My evolution in the Deep South of the United States

No one can change the evolutionary cause-effect chains that produced him or her, but it is possible to reduce some of their negative consequences. Of significance are the cause-effect chains producing family scripts, the personalities of family members, and family stories, some of which are told from one generation to another.

Here are some interesting facts about my familial cause-effect chains. Most of these facts were not told in my family after I was born, apparently because my parents and grandparents decided to keep them secret. I am telling them because I think transparency in most cases is the best policy.

From a passage starting on page 39 of Business Voyages:

“Dick (my father) was named after his uncle Richard Gathright Maury and his great grandfather down this branch of the family tree Thomas S. Gathright, the first president of Texas A & M University. A Confederate draft-dodger who opposed the South’s seceding from the Union, Thomas Gathright was nonetheless a personal friend of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. Dick was named Richard Gathright Maury Stapleton, but instead of becoming a lawyer or college president he became a carpenter and entrepreneur working for his father. Dick lamented one time that he screwed up by not teaching me a trade, as his father had taught him.

“Dick’s Maury ancestors were of French Huguenot ancestry related to Matthew Fontaine Maury, the “Pathfinder of the Seas.” This Maury, listed in encyclopedias and the Virginia Hall of Fame, was a commodore in the Confederate navy during the War of Secession and was a professor of physics at the Virginia Military Academy. One of the founders of oceanography during the heyday of the clipper ships, he wrote and published Physical Geography of the Seas (1865), which was reprinted in eight languages. See also Maury’s A New Theoretical and Practical Treatise on Navigation (1836) and Tracks in the Sea: Matthew Fontaine Maury and the Mapping of the Oceans by Chester G. Hearn (2002).

“His nephew Dabney Herndon Maury was a University of Virginia and a West Point graduate who became a Confederate general after serving in the U.S. Army (Wikipedia.org). Dabney Maury wrote and published a book titled Recollections of a Virginian in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars (1894), an interesting and well-written book I found in a local library several years ago.

“Matthew Fontaine Maury’s great grandfather, James Maury, was said to have taught President Thomas Jefferson in school when Jefferson was a boy in Virginia; and James Maury’s great grandparents were said to have been teachers in France in the 1600s before they were forced to flee France to avoid being burned at the stake by Catholics because of their Protestant religion. They went first to Dublin, Ireland before they went to Virginia.

“Dick and Ida (my mother) had a problem naming me. I was their first child and the first grandson on either side of the family. Before I was born, Dick’s mother insisted that I should be named Richard Gathright Maury Stapleton, Jr., and Ida was determined that this would not happen. I wound up named Richard Coston Stapleton on my birth certificate. Ida and her mother-in-law never liked one another, and this naming problem probably increased the hostility. Ida seriously resented her mother-in-law bragging about her “blue blooded” ancestors. Ida would concede the Maurys were ‘smart people,’ but she vowed their blood was just the same as everybody else’s. Ida told a story in my presence several times through the years about Dick’s brother Henry’s beautiful alcoholic first wife “just boo-hooing” when Henry cut his finger one day. The young woman, Ann, pretended to cry and wailed in the presence of Gammy, Dick and Henry’s mother, that she was so sorry that Henry’s blood was red, that she thought it was blue.

“On the other hand, even Ida would concede Gammy was not all bad. Ida said she made the best cobblers she ever tasted, and Dick said when they were living on the ‘old Bear Ranch’ in New Mexico when he was about eight years old Gammy would sometimes be gone for days at a time traveling for miles around serving as a midwife.

“Although I wound up with a script more similar to Ida’s father than Dick’s uncle, I finally settled this particular family conflict myself in 1978, 38 years after I was born. I legally changed Coston to John, the most common male name in the world. Although Ida never said much about this, it was obvious it was not to her liking. Dick never said much about this issue, but he did say he always thought you needed a surname as a middle name after I changed Coston to John, being a strong believer in the notion that ‘Blood runs thicker than water.’ I don’t think Dick had a clue about why I changed my middle name, but he never liked my Coston grandfather much, and I think he was secretly glad I changed Coston.

“Naming someone is not a simple matter. Labeling a child with several family surnames can cast messages that the child is supposed to possess certain physical and mental characteristics and exhibit certain behaviors that could be unrealistic given the child’s genetic makeup, personality development, and personal goals. On the other hand, creating original contemporary names may deprive a child of salutary associations with family traditions and heritage. Names can be permissive or limiting.

“Although Ida said she thought Gammy and her people were smart people she also thought she and her people were not only smarter but much better looking. Ida and her sisters and her mother were pretty women of good proportions, weight, and height and Gammy was short and stout, not ugly but not pretty. Gammy didn’t stand a chance in this sort of competition, so she probably tried to compensate with her blue-blooded ancestors. Before you know it, this sort of competition can be blown out of proportion creating bad feelings, bad messages, and distorted stories that can be passed down to innocent children and grandchildren.

“Gammy never mentioned her Huguenot ancestors to me when I was growing up and I probably never would have known about the issue had Ida not brought it up. Ida brought it up because it was a big deal to her in a negative sense, being part and parcel of personality and group imago problems she had with her mother- in-law, her husband, and her in-laws in general.

“I had no idea as a child whether any of Gammy’s assertions about being related to Matthew Fontaine Maury were actually true or whether this was just something she more or less made up when she was a child, having heard glorious tales about the man from her Maury kinfolks in Mississippi. If perchance you should have some curiosity about Matthew Fontaine Maury just punch his name into Google on the Internet. You can pull up more information about him than you have time to read. A scientist and world famous author (1806–1873) instrumental in the founding of the US Naval Academy and Virginia Tech, a commodore in the Confederate navy, a professor of physics at Virginia Military Institute, with Maury Halls in his honor at the University of Virginia, College of William and Mary, and the US Naval Academy, with a bust in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in New York City, books translated into eight languages, recognized and honored by foreign monarchs—without a college or university degree—Matthew Fontaine Maury had to have been some sort of self-taught genius (Wikipedia.org).

“On the other hand, not only did Gammy not mention anything to me personally about Matthew Fontaine Maury or Huguenots, she did not mention anything to me personally during the few times I was around her, about six times as I recall. She was a very aloof austere formal woman and I do not remember her even saying hello to me much less giving me a hug or a pat on the back. She had to have been one of the most non-nurturing grandmothers in history. All she liked to do was talk politics, play cards, and tell her maid what to do, as if she thought she were Queen Victoria or somebody. She even talked with a strange accent and instead of calling her husband Sidney, Sid, Bubba, or something she always called him “Mr. Stapleton.” She claimed she lived as a girl on a good-sized plantation in Mississippi and rode in a carriage pulled by six white horses. To my knowledge neither Gammy nor Sidney ever attended a church of any sort after I was born. Gammy, however, was not the only non-nurturing adult in my family. I do not remember being hugged by either of my parents during my growing-up years and compliments were far and few between.

“Stories and behaviors such as these can contribute to the creation of family scripts that can have both positive and negative outcomes, and I am sure Gammy’s Huguenot story told to Ida and Ida’s story about it told to me had an impact on my script that entailed elements of narcissism. For more on the nature and causes of narcissism as a personality disorder see ‘Applying Transactional Analysis to the Understanding of Narcissism,’ published in the Transactional Analysis Journal by Ann Heathcote (2006). Narcissism entails more than thinking you are smarter, more deserving, more capable, more powerful, and better looking than other people, it also entails such things as not using nurturing parent and child ego states transacting with children, grandchildren, other people, and yourself, and threatening people with dire punishments such as eternal hellfire.

“While the Huguenots may have been one of the most austere, ascetic, severe, and elitist religious sects in history, most religions it seems to me can encourage attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that can lead to narcissism. Paid leaders in most religions are supposed to be smarter, wiser, and better looking than their flocks and almost all religions teach they are better and more deserving than other religions, making their believers and adherents God’s favorite children, which can set up invidious comparisons between religions that can lead to jealousy, conflict, enmity, and other emotional problems.

“For more information on the Huguenots, see ‘A Tale of the Huguenots’ or ‘Memoirs of a French Refugee Family Translated and Compiled from the Original Manuscripts of James Fontaine by One of His Descendants,’ with an Introduction by F.J. Hawkes, D.D., ‘Showing to the generations to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, that they should make them known to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.—Psalm 78’ that I found on the Internet. The manuscript written in 1722 was first published in1838 in New York by John S. Taylor, Theological and Sunday School Bookseller, Corner of Park Row and Spruce Street, which is dedicated:

“’To the two thousand descendants of the exemplary Christian whose eventful life forms the chief subject of the following pages, and who are now living in the United States of America, this work is affectionately inscribed by their kinswoman.’”

As I documented with US Census Data in Business Voyages in 2008, several generations of my ancestors had been slave owners in the Deep South, something not to be proud of, which had been kept secret from me all my life.

I graduated from high school in 1958, attending a segregated school in Texas. The Civil Rights Act changed that in the 1960s. For sure we do not want to undo the progress the US made with its civil rights, voting rights, equal opportunity and affirmative action laws.

I can honestly say I have never discriminated against or insulted any person on the basis of race, color, creed, sex or sexual orientation. I am a full believer in equal opportunity. As a college professor for 39 years, I did everything I could to provide equal opportunity in my classes for all students, assigning individual grades on the basis of individual performance relative to all students in the class, as documented in Business Voyages.

A major reason I used a spinner every day to select the leader of the day to start case method discussions was to insure every student in the class had an equal opportunity every day to be the class leader.

See especially my article with Gene Murkison: Stapleton, R.J. and Murkison, G. (2001). Optimizing the fairness of student evaluations: A study of correlations between instructor excellence, study production, learning production, and expected grades. The journal of management education, 25(3), 269–292. This article can easily be found by punching “Optimizing the Fairness of Student Evaluations” into Google; it has now been cited as a reference in 42 refereed articles in professional journals. See the Sage Publications post “Learning from Journal Articles” containing a PDF copy of Optimizing the Fairness of Student Evaluations.

I always admired Thomas Jefferson. His reputation, however, has lately been tarnished in my mind by articles similar to a recent article in Truth-Out, “Rethinking Thomas Jefferson.”

For more ramifications see Business Voyages: Mental Maps, Scripts, Schemata, and Tools for Discovering and Co-Constructing Your Own Business Worlds, a business bible for people who would like to do the right thing for all Earthlings.

Richard John Stapleton is an emeritus professor of business policy, ethics and entrepreneurship who writes on business and politics at www.effectivelearning.net and on Facebook.

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