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December 28, 2013


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Bill Turnier

Al, I do not know if you ever got to meet our recently deceased and long retired colleague Harry Groves. His grandfather was a slave on a Virginia plantation. He and several other of the slaves were offspring of the plantation owner and a slave with which he had an amorous relationship. These individuals lived a modest distance from the main house and working plantation. The owner made sure that all his offspring were taught to read and write and lived a different existence even when it came time for them to work at about age 16. Because Harry's grandfather lived off in a grove of trees, when he made it to Union lines, he chose his own last name Groves. Harry was always proud of the fact that his family name was the choice of his family. His grandfather did reasonably well after the war. I wonder how many of the ex-slaves who succeeded in the post war environment had a background in which somebody decided to break the law and teach select slaves to read and write. Harry's father and his brother decided to leave the south and took off for Colorado where they were reasonably successful businessmen. Harry, of course, was Phi Beta Kappa, attended the University of Chicago Law School, got a Masters in Law at Harvard and then took off for the Far East where he was the prime author of a national constitution and the founding dean of a law school. I note all this to demonstrate the empowerment that can come from literacy and the cruel barrier that condemnation to illiteracy could have had for others. I know that many of our African-American colleagues came from backgrounds where their ancestors were made to live in forced illiteracy. Their success and that of their ancestors who subsequently acquired literacy is all the more impressive.

Alfred L. Brophy

Thanks for this remembrance, Bill. I never met Professor Groves, unfortunately. But I really appreciate hearing about him and his family's history. Love the origin of the family name, especially.

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