The Families of
Johnny T. Whitten


This page last revised January 1, 2004.

John Thomas "Johnny" Whitten was born in the Noxubee Hill community of northern Winston County, Mississippi to John Thomas Whitten and Sue Mayo. He was their sixth child, their fourth son, and was born on May 1 of either 1888 or 1891 (see discussion concerning his birthdate below). On November 1, 1908, Johnny, along with his brothers Ed and Bose, was involved in the Whitten Killing of 1908. Ed and Johnny surrendered to the authorities in Winston County in September 1909 and were sentenced to prison in Rankin County in June 1911. They applied for a pardon in October 1912, but I am not sure exactly when Ed and Johnny were released from prison. Mrs. Beulah Watson (Johnny's first cousin and daughter of his uncle that was murdered) told me that several of her brothers bore very hard feelings toward Johnny after prison. She told me that one day when Johnny was visiting "back home" after prison, that one of her brothers came over to where he was staying and basically chased him out of the house at gun point.

By 1915, all of Johnny's brothers had married and left home (Bose had died), leaving Johnny to care for their widowed mother and three spinster sisters. Father John Thomas died in April 1911 (just before Johnny went to prison in June), sister Carrie ("Sis") had married in 1914 but only very briefly, and sisters Hassie and Della were still unmarried. On the 1920 census, Johnny was listed as the head of the household with his mother and sisters living in Choctaw County, Mississippi. On April 3, 1920, Johnny married Ettie Dempsey in Winston County, Mississippi. What is weird is that Ettie is not listed in Johnny's household on the 1920 census (I wish I had recorded the date Johnny and his sisters were enumerated.) Johnny and Ettie's marriage was short-lived, and they divorced in Winston County, Mississippi on March 24, 1925. They had no children.

On August 06, 1932, Johnny married Mrs. Nannie Bell (Bruce) Malone in Winston County, Mississippi. She had two small children from her previous marriage, which she and Johnny reared together. Johnny and Nannie Bell made their home in Sturgis, Mississippi, next door to the cemetery at Wake Forest Baptist Church. Maxine Phillips, daughter of Johnny's sister Della, told me that she was with Johnny when he died on April 13, 1956. Maxine had come over to Johnny's house to help take him to the doctor when he collapsed at home. He was buried at Wake Forest Cemetery. There is a double tombstone for him and Nannie Bell, but when I visited the cemetery in 2000, there was no death date on Nannie Bell's side of the tombstone. She may still be living.

This would appear to be the end of his story, and as far as Pete Whitten (Ed Whitten's son) and Maxine Phillips (Della McCool's daughter) could tell me, this was all they knew about Uncle Johnny Whitten. But for me, I learned in March 2000 that there was more to Uncle Johnny than the rest of the family knew. In early November 1998, I was contacted through a friend by John Henderson, who was seeking information on his grandfather at the behest of his ill mother. Her father had deserted the family when she was a very small child, and she was seeking information on what had happened to him. According to her birth certificate, her father's name was John Thomas Whitten and her mother's name was Maggie Alice Pearson. Their family had lived in Weir, Mississippi, a small community in Choctaw County. After comparing notes, Mr. Henderson and I decided my John Thomas Whitten (born in 1845) was not his grandfather, especially since none of my Whittens had married Pearsons. Time went by and in March 2000, Mr. Henderson's research led him back to me. As we compared his newest research with my notes, it became apparent to me that his grandfather John Thomas Whitten, who had previously married Eddy Dempsey and was buried in Wake Forest Cemetery, was actually John Thomas Whitten, Jr., aka my Uncle Johnny. The "clincher" was when Mr. Henderson's Aunt Evalyn (older sister to his mother) recognized the picture of Johnny that I had posted on my website. Mr. Henderson (John) e-mailed me the next day to say, "My Aunt Evalyn says that she would recognize him anywhere and that is him!!!". Evalyn even told me later that she remembered visiting Johnny's sister Della's house a few times. So apparently Uncle Johnny had a second family with Maggie Alice Pearson during the years between his marriages to Ettie Dempsey and Nannie Bell Malone. This is a synopsis of the information John Henderson, his mother, and his aunts have shared with me.

Maggie Alice Pearson was born in 1892 in the Longview community near Starkville in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi. Her parents were Richard E. Pearson and Alice I. Doss. At the age of three, in 1895, Maggie contracted polio, leaving her crippled for life. Around 1919, she married a Mr. Ames (full name not confirmed yet). They had three children, Joe Arthur, Katie Bell, and Alice Evalyn, before he died in the late 1920's. Sometime around 1929, it appears that Maggie and Johnny began a relationship that resulted in a daughter, Johnnie Jewel, being born in 1930. No record of their marriage has been found in Winston, Choctaw, Oktibbeha or Webster Counties in Mississippi, but Johnny is listed as the father on Jewel's birth certificate. Johnny and Maggie were apparently together for about two years before he ended the relationship and left the family in February or March of 1932. Oral family tradition holds that Johnny did not know Maggie was expecting when he left her. Their second daughter, Ruth, was born later that year. Maggie later remarried to Keifer Dees and moved her family to Lexington, Mississippi. They had no children. Maggie died July 30, 1940 and was buried at Liberty Chapel in Lexington, Mississippi.

John W. Henderson has been actively researching the Pearson and Doss lines of his grandmother Maggie Alice Pearson (Ames Whitten Dees). For more information, visit John's databases on Rootsweb's WorldConnect Project: Pearson and Henderson Pearson Proved. Likewise, Larry and Elaine Blackman have a Rootsweb WorldConnect database that contains information on this family. Their database is called "Blackman - Farmer Roots". For more information on the family of Johnny Whitten and Maggie Pearson, or on the Pearson or Doss families, please contact John Henderson at


John Thomas "Johnny" Whitten
Born: May 1, 1888 or 1891 in Louisville, Winston County, Mississippi
Died: April 13, 1956 in Sturgis, Oktibbeha County, Mississippi
Buried: Wake Forest Cemetery, Oktibbeha County, Mississippi
Father: John Thomas Whitten
Mother: Sue Mayo

Spouse #1: Ettie Dempsey
Born: Unknown
Married: April 03, 1920 in Louisville, Winston County, Mississippi
Divorced: March 24, 1925 in Louisville, Winston County, Mississippi
Died: Unknown
Buried: Unknown
Children: None

Spouse #2: Maggie Alice Pearson
Born: June 18, 1892 in Starkville, Oktibbeha County, Mississippi
Partnered: About 1929 - 1932 near Weir, Choctaw County, Mississippi
Died: July 30, 1940
Buried: Liberty Chapel Cemetery, Lexington, Mississippi
Father: Richard E. Pearson
Mother: Alice I. Doss
Children: Johnnie Jewel Whitten (married Nathan Henderson) and Willie Ruth Whitten (married Bill Bailey and Aubrey Evans)

Spouse #3: Mrs. Nannie Bell (Bruce) Malone
Born: July 19, 1895
Married: August 06, 1932 in Louisville, Winston County, Mississippi
Died: Unknown
Buried: Unknown -- has double tombstone with Johnny at Wake Forest Cemetery, Sturgis, Oktibbeha County, Mississippi
Children: None by Johnny Whitten. Two by first husband Malone -- a son named G.D. Malone (married Susie May Thaxton) and Victor Malone.


1900 Winston County, MS Census: Enum. Dist 96, House 115, Sheet 7
John, son, born May 1888 (12) in MS. Living with John T. and Sussie M. Whitten. (for full census listing, see parent's page.)

1910 Winston Co. Miss: Enum. Dist 119, House 54/55, Sheet 4
John, son, age 16 (1894), born in MS. Living with John T. and Sue Whitten. [my note: age should be closer to 22 (1888) per 1900 census] -- (for full census listing, see parent's page.)

1920 Soundex for Mississippi: Choctaw Co., Vol 10, Enum. Dist 61, Sheet 6, Line 83
John T. Whitten, head, age 28 (1892)
Carrie, sister, age 32 (1888) [my note: age should be closer to 38 (1882) per 1900 census]
Hattie, sister, age 22 (1898) [my note: age should be closer to 37 (1883) per 1900 census]
Della, sister, age 20 (1900) [my note: age should be closer to 25 (1895) per 1900 census]
Sue, mother, age 58 (1862) [my note: age should be closer to 65 (1855) per 1900 census]

1917 Civilian Registration Cards, Winston County, MS:
NAME: Whitten, John
BIRTH DATE: 1 May 1891
[abstracted by Raymond H. Banks, 1917 Civilian Registration Cards, Winston County, MS -- Part of USGenWeb Archives at

Double tombstone in Wake Forest Cemetery in Sturgis, Mississippi:
John T. Whitten, May 1, 1878 - Apr 13, 1956
Nannie Bell Bruce Whitten, July 19, 1895 (no death date)
Married Aug 6, 1932

Discussion regarding Johnny's birthdate:
There is a lot of conflicting information regarding Johnny's date of birth. The earliest recorded date I have found is the 1900 census of Winston County, Mississippi which gives Johnny's birthdate as May 1888 (age 12). The 1910 Winston, MS census gives his age as 16, aging only 7 years with a birthdate of 1894. I don't like this date because that would have made him only 6 years old in 1900 and therefore the same age as his youngest sibling Della. The 1920 census of Choctaw County, MS gives his age as 28 (being born in 1892). This date seems to match the birthdate of May 1, 1891 given during the 1917 civilian draft registration during World War I. However, his tombstone has the date May 1, 1878. I absolutely do not believe this since census records and family tradition support the fact that Jack Jr was the oldest in the family, being born in November of 1878. Therefore, I support his birthdate of May 1 of either 1888 (per the 1900 census) or of 1891 (per the 1917 draft record). And as older brother Bose was born circa 1885 and younger brother Luther was born in 1892, either of these dates seem to fit.

Newspaper article in the Winston County Journal, Louisville, MS on September 24, 1909:
Article on Ed and John Whitten's surrender. (Not transcribed)

Newspaper article in the Winston County Journal, Louisville, MS on June 23, 1911:
"Local and Personals" -- The Whitten boys were carried to Rankin farm this week, where they will serve their sentence.

Newspaper article in the Winston County Journal, Louisville, MS on October 18, 1912:

Petition for Pardon, State of Mississippi, Winston County, To His Excellency, Earl Brewer, Governor:

Your petitioners, citizens of Winston County, would respectfully petition that your Excellency grant a pardon to Ed and John Whitten, convicted at the January Term of circuit court of Winston County A.D. 1911 of the crime of manslaughter and sentenced to a term of imprisonment in the penetentiary for 15 years, and assign the following reasons:

Because they are guilty of no offense against the Law, and because when they took the life of the deceased, they acted in self-defense, or in the defense of their brother, their brother was at the time in iminent peril of his life, and was killed. That the deceased was armed at the time of the trouble and held a pistol in his hand when the said John and Ed Whitten fired the fatal shots, and the father of the deceased was shooting the brother of the defendants before either of the defendants fired a shot, and they did not shoot until their brother was mortally wounded and the deceased was approaching with a drawn pistol and in a hostile manner.

Respectfully submitted -- John and Ed Whitten, R.C. Jones, L.H. Hopkins


See pictures of Johnny and Maggie's family in my Whitten Family Picture Album.


| Parents and Siblings of Johnny | Main Whitten Page | The Whitten Killing of 1908 |

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