Tullison Monroe “Tully”Tate was the direct descendant of the major landowner and planter of Perry County Alabama, Thomas William Monroe but was not considered an heir because he was an illegitimate offspring. Tully was just another cotton sharecropper, on his grandfather’s land with no more status than any other black farmer in Alabama around the turn of the 20th century. The reason he was not acknowledged as a true Monroe heir was not simply because he was born outside of marriage, but more importantly, because his grandmother was a slave whom Will Monroe had impregnated in 1844. The result of this miscegenation was Tully’s mother Celsie Monroe.
Celsie was briefly married to a white man, Joshua Tate, and Tully was their only child before separating. Josh Tate was unusual for that time, he was sympathetic to the plight of negroes and his marriage to Celsie was one of love. After the war the years of Reconstruction were hardly less violent than the war itself. Joshua Tate wished to see the local political power elites toppled and sought to help the Republican elect suitable progressive candidates, including whenever possible negro men. And he was shot down in 1867 at one of these elections when he confronted a mob that was attempting to control who was allowed to vote.
Tully was a cotton farmer whose status within the community was complicated by the fact of his heritage, which everyone knew, calling him Monroe’s Tully (see song “King Cotton“). After leaving Tully’s father, Celsie would go on to marry Mingo Harper, also a former slave, and they would have four other children, two of whom would play a not insignificant role in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and ’60s.
Tully Tate would marry Pearl Robison, the daughter of Ruby Robison and Levi Motts resulting in the birth of Hazel Tate. Hazel would in turn marry Virgil Raney, descendant of Lonsom Raney producing a son, Vernon Raney, husband of Molly Motts. This created the complicated reality that Tullison Monroe Tate’s mixed blood ran through the various strands of the Tate, Raney, Motts and Robison families.
Almost exactly one century later there would be another Tully Tate, the son of a country singer in Louisiana.