His Own Man
EDGAR DANIEL NIXON was born on July 12, 1899, in a small shanty on Cane Street—within the shadows of the state capitol that had been the site of Jefferson Davis's inauguration as president of the Confederacy thirty-eight years earlier, and in a world lorded over by a mysterious but overwhelming ghost named Jim Crow.
Edgar quickly learned to take care of himself. He and six siblings slept on the floor; his baby sister slept in the bed with her mother and father. His mother, Sue Ann Chappell Nixon, who worked in white people's houses as a maid and a cook, died suddenly when he was a boy, leaving her husband, Wesley M. Nixon, with eight children. Wesley worked for a while at Sabel Steel. Later he began preaching in Baptist churches wherever his services were wanted, leaving his children behind to tend to themselves. Edgar remembered hearing a story about how his father became a dedicated preacher. His mother and father had rented a farm and planted cotton and corn there. At noon on a sunny July day, lightning struck the field, setting fire to every stalk of cotton on the place. Frightened by the sudden turn of