Monday, September 29, 2008

Mason Barnett Patten (Jr)

Mason B Patten, Jr.

Mason was the oldest boy of the Patten clan. He was Mason (Sr) and Pauline Patten's first son born on July 31, 1906. I don't know that much about Mason (Jr). First, my grandmother allegedly contracted Tuberculosis (a deadly infectious lung disease which is abbreviated as TB for tubercle bacillus) from her brother, Donovan. My grandmother, Eliza, was very fair with blonde hair and could easily pass for being white. She supposedly traveled to Los Angeles to spend time in a sanatorium for Tuberculosis treatments which were apparently successful since she ultimately lived to be 83 years old. The story goes that she returned to segregated Texas and was met at the train station by MB. She was overcome with passion for seeing her brother, but he allegedly push her away addressing her in the subservient tone that black people used with white people back in the day. His purpose was to avoid being lynched for having a "young white girl" pay him so much attention. She was too young to realize that she was blowing their cover. Anyway, supposedly she was one of the first people to survive the disease.

Once I saw a picture of MB (see above), I wondered why the facade. Mason was supposedly disappointed with southern segregation and supposedly moved to San Diego, California to pass as white himself. Interestingly, he apparently collected public assistance while there, but failed to disclose that he was being supported by his doctor sister, Thelma. The County of San Diego, California sued him Mason for overpayment of indigent relief benefits because he failed to report that "he had received a certain sum of money from his sister". Mason appealed the decision and it is reported at Mason B. Patten v. County of San Diego, et al, 106 Cal.App.2d 467 (1951)

I also found another case involving a Mason B. Patten of Oakland, California: Patten v. Dennis, U.S. Attorney, 134 F2d 137 (1943. J. Charles Dennis was the United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington between 1934 and 1953. Dennis is probably best remembered for his involvement in the internment of Japanese- Americans during World War II. Although not clear, this Mason B. Patten sued the United States attorney for failing to enforce the laws against discrimination in connection with his lost of employment at the navy yard, and lost. I have no idea if this is my M.B., but I suspect that it is.

As part of the pact to give the insurance monies from their father's death in the train accident to Thelma so she could go to medical school, all of the Patten kids went to college (save Donovan who died in 1927), and Mason attended Hampton University in Virginia. Hampton is an historically black university that is still operating today. It is also the location of the Emancipation Oak.

According to the university's website, "One day in 1863, the members of the Virginia Peninsula's black community gathered to hear a prayer answered. Ninety-eight feet in diameter, Emancipation Oak was the site of the first Southern reading of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, an act which accelerated the demand for African-American education. The peaceful shade of the oak served as the first classroom for newly freed men and women - eager for an education. Mrs. Mary Peake, daughter of a freed colored woman and a Frenchman, conducted the first lessons taught under the oak located on the University's campus. The Emancipation oak is designated as one of the 10 Great Trees of the World by the National Geographic Society." I can imagine that M.B. might of spent some time under the old oak tree during his education.

Mason B Patten (Jr.)

I don't have any recollection of having met Mason. I did find a letter from him to my mother in which he asked about me and told of an earthquake that had hit San Diego in 1957. He died on July 10, 1957 in San Diego, California.