by BONNIE BARTEL LATINO
When two fine south Alabama families joined, they and their children would eventually leave distinguished legacies in medicine, the railroads, the military, education, law and justice, social services, and the ministry. But first, let’s go back to 1924.
Jean Jones (Webb), was born January 28, 1924, in Uriah, Ala., to Walter Jones and Ethel Mae (Jones) Taylor. Baby Jean was destined to live a vibrant and meaningful life.
Skipping ahead to 1939 when Jean was 15, and her family moved from Monroe County to Atmore, where her father, Walter Jones, served as an agent on the Frisco Railroad. Newcomers to Atmore may already know that when locals speak of or write about our railroads, we’re always standing on Holy Ground. The industry gave birth to Atmore. The famous phrase, “If you build it, they will come” originally referred to a baseball stadium, but never was the phrase more true than about America’s railroads.
Eventually Jean Jones would have two sisters, Anne and Abigail. Anne, the middle girl, would be
remembered by many in Atmore as Anne Slay. (Coincidentally, Anne served Trinity as the ever-patient
sponsor of the Episcopal Young Churchmen group the year I was EYC president.)
Funny, empathetic Anne eventually found true happiness in the late autumn of her life with Ingwald
O. Mannich. They lived in Baldwin County, Ala. They have both gone to glory now, Anne in 2013.
Jean and Anne’s younger sister, Abigail, married Robert Jackson. Bobby, as he was known, was a student of Jean Webb’s in Flomaton. Jean introduced her sister, “Gail,” a popular ECHS student to Bobby. Eventually he earned his Ph.D. (The late) Dr. Robert Jackson was a Baptist minister. Unfortunately he has gone to glory. Gail now lives in Prattville, Ala. The Jacksons’ son, Rob, like his father, earned a Ph.D and became a Baptist minister. He and his wife, Tonya, have recently moved to Prattville, where Dr. Robert Jackson serves as the Director of Church Health for Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
[The final paragraph of this section has been rewritten to correct an error made by Bonnie Bartel Latino in the published hard copy edition of this story in “atmore” magazine in April. We are profoundly grateful to the reader, who let us know that Gail is very much alive, and is active in Baptist Missionary work. I sincerely apologize.~ BBL]
Ah, but let us return to the life and times of the oldest Jones daughter, Jean. After graduating from Escambia County High School in 1941, she soon enrolled in Huntington College in Montgomery.
On a chilly December night, Jean went on a date with her beau from Atmore. Although Doug Webb was three years her senior, it didn’t matter. They were a great match. Their movie was interrupted by the shocking announcement that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. Like most young men at the time, Doug immediately enlisted in the US Army Air Corp. He was initially stationed at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C.
Two months later, on January 31,1942, Jean Jones married Douglas Schelling Webb. The couple lived at Shaw until the military transferred him to Hendricks Army Airfield, near Sebring, Fla. The Webbs’ first child, Letha, was born June 1, 1943. Doug served as a captain in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
Who’s your mama n’em?
Douglass Schelling Webb, was one of seven brothers and a single sister, born from the union of Atmoreans Ida Stewart and Dr. A.P. Webb of Peavy-Webb Building fame. According to Letha Webb Stuckey, her paternal grandfather, Dr. Webb, was 16 years older than his second wife, Ida. (His first wife died in childbirth.) Dr. Webb met Ida when she was his patient, suffering with typhoid fever. Letha also said her paternal grandmother used to joke that … it must have been real love because (she) lost all her hair. That funny sense of humor continues to run through the Webb family today.
After the war ended, Doug and Jean Webb initially moved back home to Atmore, where their first son,
Rickey, was born August 19, 1945. The young couple was determined to get their educations. It wasn’t easy. They took Letha with them to Tuscaloosa and left Rickey with Mae Jones Taylor, his maternal grandmother. Little Letha attended first and second grades in T-Town. But when Rickey visited, he and Letha played cowboys and Indians and Dale Evans and Roy Rogers. Often separated by necessity, Jean and Doug Webb made certain their family remained happy and intact. Their love anchored their growing family.
While enrolled at the University of Alabama, former Army Air Corps Captain Douglas Webb wasn’t too
proud to throw a daily newspaper route between his classes. Jean coordinated her classes with her work
schedule at a Tuscaloosa dime store. When Jean graduated, she obtained a teaching degree. Doug
studied three more years to earn his law degree. Of course, both of them became lifelong ‘Bama fans.
In 1952 the educated couple was reunited as a family of four in Atmore. For the first two years, the Webbs lived in the little white house, which had previously served as the medical offices of Dr. Peavy and Dr. A.P. Webb, who died in 1932. The building was then located on North Main Street, where today a First National Bank & Trust branch stands. In the early twenty-first century, the building was moved to South Main Street at Heritage Park and became home to the Atmore Historical Society. Its name became the Peavy-Webb Building to honor the two doctors who had taken care of the people of Atmore for decades.
During the two years the Doug Webb family lived in the little white building, he practiced law in Atmore while Jean taught elementary school in Flomaton and later in Brewton. Letha and Rickey attended Atmore schools.
Around 1954 the family moved to a home on South Trammell Street. A couple of years later they moved to a larger home in Canoe. On October 1 that year, they were blessed with another daughter named for her mother, Jean, or “Jeannie” as she became known in the family. Eventually Jeannie earned her degree and law degree at Alabama. For 30 years she practiced law by day; by night she penned “southern fried romance” novels. Her pen name is Lexie George.
After Letha, and later Rick, graduated from ECHS, she enrolled in Wesleyan College in Macon, Ga. Rick left Troy State after his freshman year to join the US Navy. After his tour of duty in Morocco, Rickey came home and followed his parents’ footsteps back to Tuscaloosa and finished his education at the University of Alabama.
The Webbs’ fourth child, a son they name Alfred Pellar Webb after his paternal grandfather, joined the
family on November 15, 1965.
Jean and Doug still had two children to raise. When the time came for Jeannie, and later Pellar, to go to
school, they went to Ernest Ward on the school bus with their mother. Commuting from Canoe to Walnut
Hill, Jean taught English at Ernest Ward School. Eventually, and while still teaching, she earned a
master’s degree from the University of West Florida in Pensacola. Her education career spanned four decades. Some of the later of those years were spent in administration as assistant principal and interim principal at Ernest Ward. After she retired, Jean wrote and published several books under her pen
name, JJ Webb. You may find copies in the Alabama Room at the Atmore Public Library.
Jean Webb is considered something of a legend by many of her former students, many of whom stayed in touch. Former student Marsha Corley Green told me she often sent Jean a birthday card with 50 or more signatures from former students who still revere their teacher. One year Jean told Marsha that the card was so special to her, she kept it in her Bible. Marsha said Jean’s words “made her heart sing.” In 2018 Marsha and five other former female students drove to Wetumpka to take their teacher out to celebrate her birthday at lunch. What an honor for a woman who had been retired from teaching for 25 or so years.
# # #
It would be easy to say of attorney Doug Webb that he served 22 years as Presiding Circuit Judge of
Conecuh, Escambia, and Monroe counties (1963–1985) and that he represented the people of Baldwin,
Escambia, and Monroe counties as an Alabama State Senator from 1959 to 1962. But that would be like
describing Atticus Finch as a pretty decent fella.
Judge Webb’s reputation was that of a fair and impartial judge. He gave up his membership in Atmore
Country Club because when he tried to play golf people asked him about various pending cases. He
never wanted his decisions to be influenced, or appear to have been influenced, by those conversations. Judge Webb was also known to be impeccably impartial in Alabama’s 1960s Civil Rights cases. Judge Webb was figuratively color blind.
Rick Webb told me recently that what they are most proud of is that their daddy was the first Circuit Judge
in Alabama to have his portrait hung in the courtroom in which he presided. Judge Douglas Schelling Webb’s portrait still hangs in the Escambia County Courthouse in Brewton.
Last month, Jean Webb’s nephew, Dr Rob Jackson of Prattville, Ala, officiated at the family’s private
memorial service for Jean. She died in Wetumpka on February 18, 2022 only a few days after her 98th
Atmore native Bonnie Bartel Latino is a former columnist for Stars and Stripes newspaper in Europe.
She is an award-winning novelist and journalist.