary Stapleton, wife of my uncle Matthew Henry Stapleton, that traced our Stapleton/ Maury line back four generations to James Woodville Maury and William Anthony Stapleton in 1850, that I used with Horace Randoph’s Updated Database at www.randolpharchives.org that traced Katharine Gathright Maury back to Abraham Maury in Virginia in 1758 that traced Abraham Maury through the Randolph line back to 17th century England, that I used with Some Descendants of Jean de la Fontaine in Bob Juch’s Kin Including 61,000 People at www.juch. org that traced the Maury line from Abraham Maury back to James Fontaine born in Barnstaple, Devonshire, England in 1686 to Guy de la Fontaine, Lord of Seville, born in 1400 in France and to Jean de la Fontaine born in 1375 in France.
“Frank then offered to use his computerized genealogical system to check out several people down my family tree. Among much else, he found Dick’s grandfather Matthew Henry Maury, age 25, in the 1880 US census living on a plantation in Kemper County, Mississippi with his wife Virginia John Gathright Maury, age 24, and children including Dick’s mother Katharine, infant, and her brother Richard, age 3, in one household and Dick’s great grandfather James Woodville Maury, age 59, living in another unusual household including his wife, Rachel Harris Maury, age 53, and a servant Milby, age 31, and her five young children, all named Maury. Included in another household on the plantation was Sarah Maury, age 55, listed as a mother and farmer, presumably the mother of Milby. Listed in another household was Aaron Maury, age 45, listed as a farmer, presumably the husband of Milby. Dick’s Maury grandfather and his great grandfather and their wives and children were listed as white and the rest of the Maurys on the census page were listed as black.
“Frank also found in the 1850 US census before the Civil War that Dick’s great grandfather William Anthony Stapleton was a farmer in Dale County, Alabama, owning twenty-one slaves. This family history was kept secret from Dick or he kept it secret from me. I would never have known about it had it not been for the Internet and Frank Parker’s genealogical skills in 2009. The slave owning was something not to be proud of and perhaps it should have been kept secret. I sometimes thought as a child Dick was a slave driver; now I know where he got the proclivity. If you Google Richard John Stapleton on the Internet you can find several Stapleton barons, lords and sirs that lived in England and Ireland through the centuries after 1215 and our Stapleton line could be descended from lesser sons of some of these families who migrated to America in search of their own lands and fortunes. An unanswered question is Ludowic Stapleton, father of William Anthony Stapleton, who may have immigrated to the US from Ireland or England.
“Life on the American frontier for most of my more recent ancestors as they fanned out in Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, or Texas was far from easy, secure, squeaky clean or pleasant much of the time. Many of them did not live long, and they were beset with all manner of problems on their farms, plantations and ranches—economic recessions and depressions, diseases of all sorts, psychological problems, hail, drought, sandstorms, hoof and mouth disease, slavery, the Civil War and much else. Dick thought his grandfather Matthew Henry Maury was killed by an African-American farm worker on a Mississippi plantation after the Civil War because Matthew insulted or made some sort of sexual advance toward the worker’s wife and he thought his mother was afterwards reared by her Gathright grandmother. He also said his Maury ancestors were either great or crazy. While his grandfather may or may not have been killed for this reason, his mother was not reared by her Gathright grandmother, at least not completely, although Dick did know something about what he was talking about. According to the 1900 US Census, Dick’s grandmother formerly Virginia John Gathright Maury now listed as age 40 had remarried Thornton Walters born in Illinois and was living in Brazoria, Texas in a reconstituted family consisting of 10 children, six named Maury including Dick’s mother Katharine now age 21 and four children named Walters ranging in age from 9 to 23. According to the 1910 US Census Virginia John Gathright Maury Walters, widowed, now age 50 was back in Lauderdale County, Mississippi listed as a patient in some sort of hospital or nursing home that included 24 other patients, all unrelated females ranging in age from 18 to 66.
“On Ida’s side of the family her favorite grandmother Mattie Elizabeth Allen Coston born in Texas about 1854 according to the 1870 US Census was living in a reconstituted family headed by John Doak married to Catharine Doak, presumably Mattie’s mother, including six children, four named Doak and two named Allen, Mattie and Robert. According to Ida at 90 years of age not many years ago at Willow Pond here in Statesboro, Georgia, Mattie “traveled all over” and had a good time at a ripe old age after her one and only Coston husband died of natural causes in East Texas.
“While some of Ida’s ancestors were intelligent, relatively well educated and successful professionally none to my knowledge equaled the intellectual achievements of some of Dick’s Maury ancestors. Quite possibly our Maury ancestor making the most significant contribution in American history was the Reverend Doctor James Maury who taught four American presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe, all instrumental in creating the US Constitution. The Reverend Doctor Maury taught classics, manners and morals, mathematics, literature, history, and geography in what was considered the best boarding school in Albemarle County,Virginia, attended by Thomas Jefferson who lived with the Reverend Maury and his family two years as a child (Wikipedia.org).”
I heard rumors of this growing up as a child, but I had no factual knowledge of it. In general in our family talking about ancestors was taboo. It was as if my parents had no knowledge of anyone in their families back past their parents. I always thought they had something to hide, which I suppose they did, slavery. They seemed shamed by their family history, either ashamed of what their ancestors did, or ashamed their social positions in their societies was generally lower than the social positions their ancestors had in their societies, having been declassed by the Civil War, with good riddance, in my opinion.
I did not have a happy childhood. It was as if my parents did not believe in having fun. All they did was work and keep a stiff upper lip. Children were supposed to be seen and not heard, but admired for their perfect manners and looks in the presence of company. There were all sorts of conflicts in the family. My mother detested her mother-in-law for bragging about her “blue-blooded ancestors.” My father thought everybody but him was lazy and worthless and he looked down his nose at them for this, including me. I learned to take care of myself, entertain myself inside my own head with my own auditory and visual constructions, and play football and basketball. We had relatively few I’m OK—You’re OK transactions at home or at work and very few positive strokes. I cannot remember being hugged by either of my parents as a child. Such was the social and psychological education and training they had received from their parents and grandparents through the generations.
One of the major conclusions of my book Born to Learn is that everything that happens happens by accident, as the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein pointed out in his book of propositions, Prototractatus, and therefore no one is to blame or praise for what happens.
One might think with a background like mine I ought to be rounded up and summarily shot for the sins of my ancestors; but I don’t think it was my fault. I did not make up the rules for how human affairs happen on Earth. They happen gradually and inexorably from generation to generation according to script messages passed to children from parents using all ego states, socially and psychologically, like runners passing a baton in a track race.
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Richard John Stapleton, Editor & Publisher, Effective Learning Report, www.effectivelearning.net