My grandfather, John Franklin Champion, was married over thirty years to my grandmother, Ida Bell Grooms Champion. They had twelve children (ten who lived to adulthood). After Ida Bell’s death in March, 1930, my grandfather married a woman named Irene on October 5, 1930. I did not know her last name until recently when I discovered the original copy of the Marriage Certificate of my grandfather and Irene Conway. I still don’t know if Conway was Irene’s maiden name or a married name. I assume it’s a married name since I know she had two sons and possibly other children.
I also found two letters from Irene to my grandfather, one in 1933 and one in 1934 and it became apparent that they were separated at that time. I’ve not been able to determine the date of their separation or if they ever actually divorced.
According to a story told by my cousin, Louise Decker Jones, Irene’s two sons enjoyed playing with my Uncle Albert and Uncle Clifford. Albert and Clifford were about 12 and 7 years old at the time and, as boys that age tend to do, they “roughnecked” it with Irene’s two boys. It was all in fun and Irene’s boys throughly enjoyed the play; however, Irene felt that her boys were being mistreated and she abruptly gathered up her boys and left, never to return. Although she continued to correspond with my grandfather as late as 1934, the marriage was over at that point.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s around Kentucky Bend and Tiptonville, Tennessee, the Champions and Whitsons were a tight knit group as illustrated by the identities of the witnesses and Justice of the Peace at the wedding of my grandfather and Irene Conway. Dan Whitson, the Justice of the Peace who performed the marriage, was the brother of Jesse Floyd Whitson, husband of my Aunt Frances Ada Champion Whitson, my grandfather’s daughter. Joe A. Whitson, one of the witnesses, was also a brother of Jesse Floyd Whitson. V.D. Barry (full name was Valentine Daniel Barry) was the brother of Laura Edna Barry Whitson, mother of Jesse Floyd Whitson.