1943 Hackleburg, Alabama Tornado

“…all in the twinkle of an eye.”

Franklin County Times, Russellville, Alabama (Thurs. Apr. 15, 1943, Page 1)

While researching my husband’s Mann family, I stumbled upon a tragedy. Around 1:30 AM on Monday, April 12, 1943 a tornado struck the town of Hackleburg in Marion County, Alabama. Four people were killed immediately and 26 people were admitted to the hospital. Walter James Mann (hubby’s 2nd cousin 3x removed) and his wife Dovie (Tidwell) Mann were 2 of the 4 people killed. Walter’s mother, Clarise Ann (Britnell) Mann, and 3 of his 5 children were among those admitted to the hospital.

Walter was the son of Monroe Mann and Clarise (sometimes called Clarsie) Britnell. Monroe’s grandparents and my hubby’s 4x great grandparents were William and Susan (Harris) Mann. Monroe and Clarise were married on November 21, 1895 in Marion County, Alabama. They had four children: Luther, Victoria, John, and Walter. They divorced before 1919 and Monroe remarried.

Walter was born October 8, 1906. He and Dovie Tidwell were married October 10, 1926 in Marion County. They had five children between 1927 and 1937: 1) James Beauford, born 6/12/1927; 2) Margie Josephine, born 7/24/1929; 3) Elewene, born 1/17/1932; 4) Alfred, born 12/4/1933; 5) Hubert, born 9/26/1937. In the 1940 census, taken on April 23rd, the family was living in Hackleburg, and Walter was employed as a railroad section head. Walter was listed as 33, Dovie was 29, and the kids were 12, 10, 8, 6, and 2.

Walter and Dovie with one of their sons, from Ancestry

On April 12, 1943, the first tornado of the year in Alabama struck Hackleburg in Marion County. Now it is classified as an F4 tornado, with a path length of 5 miles and a maximum path width of 200 yards. According to the National Weather Service, at least 85 homes and 17 businesses were destroyed, along with most of the town. The four deaths all occurred in their homes, since it was 1:30 in the morning. First reports of the tornado said that 3 of the Mann children were missing.

Images of the damage from the Birmingham News, April 12, 1943, p. 1

“First persons known to have been killed at Hackleburg were Postmaster Powell and his wife. Their bodies were found in the wreckage of their home. Three children of Mr. and Mrs. Mann, who earlier were believed to have been blown away by the wind, later were found safe, but injured. The three Mann children, Eloween [Elewene], 10, Albert [Alfred], 8, and Hubert, 6, were injured , however.”

The Birmingham News, April 12, 1943, p. 8
The Marion County News, 4/22/1943, p. 1

After the tornado, the children went to live with relatives. James joined the U.S. Merchant Marines, and was living in St. Joseph, Missouri on June 12, 1945 when he filled out his draft registration card (his 18th birthday). He joined the Army on February 8, 1946 and was discharged on March 28, 1947.

The other children, Margie, Elewene, Alfred, and Hubert, lived with their father’s brother, Luther, and Luther’s wife Myrtle at 835 Benicia Road, Vallejo, Solano County, California. In the 1948 city directory, Margie was a clerk at the Mare Island Navy Yard, while Luther was a welder. In the 1950 census, Luther was listed as an electric welder at Mare Island. Elewene was 18, Alfred was 16, and Hubert was 12. I think Margie was living as a lodger at the home of Arthur and Ruby Ewing in Vallejo, Solano County, California in 1950. She was 20 and a saleslady at a retail department store.

From Jimmy Emerson on Flickr

On April 27, 2011, an F5 tornado struck Hackleburg and Marion County and 25 people were killed. In April 2012, a memorial was dedicated remembering the victims of that tornado, as well as the 1943 tornado. The 2 additional deaths listed for 1943 were Walter’s mother, Clarise, who died on October 1, 1943 (presumably from injuries acquired during the tornado) and Charles “Pink” Lunsford. He and his wife were both injured. He was described by the Birmingham News as the “most seriously injured among those hurt at Hackleburg” and “was said to have suffered several broken ribs and other injuries.” He was 81 at the time. He died due to his injuries on June 1, 1943.

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