“Levi + Lucy”

Levi + Lucy
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Lucy Cooper cussed the hammer that struck her thumb
Sent it sailing to kingdom come
Grabbed a whiskey bottle and marched out to her front porch
Found a roach and lit it with a butane torch

Levi Hooper watched from across the street
Wonderin’ how they might come to meet
He strolled out real slow looked in his mailbox
Lucy called out,”hey, hotshot”

Love can’t be controlled
Can’t be foretold
If you can explain it
It ain’ it

Love can’t be fenced
Or convinced
If you can explain it
It ain’ it

Every Sunday Levi would stop by on his way to church
Look at his feet with each of Lucy’s cuss words
Levi hoped she might want to come with him sometime
But he pushed those thoughts right out of his mind

Lucy had no luck at tryin’ to settle down
Her old friends always kept coming around
Lucy got busted they sent her off to Parchman Farm
Where she put that stuff all up her arm

Love can’t be controlled …

© 2017 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

“When Louanne Met Lucy in Prison”

When Louanne Met Lucy In Prison
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

When Louanne met Lucy in prison
Lou was halfway through her twenty
For killin’ Ronnie Raney
Who hit her once too many
Lucy would talk all about Levi
In words tender and soft
It was old friends and old sins
Got Lucy caught

Ain’t that how it is sometimes?
Ain’t that how it is sometimes?
You’re on the verge of change
Life sends you the same ol’ same

They gave Lucy eighteen months
Easy time for most but for Lucy hard
Day by day she faded away
Behind stone walls and steel bars
Louanne tried to keep an eye on Lucy
Easy in there to come to harm
August night when they found her
Needle was still in Lucy’s arm

Ain’t that how it is sometimes …

Louanne got word to Levi
Said it best she knew how
Lucy only had six weeks left
She ain’ never gettin’ out
Levi read that letter and then
Put it in his dresser drawer
Got drunk in Vicksburg went a little further
Did a little more

© 2017 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

“Lucy’s Grandma On Her Momma’s Side”

Lucy’s Grandma On Her Momma’s Side
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Lucy’s grandma on her momma’s side
Was still around when Lucy died
Bessie Grant was born in the Depression
Had a hard life but was full of fun
Lucy was her favorite one
They never told her Lucy died in prison

Bessie’s momma was a blockader
Revenuers could never fade her
When she drove her fast pilot car
Millie Sparks had a diamond in her teeth
Ever’ thing she did was for keeps
Wore a camel coat; smoked a cigar

A long line of strong women
Tough as nails every one
They were here before this land was named
None of ’em was ever tamed
There ain’ ’nuff time to tell what all they done

Lucy’s momma Mae had a juke joint
Over by Friar’s Point
Where the all the old blues men played
Lucy’s daddy Frank burned it down
Bragged he was tired of her runnin’ around
‘Til he met the business end of a .38

A long line of strong women …

Maybe you heard about Lucy’s end
But six months after she went in
She had a baby, a little boy
They took the child and sent him off
Did it all without a second thought
Momma Mae found him, raised him up as McCoy

A long line of strong women …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

“Levy After Lucy”

Levi After Lucy
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Levi staggered up the stone church steps
A slice of moon hung above a wooden cross
Inside the door he stared at a concrete font
Then walked down the aisle, drunk and lost

He eased himself into a pew and sat
Musty scent of incense hung in the air
Worn leather knee-benches underfoot
Levi tried to find the words of a prayer

Vicksburg, Greenwood, Greenville
Gone down many roads, travelin’ still
Pavement, gravel, then dirt
But what he’s lookin’ for ain’t in this church

His head sank to his chest; he slept
A priest shook him; he struggled to his feet
The priest asked him, “Do I know ye?”
“No,” Levi said. “You don’ know me.”

Vicksburg, Greenwood, Greenville …

“Please, Lord, please keep me still
From sinkin’ lower an’ blowin’ away
I’ll straighten out I swear I will
Least that’s how I feel today”

Priest looked him over and said
“Were you waiting to see me?”
Woman was dustin’ the altar with a rag
“No, sir, I just fell asleep.”

Vicksburg, Greenwood, Greenville …
© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Lucy Bess Cooper (1980-2015)

Parents: Mae Grant Walker (1957- ) & Frank Wes Cooper (1951-1993).  Grandparents: Lucy Calhoun Keith (1921) & Joseph Cowan Cooper (1913-1995) on her father’s side;  Bessie Grant (1932- ) & Walter Calahan Walker (1931-2001) on her mother’s side.

Lucy Cooper comes from an old Mississippi family.  Roy Cooper entered the state in 1794 and gradually purchased enough land to have a small sustenance farm but no slaves.  His son, Frank Roy Cooper was 38 when the War Between the Sates broke out and enlisted and was made a colonel of a local regiment, and served until the very end at which time he was one of last men to fall in May of 1865. One of her great-great-grandfathers, Charles “Charley” Wooley Cooper, was ten years old at the end of the Civil War, fatherless, devoted his activities to causing as much mischief for the Reconstruction politicians in and around Jackson, Mississippi, as was possible for a small boy.  So, you could say that Lucy comes from a long line of hell-raisers and people with a strong disregard for authority, however, possessing a lot of respect for their Mississippi heritage.

Jackson MS editedLucy was in her 30s, living in Jackson, Mississippi, supporting herself with a small marijuana dealing business.  Across the street from her was a bachelor, Levi Hooper, who fell in love with her, which was not entirely unrequited.  She had been a small time drug dealer for the last decade primarily using marijuana but she also had done harder drugs, Dilaudid and cocaine.  Levi had been coming around and she began to feel a desire to change her life around due to his overall wholesomeness and positive influence on her.  See could imagine herself getting clean and starting a new life with Levi.  However, one of her old friends got picked up for his own drug issues, and in order to lessen his sentence gave Lucy up as his dealer.

Lucy's PrisonShe was arrested and convicted for possession and distribution of marijuana and sentenced to 18 months at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (her friends incorrectly referring to  it  as Parchman Farm).

She knew she was pregnant when she went in, but had not informed the father, Levi Hooper.  After a little over six months she gave birth to a baby boy, whom the prison authorities promptly took from her and put into foster care.  She became more and more despondent and depressed and began again using Dilaudid, not orally as designed but crushing the pills and dissolving them in water for injection (“shake and bake”).  She died as a result of an overdose 11 months into her sentence, and only weeks before possibly being paroled.

Levi Hooper (1973- )

In Levi’s mother’s mind he was named for her ancestor who died in the Civil War.  However, the name Levi was also an old Hooper family name, and Leon Hooper, Levi’s father, chose to name his son after his grandfather who had died the year Levi was born.

Levi Hooper was a descendant of two old Southern families: the Hoopers came into North Carolina in the early 18th century and then migrated to Alabama in the mid-19th century.  The Mott family was an old Louisianan family going back to the 1750s.

Jackson, Mississippi, was where Levi was raised and he never moved away.  His daddy was a welder and made a good living but died just before Levi turned two.  After that Levi’s mother turned the family home into a thrift shop, “Mildred’s House of Values”, putting price tags on everything from lamps and vases to the furniture.

Levi eventually got his own place and met his neighbor from across the street, Lucy Cooper, and began a kind of courtship.  Lucy Cooper was nothing like Levi, she was rebellious and wild whereas Levi was mild-mannered, a church -going man.  But Lucy was strangely attracted to Levi’s wholesome quality and made a real effort at cleaning up her life and trying her best to change.

But as this kind of thing is never really easy, Lucy had trouble straightening out and one thing led to another and she was arrested and sent to the penitentiary to serve eighteen months on a drug charge.

Levi visited her often and told her was waiting for her, but Lucy could not take prison life and ended up over-dosing shortly before being released.  Levi went through a period of drinking and traveling but finally was able to put this tragedy behind him.  He returned to Jackson, dutifully helping his momma while he reflected on life’s strange twists and turns as he tinkered with his daddy’s old Dodge.

Millie Carson Sparks

THE MAY 24, 1935, Roanoke Times headline read: Woman Pilot of Whiskey Cars Is Placed On Stand. Millie Carson Sparks testified on May 23 for a half hour. “So great was the interest with which her appearance has been awaited that it served to overshadow a full day of varied testimony . . .” The experience was a disappointing one for most, including Anderson, who saw his hopes of a great mountain heroine die with her appearance on the witness stand. “Mrs. Carson, whose name became so widely known here in the palmy [sic] days of the bootleggers during Prohibition, appeared minus the diamond that once gleamed in her teeth. She was dressed in a white outfit with hat and shoes to match, the dress having brown ruffled sleeves and collar gathered in front with a large cameo pin.

Mildred “Millie” Sparks was a tall, thin and sophisticated young woman whose appearance and mien belied her Southwestern Virginia upbringing. Sparks had originally married a big-shot bootlegger and soon became the principal driver for the operation, driving pilot cars as the caravans of booze careened and smashed their way through the hills of rural towns and into the conduits of the major cities, becoming a celebrity in the process. They said Sparks had movie-star looks and diamonds set in her teeth.

The woman she presented to the world gave no indication of the kind of upbringing she experienced as a girl.

She would have been out of bed at dawn. Summers came on the mountain farm then winters. From the time she was six or seven, she went, for a few months each winter, to a mountain school.

From the time when she was tall enough to stand up to the stove she got up and got the breakfast. In the winter there were corn bread and hot hog meat, and in the summer there were greens. Then she had to clean up the dishes and sweep out the house. She said that the house had no floor. There was just the hard earth, clay she said, made hard and even shiny by much tramping of bare and unwashed feet. To sweep out the house with a homemade broom her father had made, to wash the dishes – mend and wash her father’s clothes.

To school for a few months each winter, for four or five years – to learn anyway to read and write. Spring, summer, fall, and winter. There were plenty of creeping crawling things. “We had lice and bedbugs,” she said. She thought, when she was a child, they were companions every one had.

When she was sixteen she decided she could take no more of the life of back-breaking work and ran off to Raleigh and found work in one of the textile mills. Eventually she met the men involved in the bootlegging and married one.

No one around called the thing “bootlegging.” That might as well have been a foreign word. “You mean blockadin’, sir? What blockades?” Nobody ever said “moonshine” either. White Lightning. White Mule. Moon. Stump Whiskey. Mountain Dew. Squirrel Whiskey. Fire Water.

She had a little girl, Bessie, and chose to retire from her husband’s business, which was becoming increasingly dangerous and unprofitable by the early ’30s.  It wasn’t long before the Feds shut down the entire enterprise, culminating with the longest trial in state history.

 

Parchman Farm (Mississippi State Penitentiary)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP), also known as Parchman Farm, is a prison farm, the oldest prison, and the only maximum security prison for men in the state of Mississippi.

Begun with four stockades in 1901, the Mississippi Department of Corrections facility was constructed largely by state prisoners. It is located on about 28 square miles (73 km2) in unincorporated Sunflower County, in the Mississippi Delta region.

It has beds for 4,840 inmates. Inmates work on the prison farm and in manufacturing workshops. It holds male offenders classified at all custody levels—A and B custody (minimum and medium security) and C and D custody (maximum security). It also houses the male death row—all male offenders sentenced to death in Mississippi are held in MSP’s Unit 29—and the state execution chamber.

Female prisoners are not usually assigned to MSP; Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMFC), also the location of the female death row, is the only state prison in Mississippi designated as a place for female prisoners.

CMCF opened in January 1986 with a capacity of 667 prisoners. CMCF was the first prison facility of the Mississippi Department of Corrections outside of the Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP) in Sunflower County. Upon the opening of CMCF, female prisoners were transferred from MSP to CMCF; previously women were held in MSP Camp 25.