John Tate


My grandfather, John Melvin Tate, was born at his parents' home in Flippin, Arkansas on February 23, 1922. He was born to Ina Goff-Tate and Benjamen Brewer Tate. John became known as J.M. Benjamen and worked as a carpenter, painter, in a pencil factory, and was in the Army. Ina Jane was a housewife and worked in the garden.

J.M. attended a school for rural kids through the eighth grade. The school was called Number One and was located in the building where the Antioch Baptist Church (down Denton Ferry Road) is now located. He remembers his first grade teacher hitting a switch across a table. It scared him so bad that he went home, and his mother had to bring him back to school. He went to high school at Flippin High School. J.M. played basketball, baseball, and was a member of the FFA. He took classes like algebra, geometry, and agriculture. He would ride his bike to baseball and basketball practices every day. In the summer he went fishing on the White River for fish and mussels. He sold the mussel shells to make money.

During J.M.'s childhood he befriended Larsh Johnson, who later became a teacher who lives in the George's Creek community. He was also a friend to Walton Huddleston, also known as Peter Rabbit, who moved to North Carolina. J.M. really doesn't know how Walton got the nickname. Everybody just called him Peter Rabbit. J.M. also went fishing as a teenager with Lyle Wood, Ewell Sharp, and Tobe Daffron.

J.M. remembers going to carnivals and picnics as a child. He rode rides such as the Ferris Wheel and swings. He played games such as "throw the ball at the milk jug." Most of these events were held near J.M.'s home on Denton Ferry Road in a field. Some were held in town behind Flippin Auto. J.M. also remembers that Robert Wadlow, the world's tallest man in the 1930's, came through Flippin. They had to cut a hole in the top of the car for his head to stick out of.

Flippin has changed a lot over the years. J.M. remembers when the streets of Flippin weren't paved until around 1940. He also remembers a well standing in the middle of the street in front of where Sander's Grocery is now located and Flippin City Hall building being a gas station. Stookey and Christian's Dry Goods Store was located where the old Flippin Pharmacy was.

J.M. recalls the depression hitting this area in the late 1920's. His family made it through the rough times by raising cattle and a garden. J.M.'s father enlisted in the Army at age seventeen, even though he had suffered the loss of an eye while working in the pencil factory. His father also drew a pension from the Army because of a heart condition that was found at the Veterans' Hospital in Fayetteville after World War I.

After high school J.M. joined the National Youth Corp. He signed up and worked for six months. J.M. helped build the building at Flippin School where the business room is located. During WWII in October of 1939 he went to Civilian Conservation Corps Camp at Everton, Arkansas for six months. When asked why he went, he replied, "There weren't any other jobs hardly to be had." Every day all of the men in the camp would wake up and get themselves and their bed area ready. They would go to breakfast. Then they were hauled in the back of trucks to different farms and sites to do various jobs like planting grass and trees. Lunch would be brought to the sites. After they worked all afternoon, they were hauled back to camp where they would clean up and put on their nicest clothes. They went to the "mess hall" for dinner. Before they ate, however, they stood at attention and saluted the American Flag. Some days the men would have to go through a workout like running. J.M. described Civilian Conservation Corps Camp saying, "It was like the Army without guns."

After six months at Everton, J.M. was transferred to Little Rock to attend the National Defense Radio School for another six months. He received two months off. Then J.M. went back to Everton, where he worked in the supply room. While he was there he got very sick and developed bronchial asthma. When J.M. was sent to Little Rock in 1942 to join the Army, he was turned down because of his asthma.

After Civilian Conservation Camp J. M. went to Kansas City, where he worked as a civilian on B-25 bombers in quality control. He adjusted the backs of the planes with a tool called a "bucking bar." Then he came back to Flippin and worked for the Soil Conservation Service. In 1947 he got a job working for the Arkansas State Highway Department in Marion County. After 10 years he was promoted to foreman. He worked for 20 more years before he retired. During his years he saw most of the state roads in this area get paved.

On July 5, 1950, J.M. married Jerry Lou Rains. They had their first son, John Wayne Tate, on October 30, 1959, which also happened to be J.M.'s mother's birthday. They had their second son, Jackie Lane Tate, on April 24, 1964. J.M. is now retired to his home, where he enjoys watching television, reading, working on his tractor outdoors, and spending time with his four grandchildren.