Story Time Reviews is a blog series that offers reviews of stories both read and read aloud. Today Story Time Reviews “Glow Worm” by Harlan Ellison presented by The Lost Sci Fi Podcast, narrated by Scott Miller. The episode lasts 29:22 minutes, part of that time is used to give a brief bio of the author.
The story, “Glow Worm,” was originally published in 1955 with the publisher listed as Royal Publications, Inc. The story’s release date is recorded as February 8, 2022 on Guttenburg.
He was the last man on Earth, all right. But—was he still a man?
This short story is the tale of a man, Seligman, who is the result of experiments to make a super soldier. The last man on Earth because many had gone to the stars and because those who were left behind were the ones “who knew no other answer,” “the ones who fathered the Attilas, the Genghis Khans, the Hitlers.”
The war is over and not a life form on Earth has survived, except Seligman. In his depression, he asks himself why? Why did he alone survive?
Slowly, he recognizes symptoms of the physical changes that allow him to survive. Were the changes the results of the experiments or the radiation he endured, or both? Ultimately, he recognizes he has a new purpose and that he decides he must fulfill that purpose.
For a brief time, I was here; and for a brief time, I mattered.
Harlan Ellison, from the Afterword to The Essential Ellison
Harlan Ellison, (1934-2018), was a prolific author, editor, comic book script writer, teleplay writer, movie script writer, voice actor, and activist. He wrote more than 1700 stories, novels, essays, and columns. He wrote television and movie scripts and, as a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), he has many VoiceOver credits. You have likely seen or heard his work if you watched Star Trek or Babylon 5 or The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits (or many other non-SF shows).His works are too many for me to list here. Either his official website or the Ellison Wikipedia entry would be a good place to search for a list of his credits.
People have described Ellison as caustic, cantankerous, abrasive, argumentative, pugilistic (occasionally), and always tenacious. He was as flamboyant as he was fearless in pursuing a story (check out the story behind his first novel, Rumble) or in fighting against plagiarism or contract violations or for civil rights.
His work experiences were many and included a two-year stint in the army.
He had four different brief marriages before he found his mate and his match, Susan (Toth). They’d been married 32 years at the time of his death.
The Voice Talent
In Scott Miller’s introduction to the first episode of the Lost Sci Fi Podcast, he states that his podcast, and his audiobooks are his “passion project.” At the time he wrote his introduction, he’d been narrating audiobooks for a decade. On March 21st of this year, he published his 64th episode.
The Lost SciFi Podcast publishes weekly episodes with at least one vintage science fiction story read aloud each week. Miller features vintage stories that were written 60-100 years ago. “You can listen to any episode you want, in any order you want….” He calls these vintage stories Lost Sci-Fi Short Stories from the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
The podcast is available everywhere podcasts appear, including Spotify, Apple, and YouTube. Mr. Miller has also created audiobooks of the stories he’s read on his podcast. They are available on his website and on Chirp.
I had the good fortune to meet Harlan Ellison more than once at various science fiction conventions. He tolerated my presence, possibly because I usually came with one of my friends who was also a close friend of his. I saw his temper displayed more than once, sometimes unjustly, often at an individual who could have behaved better. (This is not an excuse for Ellison’s behavior.)
It was my great pleasure to hear Ellison read one of his stories aloud. His vocal display was spellbinding. He confessed that he’d spent a great deal of time learning how to use his voice. I wish I’d heard him read more of his works.
I wish I could have heard Ellison read this story. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Miller’s version.
Scott Miller, of the Lost Sci Fi Podcast, reads this story well. His voice is a baritone with a bit of gravel. It’s not overly theatrical and uses good inflection and tone. In other words, he gets out of the way of the story and lets his voice be a vehicle so you can enjoy the ride of the story.
In typical Harlan Ellison style, this post-apocalyptic story is told in a 3rd person distant voice. As a writer, I notice he overuses the word “suddenly” and he’s fond of phrases that begin with “as.” There are sentence structures and word choices that belong to an older time, but these are minor. I love Ellison’s descriptions. Some of my favorite of his phrases include: “… dawn oozed up…,” “the final dust of extinction…,” and “coughed brokenly.”
Glow Worm is a satisfying story. It explores themes that interest me and that remain relevant today. Where do we draw the line on experiments to improve humankind? What would I do if I were the last alive on the planet? Or if I discovered I had changed as much as Seligman? What would you do?
If you have 20 minutes, I hope you listen to this story.
Have you read or listened to “Glow Worm” by Harlan Ellison? Please share what you thought of the story.
The story of the dashing British officer, known as Lawrence of Arabia, credits him with leading the Arab revolt against the Turks during World War I. He’s a legend of history. Yet, there is another whose story we should know. The “Daughter of the Desert,” Gertrude Bell, made archeological, sociological, and political contributions to history. Significant enough, we should recognize her name along with (or more than) Lawrence of Arabia’s. Yet, history forgot or overlooked her story, a woman’s story, for years.
Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, CBE, was born on the 14th of July 1868 in Washington, England. She had the good fortune of being born into a wealthy British family. Her grandfather was the Ironmaster Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell (1816-1904), an industrialist and a Liberal member of Parliament. Her father, Sir Hugh Bell, 2nd Baronet, (1844-1931) was a progressive capitalist and mill owner. He made certain his workers were paid fair wages and had paid sick days. Her mother, Maria (née Shield) Bell, died after the birth of her second child, Gertrude’s brother, Maurice. Gertrude was three.
Gertrude’s father married Florence Ollie, a playwright and author) when Gertrude was seven. Florence eventually gave birth to Gertrude’s three half-siblings, Hugh, Florence, and Mary3. Gertrude, already close to her Father, grew close to her step-mother as well.
She was outspoken and independent and enjoyed horseback riding, among other activities. Her father and stepmother realized Gertrude wasn’t like the other girls. When she wasn’t reading or writing, she engaged in various “naughty behaviors” like scaling cliffs and other heights3. Unlike the parents of most girls of her class, who were tutored at home, her parents sent Gertrude to school.
At first, fifteen-year-old Gertrude was unhappy at Queen’s College, a girl’s school in London. But her insatiable appetite for learning helped her adjust. She excelled at her studies.
Normally, at seventeen, girls in her class were presented at court and introduced to society. Society expected them to find a husband within three seasons.
Gertrude completed her schooling at Queen’s College in 1886 and asked her father for permission to continue her studies at Oxford, which had recently allowed females to be included in certain programs. She first met T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) during her studies there. In 1888, she was the first woman to graduate in Modern History at Oxford. Hers was an honorary degree. Only males received academic degrees.
Social Life & Travel
She went to Bucharest with her uncle, Sir Frank Lascelles, and his family. Visits to Paris and other European cities followed.
From 1890 to 1892, she made the rounds of London’s balls and banquets where young ladies met eligible bachelors, but didn’t find her match.
Gertrude’s uncle, Lascelles, became British minister at Tehran, Persia (Iraq). She joined him in May 1892, where she studied the Arabic and Persian languages. Describing Persia as “paradise,” Gertrude spent six months there and wrote a book, Persian Pictures, about her time there.
She took advantage of her privilege and family wealth to travel widely. Her travels include a world tour with her brother Maurice and a trip to Italy with her father. During her Alpine climbing adventures, she recorded ten new paths or first ascents in the Bernese Alps. Once she suffered frostbite after she and her guides clung to a rope on the side of a cliff for forty-eight hours during a terrifying storm of snow, hail, and lightning.
Gertrude traveled to Turkey, Germany, and Jerusalem. She visited ancient sites in Syria, Lebonon, and Athens. All the while, she studied languages. She mastered Arabic, Persian (Farsi), Italian, French, German, and Turkish.
She Loved the Desert
But the Mesopotamia was the area she returned to over and over. She hired a guide, Fattuh, who became her confidante.
Throughout her travels to the desert, she learned about the people and cultures, established close relations with inhabitants and tribes. Being a woman, she could meet the wives and daughters of local notables. She didn’t take as much advantage of this as she might have. Her principal focus was meeting the shaikhs and leaders of Arab society.
It was in Tehran that she met one of her uncle’s secretary, Henry Cadogan. She and Cadogan bonded over their love of poetry by Hafiz. They spent a lot of time together and eventually announced their engagement. Unfortunately, Cadogan was poor and in debt. Gertrude’s father would not approve the match. She returned to England to convince her parents to give their permission for her to marry Cadogan. While in England, Cadogan had died of pneumonia2 in 1893. Gertrude was heartbroken. She left England for Italy and Switzerland.
Her second chance at love came fourteen years later. She met the married British officer, Charles “Richard” Doughty-Wylie, in 1907. They never acted upon their feeling but exchanged letters expressing deep devotion to each other. He was killed in action at Gallipoli in April 1915.
Some claim Gertrude, not Mrs. Doughty-Wylie, laid a wreath on his grave in November of that year.
Writing & Photography
In 1886, Gertrude published Persian Pictures, a photographic account of her trips to the Persian area.
She published a book of poems translated from Persian to English, The Divan of Hafez, in 1897. It continues to be regarded as the best translation of that poet’s work in existence3.
During her first solo journey through the desert in 1899, she photographed ancient sites, including Petra, Palmyra, and Baalbek. Once she learned photography and how to develop her photographs, she always took her camera and photographic equipment on her trips. Some of her photographs are the only remaining evidence of some antiquities that were destroyed later.
Her grandfather died in 1904 and left her a large inheritance. She used the money to fund an archeological trip through the Near East. During the latter part of that trip, she hired Fattuh, her guide and confidante who traveled with her through the desert for years.
In 1907, she published Syria: The Desert and the Sown, a book of her photographs and observations about the Middle East. She explored and mapped a swath from the remotest parts of Syria to the Persian Gulf.
She co-wrote The Thousand and One Churches with Sir William M. Ramsay in 1909.
She published Amaranth to Amaranth in 1911 and The Palace and Mosque of Ukhaidir: A Study in Early Mohammadan Architecture in 1914.
Gertrude met archaeologist David Hogarth in Italy during a trip there with her father. It was then she began an in-depth study of Greek antiquities3.
In Binbirkilise, she worked with Sir William M. Ramsay, an archeologist and New Testament scholar. Gertrude, Ramsay, and their staff excavated destroyed churches and buildings from the Byzantine era.
Also in 1909, in the Hittite city of Carchemish, Gertrude met art historian Josef Strzygowski. He believed that Near East art, architecture, as well as religious and cultural concepts, influenced those of Europe. She worked with him on in writing about the influence of Armenian architecture on Europe.
It was also in Carchemish that she met her old school friend T. E. Lawrence again. Their friendship rekindled. They exchanged letters for years.
In 1909, Fattuh led her to the Fortress of Al-Ukhaydir (c750-775 CE), which no Westerner had yet seen. Gertrude mapped, measured, and photographed Ukhaydir. She wrote home about how her discovery would make her name a recognized archeologist2. On her return, she visited archeologist Robert Koldewey’s site and team at Babylon. She told them of her discovery. Several of them quickly went to the fortress, photographed it and published their work in 1912, beating her publication date of 1914.
World War I
In August 1914, the British entered World War I. The Ottoman Empire entered the war in late fall. After a highly placed friend’s recommendation, the British War Office asked Gertrude for her assessment of the situation in Ottoman Syria, Mesopotamia, and Arabia. Her response detailed her thoughts.
Gertrude volunteered with the Red Cross in France and England. She served as part of the Wounded & Missing Enquiry Department that coordinated communications about the wounded and casualties between army, hospitals, and worried families.
The leaders of the Arab Bureau summoned her to Cairo in November 2015. Headed by Colonel G. Clayton and Lt. Cmdr. David Hogarth (the archeologist and historian she’d worked with). T. E. Lawrence was also there. He had joined the Arab bureau in late 1914.
As part of the Arab Bureau, she spent part of her time in British India, then in Basra. She joined the staff of Chief Political Office Perry Cox. She traveled the region from Basra to Baghdad, assessed the locals reactions, wrote reports, and drew maps. An unpaid position at first, it became a formal paid position in June 1916. She became the first and only female political officer in the British forces2. There was no established way to address females. They addressed her as Major Miss. She impressed many, others mocked her.
To win against the Ottomans, the British promised Sharif Hussein arms and advisers. They sent T. E. Lawrence to help conduct a guerrilla war against them, focusing on the railway. Later, David Hogarth credited Gertrude’s intelligence on the region for the success of the Arab Revolt.
On March 10, 1917, the British forces took Baghdad. Cox called Gertrude back to Baghdad and made her Oriental Secretary.
Despite a secret agreement in 1916 between the British, Italians, and Imperial Russians to divide the land between them, Gertrude argued for the free Arab state promised to Hussein. In April 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration, which promised Palestine to the Zionist movement as an autonomous Jewish state. Hussein understood he would receive Palestine while the French thought it promised to them in 1916.
In late 1917, Gertrude stayed in the hospital for exhaustion.
The war ended November 1918.
They assigned Gertrude to “sort out the Middle East Problem”. She wrote up an official report, “Self Determination in Mesopotamia” which detailed the creation of an independent state, Iraq. British officials didn’t believe the people were capable of self-government.
A New Country
After the Iraqi Revolt in 1920, Gertrude and T. E. Lawrence suggested Faisal bin Hussein (r. 1921-1933), son of Sharif Hussein, be the King Western-friendly Iraq. The Cairo Conference of 1921 approved of this idea. It became Gertrude’s responsibility to advise Faisal I on how to govern. She encouraged him to preserve the history of Mesopotamia. In 1922 she helped Faisal establish the Baghdad Antiquities Museum (now the Iraq Museum) with artifacts donated from her own private collection. She drew the boundaries of the newly founded country, which also established the boundaries of Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Many of her friends left Iraq in the early 1920s, including Percy Cox. Gertrude stayed on as the Oriental Secretary when Henry Dobbs became the new High Commissioner. But Dobbs consulted her less frequently than Cox. She was no longer consulted as much by Faisal, either. This may have left her depressed.
By 1925, she returned to England with severe health problems for a brief stay.
The war and subsequent coal strikes had exhausted her family’s fortune. They planned to move out of their mansion to reduce costs. About that time, Gertrude returned to Baghdad.
She developed pleurisy soon after.
On July 12, 1926, her maid discovered Gertrude dead of an overdose of allobarbital sleeping pills. It is unknown whether it was an accidental overdose or intentional suicide. She had asked to be awakened in the morning, but she’d also made arrangements for her new dog to be looked after and had written to her mother about how lonely she was.
A large crowd attended her funeral. King Faisal watched the funeral procession from his balcony. They buried her in the Anglican cemetery in Baghdad’s Bab al-Sharji district4.
Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, CBE, left an astounding legacy. The boundary lines of Iraq that she drew remain today. Her work documenting archeology in the desert is priceless by many. Scholar, author, translator, and adventurer, Gertrude’s books, military documents, and personal letters remain fascinating.
Dedicated to her memory, a stain glass window is in St. Lawrence’s Church, East Reunion, North Yorkshire.
In the 2010s, John Miers, the cartoonist, and a team from Newcastle University released a comic book version of her life.
An exhibit at the Kirkleatham Museum in Redcar memorializes her family home.
Newcastle University’s Gertrude Bell archive was added to UNESCO Memory of the World Program in 2017.
A new genus of wild bees discovered in Saudi Arabia were named Belliturgula najdica to honor her.
Films that include portions of her life include: A Dangerous Man: Lawrence of Arabia (1992), the film, Queen of the Desert (2015), chronicles her life (though not all of it is factual), and the 2016 documentary, Letters from Baghdad.
Besides the books Gertrude wrote, her step-mother curated and published the first of two volumes of Gertrude’s correspondence in 1927.
The Daughter of the Desert is an address some Arabian people gave Gertrude. She may not have been born there, but she cared enough about the area to spend much of her time and energy there.
This blog post, though long, doesn’t truly do justice to her work and influence. Her mix of interests, her zest for adventure, her willingness to buck the system, made her an amazing woman of history.
Let’s celebrate Women’s History Month with first lines from books by or about women of history. First Lines is a series of blog articles posted once a month.
The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?
None of it turned out as he had imagined. He blamed this on his own distraction, which kept him from looking too closely at the details when his agent found the place.
In 1943, Mass Transportation magazine published an article entitled “Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees.” It provided “insights” into the psyche of the working woman of the day…
Sayyida al-Hurra was so revered that no one knows her real name. The name by which she is referred to is actually more of a title: al-Hurra means “free woman” and was often given to a woman in power, which she was.
There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.
Do You Want to Read More?
Did you enjoy this list? Check out previous First Lines posts. Please take a moment to share in the comments below— Which ones spoke to you? Did you buy it? Or recommend your favorite book about women from history.
Many people rate creativity as something “different,” something “someone else” has, or a “natural” ability they were born without. They rate a specific creative form as art and other forms of creativity as work or producing product or not good enough. This kind of thinking minimizes the value of everyday creativity and elevates singing or dancing or painting (art) to an unattainable level. But creativity is a spectrum.
The spectrum is not from bad to good or untalented to gifted. It’s a nonlinear line with as many off-shoots as there are people in the world—probably more. Much more.
Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm.
Think about that. The things you are enthusiastic about, whether it’s sports, or cars, or computers, or music, are areas along the spectrum of creativity. Each of those areas also has a spectrum. Not from bad to good, but from practical to fantastical, or from simple to highly detailed. And the “talent” you possess in each of these areas ranges from unused to highly original. It doesn’t matter where you fall in the spectrum. Where ever you are, there are skills you were born with and skills you learn and skills that are your unique twist on something.
Few people can develop more than one or two areas of creativity. Those who cannot often interpret this as meaning they are not creative. Far too many people use a broad brush and abuse themselves by thinking this. They limit themselves and leave their creativity at the unused end of the spectrum. If you call yourself uncreative, change your way of thinking about creativity. Imagine what you could do if you leaned into your area of enthusiasm, your passion. Lean into your passion areas.
From Chaos to Creativity
At first, when you follow your passion, your creativity in that area is chaotic. You may be unfamiliar with the guidelines or the tools that help your creativity make the leaps from what you know to what you create. As you read more about it, watch videos about it, play with it, your creativity is gathering the tools that will help you make that leap. Learning is also on a spectrum, from very rapid to very slow. Neither is good nor bad.
There is another interpretation of from chaos to creativity. There are some that believe chaos causes creativity as we humans crave an order we can understand. Perhaps that is yet another spectrum for us.
Open Yourself to Creativity
If there are only two things you take from this, I hope you broaden your definition of creativity in all its aspects and get rid of the idea of good and bad ideas or creations. Your creative output or the creation of another may not be to your taste or expectations, but that does not mean it isn’t an expression of creativity.
If creativity is an extension of your enthusiasm, what are you enthusiastic about?
Alberta Jones, was making her mark in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1960s. She was an African American equal rights trailblazer and the city’s first female and black prosecuting attorney. Then, on August 5, 1965, she was brutally murdered. Her case remains unsolved.
Alberta Odell Jones was born in Louisville, Kentucky, November 12, 1939 to Sarah (Sadie) Frances Crawford and Odell Jones. They lived in the West End of Louisville, a predominantly black community.
She had a brother, Calvin. Her sister, Lutisha, (“Flora” Shanklin) was five years and nine months her junior. Flora says of her sister, “She was my second mom.”
She attended Central High School. Her sister reported that Alberta and her best friend had plans to become medical doctors. They visited the local hospital together. That’s where Alberta fainted at the sight of blood. She didn’t think anyone who fainted at the sight of blood could be a doctor. So she went to law school.
She attended the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes. When LMCN merged with the newly integrated University of Louisville in 1951, she became the first African American to attend U of L. She earned her bachelor’s degree, third in her class at U of L. Then she went to Howard University School of Law in Washington D.C.
In 1958, she graduated fourth out of 70 in her class at Howard University. The following year, she became the first, or one of the first, females of any race to pass the Kentucky bar.
A lot of people told me ‘You’ve got two strikes against you, you’re a woman and you’re a Negro.’ Yeah, but I’ve got one strike left, and I’ve seen people get home runs when all they’ve got is one strike.”
Alberta O. Jones (Courier Journal 3/4/64)
Alberta opened a law office in downtown Louisville in 1959. A young lawyer, Darryl Owens, shared the office with Alberta.
She was friendly and outgoing. Alberta was a member of Phillips Chapel CME Church, the Fall City Bar Association, the Louisville Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and Zeta Phi Beta and Iona sororities.. Her law practice was successful.
In 1960, a young, unknown boxer named Cassius Clay hired her. (You probably know him as Muhammad Ali.) Despite the eleven white male millionaires they were dealing with, she made sure that the contract protected Clay from spending his money unwisely (as many young athletes did), by including a clause that put a percentage of all his proceeds into a trust he could not touch until he was 35. (That contract hangs in the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville.)
She Loved Children
Her niece and nephew called her Auntie. When they were little, they waited on the porch for Auntie to come home from her law office. Then, she’d take them door to door collecting money for an annual fundraiser that helps children with special needs.
Alberta opened a trust fund to collect donations for a seven-year-old boy who tried to save a puppy under a train. The train started moving. He lost both his arms. She filed a $350,000 damage suit for the boy in August 1964. They settled the suit after her death.
A Role in the Civil Rights Movement
Alberta was a registered Democrat but voted independent. An advocate for educating African Americans on political participation via their votes, she created the Independent Voter’s Association, which registered 6,000 African American voters.
Depending upon which source you read, she rented (or had a neighbor make cardboard facsimiles) voting machines and held classes in her office on how to use the machines to cast independent and split party votes. In 1961, black voters helped oust the mayor and many of the city’s alderman. That led to a city ordinance that made it illegal to discriminate based on race in any place of business open to the public, a first for any major city in the south.
She took part in the 1963 civil rights marches in Louisville and in the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.
Career on the Rise
In 1964, she became the first female city attorney in Jefferson County, Kentucky. The following year, they appointed her prosecutor. She was the first female prosecutor of any race in Louisville. As the prosecutor for the Domestic Relations Court, she prosecuted mostly white men for spousal abuse.
The Night of the Murder
On August 5, 1964, Alberta was at home with her mother and sister. She was reading about the assassination of JFK and quipped, “Hope I don’t get assassinated.” To which her sister replied, “Don’t you worry about it, you’re not the President of the United States.”
Alberta got a phone call between 10 and 11 pm from Gladys Wycoff, a friend. Gladys ran a beauty salon in the neighborhood.
According to the newspaper, in the days following the murder, Gladys said she called to tell Alberta that the wig Alberta had ordered had come in. She said she told Alberta to come and have it styled at her convenience.
Alberta agreed to visit Gladys that night. Alberta’s mother offered to go with her, but Alberta told her to go to bed. Then, Alberta left to meet Gladys in a rental car. Her Thunderbird was in the shop for repairs.
She never came home.
The Next Morning
Alberta’s mother had lain awake all night, listening for her daughter’s return. Around seven am, after she and Flora confirmed Alberta hadn’t come home, they called Gladys.
Gladys’s daughter answered the phone. She said Gladys had gone downtown on business.
They called the police and reported Alberta was missing.
The Sad Discovery
Two boys reported they saw a body floating in the Ohio River near the Old Fountain Ferry Amusement Park at 10:35 a.m. that day.
The police retrieved the female body. Her shoes were missing, and she had no ID, but otherwise was fully clothed. According to Louisville’s paper, The Courier-Journal, the police said the “two small cuts which were on her face could have been inflicted accidentally.”
Alberta’s mother called the Louisville Crime Prevention Bureau at 1:30pm and reported her daughter missing.
Darryl Owens identified her body.
On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, guaranteeing African Americans the right to vote.
Gladys reported Alberta had left her home and salon around 2 a.m.
The next day, they found Alberta’s rental car on Del Park Terrace, ten blocks southeast of where her body was found. Louisville police found fingerprints, a lot of blood, and pieces of brick in the back of the car.
On August 8th, they found her shoes near the south exit of the Sherman Minton Bridge on the Shawnee Park Golf Course. Police theorized that she’d been hit in the head with a brick and thrown off the nearby Sherman Minton Bridge. An autopsy confirmed her head injuries, but she had been alive when she was thrown in the river. She drowned.
Over the course of the investigation, police interviewed hundreds of people.
Two witnesses said they’d seen two men force a screaming woman into a car that matched the description of the rental Alberta had driven that night. One report said the men were black and that three men were in the car.
At 145 am a convenience store clerk says a woman matching Alberta’s description came in and bought some soft drinks (not just one?), then went out and talked to two men.
At 215 am a local family heard screams and saw two black men forcing a woman into a car. One man picked up something from the street and got in the car with three other men and drove away.
Not until three months after they found her body, is her death declared a homicide. The police thought Alberta was the victim of a robbery gone wrong. Her mother and sister dismissed that because Alberta didn’t wear jewelry, “not even a wristwatch” and she carried very little money.
Seven months later, a grand jury heard the case against two men. But there was not enough evidence for a grand jury to deliver a “True Bill.”
The case went cold.
Three Years Later
On July 17, 1968, four boys were climbing the substructure of the Sherman Minton bridge and found Alberta Odell Jones’s purse. The substructure extended out about a foot further than the Louisville-bound lanes. The purse was in “exceptionally good shape.” Inside the purse were Alberta’s wallet without money, identification, credit cards, a $200 check she’d made out to herself, a partial dental plate, and several key rings.
Police theorized that when Alberta had been thrown off the bridge, her purse was tossed in after her. It got caught in the substructure where it stayed. They hoped to get fingerprints off of it. Louisville Homicide Squad Sergeant Herman H. Mitchell Jr. said the police had continued to investigate the murder intermittently during the previous three years.
Yet, they did not arrest anyone for Alberta’s murder.
Her case went cold.
Nine Years Later
Detective Terry Jones, of the Louisville homicide unit’s cold case squad, began working on the case. He asked the FBI to check six fingerprints that were collected from Alberta’s rental car. They found a match.
The prints matched a man who had lived in Louisville but moved to Orange County, California. Detective Terry went out to Orange County in December 2008. He interviewed the man.
The suspect denied knowing Alberta and denied having anything to do with the murder. But the suspect’s brother said they knew Alberta.
When the detective told the man about the fingerprint match, the suspect said it was probably because he’d rented the car the previous week. He was 17 at the time of the murder.
Finally, the suspect failed a polygraph test. However, a polygraph isn’t admissible in court and the police did not have enough evidence for a conviction. They never arrested the man.
The police turned over their case to Kentucky’s commonwealth attorney, R. David Stengel’s office, as part of a new practice used when the police had exhausted a cold case investigation. Stengel’s office sent a letter to the police in 2010. The letter said that a conviction was unlikely because most of the material witnesses, the original investigating detectives, no blood samples remained for DNA testing, and they could find no evidence in the property room.
Because the evidence was missing, there was no record of where the fingerprints were found. The prospects of finding new information was more and more unlikely.
Eleven Years Later
During the 1976 investigation, Gladys changed her story. She said she had called Alberta to ask for help with a legal matter, a lawsuit either against another beautician or against the city or state for laws discriminating against her or her salon.
Although the paper reported that Alberta’s sister, Flora, initially said Gladys called about a wig, she now says the call was about a lawsuit Gladys was facing. Alberta said there was nothing she could do. (True: it is against the law for city or state prosecutors to take private clients.) Alberta told Flora Gladys said, “Since you’ve got this position, you’ve gotten so uppity that you don’t have any time for your friends.”
According to Flora, Alberta “did not want her friends who were less educated than her to think that she was above them.”
Gladys also said that about 130 am, after “the wig was fitted,” they went to a restaurant on North 4th Street & W River Road. They got sandwiches and lemonade. After they finished eating, they went back to Gladys’s house and talked for a while.
Except, at some point, Gladys changed the story again. They had shrimp, which they ate in the car in the parking lot. While in the parking lot, a car of young black men harassed them. After a while, Alberta was feeling dizzy, so they went back to Gladys’s house. Gladys styled Alberta’s new wig was wearing the wig when she left for home.
Why did they drive 2.4 miles northeast to the restaurant? Why didn’t they eat at Gladys’s house? Was the restaurant serving sandwiches or shrimp? Or both?
Then there’s the fact that Alberta had to go to work the next day. Would she really have wanted to have a wig styled after midnight? Would she have stayed if she were dizzy?
When they recovered Alberta’s body, she was not wearing a wig. No wig has ever been found.
Was Gladys lying? Did she know something and was afraid of being hurt?
Finally, there is no record that Gladys ever sued anyone.
She has since died, so perhaps we will never know what really happened at her house that night.
A New Investigator
A few years later, Lee Remington, a professor at Bellarmine University in Louisville, began a project she’d wanted to pursue ever since a photograph caught her attention during her first year as a law student at the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville. It was one photograph amid a row of portraits of African American pioneers in Kentucky law, all males except for one. That one was of Alberta Odell Jones.
Remington’s research led her to believe that Alberta not only deserved justice for her murder, but she deserved recognition for the many ways she was a trailblazer.
The research led Remington to question the investigation into Alberta’s case. She discovered that not all the witnesses were dead. And at least one detective who had worked the case was alive. He had decided that providing long-term support for his family wasn’t possible as a police officer and had quit the field. She found him. Then she began urging the Louisville police and the federal government to reopen Alberta’s case.
In 2017, they reopened her case, funded by the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act.
In 2018, the FBI added Jones to its list of cold cases.
Her murder remains unsolved.
Who Killed Alberta?
One can only speculate. There are lots of theories and lots of questions about the murder.
Why didn’t the Louisville police solve the crime at the time? Was it a case of racial discrimination by white police officers? Given the time when this murder occurred, it would not be surprise if the police were “slow” to follow up on her case.
Was it a robbery gone wrong? If it was, why didn’t the robbers keep her purse and dispose of it somewhere else? Why didn’t they take her credit cards?
Some suggested a serial killer took Alberta’s life. There were five other black women killed in Louisville that year. But serial killers usually work alone and multiple witnesses reported seeing two or more men seen with Alberta on the night of her murder.
Could it have been a political “hit?” The old guard members of the NAACP had ingratiated themselves with the political machinations of the city as best as a Black organization could in the 1960s. They did not appreciate Alberta’s educating the community to vote independently.
The Ku Klux Klan was very active back then. Could it have been a Klan member?
Was it a racially motivated hate crime? Except all the suspects were black. Still, given the time, one has to wonder.
Perhaps it was an accused in a case she prosecuted. Domestic violence victims and perpetrators are unpredictable for police, social services, and prosecutors.
It’s been fifty-eight years. Witnesses really are dying or dead. Time is running out. Will we ever find out who killed Alberta Jones?
Thanks largely to Ms. Remington, we can celebrate Alberta’s life and contributions and her legacy is growing. Alberta’s portrait hangs in the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville.
She holds a place of honor at her alma mater, Central High School, with a classroom courtroom named the Alberta O. Jones Courtroom.
There is also a scholarship at Bellarmine University named in Alberta’s Honor. Ajla Hakalovic (b 1991 in Bosnia) won the first scholarship in 2014.
On an October day in 2017, Louisville’s Mayor, Greg Fischer, led the celebration of Alberta Jones’s legacy with a Hometown Heroes banner. They hung the banner on the side of River City Bank at the corner of Sixth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
Her photo is also in the county prosecutor’s office. Her portrait also hangs in Bellarmine’s library.
In 2020, the community planned to name a park after her.
Alberta Odell Jones was a woman of courage, determination, and strength. She did a lot of good during her brief life. Had she lived, what else might she have accomplished?