and the IRS knew my daddy as William Wallace Cherry. To the rest of the world
his formal name was W.W. Cherry, written in his very elaborate and fancy cursive
He began his career with American National Insurance Co. as a part-time
agent selling and collecting weekly premium life insurance policies. His clients
were primarily poor black families in Monroe, Louisiana. In insurance-speak it
was his debit.
Daddy was working his way through the University of the
South – an Episcopal school in Sewanee, Tennessee.
Photo Courtesy Charles Robinson
| And he ended his
ANICO career forty years later as an executive vice president and director of
the company, not as the physician he had studied to be.|
At ANICO’s Galveston
home office, it had been his job to make sure that some 5,000 ANICO agents brought
in the bacon that kept the company on its financial roll.
always made it clear that he thought black men and women had a special wisdom
that he felt certain God had not shared with anyone else. They shared it with
“Do you realize that all during the Great Depression, the black
men made sure that they kept their life insurance premiums paid? All the while,
white men were letting their coverage lapse so they could use the premium money
for other less important things,” Daddy would tell anyone who would listen. “And
without my loyal black clients, I wouldn’t have had the money for my college tuition
Perhaps it’s just in the south, maybe elsewhere, too, but everyone
seems to make a big deal out of eating a helping or so of black-eyed
pea on New Year’s Day. It’s supposed to bring good luck, they think.
said that other than nutritional, that the black-eyed
pea had any other positive thing going for it was untrue. “People pushing
those things are false prophets,” he would say. “And you know what God thinks
about false prophets.”
only one thing that brings good luck. It’s the buckeye, and you have to carry
it in your left pocket, and rub it when you’re scared,” he’d say.
he had picked up that wisdom years before when he was collecting insurance premiums
on his debit each week in Monroe.
“And it’s even better if your buckeye
was blessed by a voodoo priestess. Sister Veressa in the Des Ourses swamp of Louisiana
has ‘extree’ power,” Daddy claimed. He’d get a big brown paper sack full of them
when he was over that way.
As the years passed, Daddy came across untold
thousands of men and women ANICO agents who were scared they wouldn’t sell enough
life insurance to adequately feed their families. He’d give them one of the buckeyes
blessed by Sister Veressa, the voodoo priestess with the “extree” power, and instruct
them about how to use it.
“Put this buckeye in your left pocket, not the
right, you understand, but the left pocket. When you get ready to try to close
your sale, look your prospect in the eye, and with your thumb rub the buckeye
that you’ve got hidden in your left pocket. If you’re really believing and looking
him squarely in the eye, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll sign on the dotted
He had several three-ring notebooks of letters from agents telling
him how the buckeye blessed by the voodoo priestess with the “extree” power had
miraculously worked. Daddy showed no surprise.
Daddy died thirty-years
ago this past December 17th. He hadn’t been ill, and we had no warning. One moment
he was fine, the next he was dead in a bed at Galveston’s
St. Mary’s Infirmary.
Many of his agents and business associates came
to his funeral at Trinity Episcopal Church. All had their buckeyes in their left
pocket, and told us so.
And our family made certain that Daddy had his
buckeye in his left pants pocket as the casket cover was closed. Trips to heaven
can be pretty scary.
Cherry's Galveston Memories
Febuary 2, 2011column
Copyright William S. Cherry. All rights reserved
a Dallas Realtor and free lance writer was a longtime columnist for "The Galveston
County Daily News." His book, Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories, has sold
thousands, and is still available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com and other
Cherry's Galveston Memories|