Leonard, the Son of Biggie Shell, 1912-1939

I’ll admit it.  I still worry about Biggie Shell, and the family he left behind.  So today, after errands were accomplished, however haphazard, I sat down with my trusty friend, Mr. Computer, so that we could have a confab, and talk about Biggie Shell.

Do you ever think that some families are just plain cursed? 

I went to www.ancestry.com, and did another search for one of Biggie and Lena’s children.  I started, randomly, with Ethel Shell.  I scanned down the list of likely prospects, and saw a listing for *Leonard* Shell.  That’s Ethel’s brother.  It was his death record.  AHA!  Now we’re on to something.

I clicked on the link, and it took me to a list of particulars about Leonard, like he was 26 years old when he died, and he lived in Chattanooga, but he died in Nashville.  Twenty-six?  That sounds young.  Maybe he was a veteran and he was sent to a veteran’s hospital in Nashville, although he was too young to have been in World War I. 

When I clicked on the link to view the actual image, I’ll admit that I’ve never come across this type of record before.  Leonard was in the state penitentiary.

And he died of a stab wound in the back which severed his pulmonary artery and lung. 

Was his mother Lena horrified about this?  I know I am.  Or was she so worn out that she was numb?

Thoughts, anyone?

Left-click on the image to enlarge.


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9 Responses to “Leonard, the Son of Biggie Shell, 1912-1939”

  1. leo Says:

    Ruth, I stumbled into this same thing a few days ago, but was not too sure if you were still thinking about this family so didn’t say anything. Two thoughts: First Lena is listed as a Kirkland, not Kirklin, so she may have been either, but it’s one more road to travel, and neither is easy to follow. Second thought, I am not sure whether he was an inmate or a correction officer? He winds up just as dead in either case, but the public may think about his demise differently depending on which. The remainder of that family is hard to follow.


    • ruthrawls Says:

      Good comment, Leo, but his occupation is listed as a moulder at a foundry.
      Here is the South, certain unspoken rules for pronunciation apply. I will pronounce it “Kirklin”, but I know that it is spelled Kirkland. Many hard consonant sounds are dropped completely. My mother pronounced “Robinson” as “Robison”. When I corrected her, she said that was the way the Robisons pronounced it, even though it was spelled “Robinson”. That’s just the way it was.


  2. Sharon Says:


    I see by the time of death that this was most likely an event that happened when they were called for dinner, in other words, planned. The depression would have happened just as he was reaching adulthood. It is hard to asses whether he was always trouble or driven to it by circumstances.


    • ruthrawls Says:

      Excellent observation, Sharon! I saw the time of his death, but did not connect it with anything. Killed in the cafeteria, just like in the movies.


  3. Sharon Says:

    Just realized I made a HUGE spelling error, changes the entire post! At least I can laugh at myself.


  4. Becky Says:

    I guess this is the first true-life person that I have heard about this happening. I feel sad both for Leonard being there, and for the way he died.


    • ruthrawls Says:

      Becky, can you please contact Nashville about the prison records? Do you suppose the records still exist?


      • Becky Says:

        Will try to find out something this week. I suppose you would like a copy of them, or is there something else you want to know?


    • ruthrawls Says:

      Well, I’d be interested in anything you can find. Here’s a start – http://www.tn.gov/correction/public/archive&sentence.html – which tells the following:

      The Department of Correction frequently receives requests for historical records on inmates.

      Requests should be submitted in writing by fax or mail to:

      Tennessee Department of Correction
      Operational Support Services
      4th Floor, Rachel Jackson Building
      Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0465

      FAX (615) 532-1497

      You will need to include the following information with your request:
      1.Your Contact Information – name, mailing address, phone number and an email address, if available.
      2.Person You Are Requesting Information On – full name, date of birth, TOMIS #, etc. (list any information available that will help us to make a positive ID.)
      3.Detailed Description of Information Seeking From The Record.

      If an archive search is required, there will be a charge of 15 cents per page. Do not send a payment with your original request. You will be contacted with a cost estimate when the search is complete.

      The information will be mailed to the address provided when payment is received.


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