Workermen, a Federal Judge, and a Man Who Was Grateful

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Many of you are probably praying for rain, so I tell you rather sheepishly that we have had a surprising abundance this July. A friend told me this past Thursday that her rain gauge measured 4 inches that morning. We had been paying close attention to Roaring River that day because we’ve experienced brief flooding between our house and town many times. That afternoon Ray noticed flashing lights and equipment at the curve past our house. We walked over to investigate. We learned that rock had fallen from the bluff beside the road, so the county highway department . . .

. . . had to move it out of the road.

As we chatted with a couple of the workers (or workermen as our five-year-old grandson calls them), one of them asked about the historic marker in front of our house. I loved telling him the story. I haven’t told it to you in several years, so I’d like to share it with you now. First, I’ll tell you again about how we came to live here.

We bought our house simply because it was just what we needed at a very low price. It is still hard for me to believe we were able to buy it. When a friend first suggested we purchase the farm that it is on, we didn’t even look at it, being convinced it was way out of our price range. Not long after that, a lumber company bought the farm. When they wanted to get rid of the old fixer-upper house, we were happy to oblige with a ridiculously low offer for the house and ten of the hundreds of acres. They took it.

We had heard that a former federal judge named John Jordan Gore had lived here in the past, but our main interest in buying the house in 2003 was that it was big enough for our family, Ray’s daddy, and (at the time) the entire Notgrass Company operation all to be under one roof.

Not long after we moved here, we joined the Jackson County Historical Society. The society soon learned that it would henceforth receive $2000 per year in perpetuity (that means forever or until the trust runs out of money) in honor of Judge John Jordan Gore. The gift came from Elias Skovron, a man in his 90s who lived in Nashville, Tennessee. He wanted to honor Judge Gore because of kindnesses Judge Gore had performed on his behalf in the 1930s.

Elias Skovron was a young Jew in Poland in the 1930s when the Nazis were beginning their reign of terror in Europe. Knowing that he would almost certainly die if he did not get out of the country, Skovron tried to get a passport, but was unable to do so. He asked his aunt who lived in Nashville to help him. Skovron’s aunt contacted her friend Judge Gore.

Long before Cordell Hull became Secretary of State under President Franklin Roosevelt, he and John Gore had been law partners in Gainesboro in an office above what is now a antique and gift shop. When Judge Gore received the plea from Skovron’s aunt, he wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hull. At the end of the letter, Judge Gore invited Hull and his wife to visit him at his home (which is now our home! How cool is that!?).

In time Secretary of State Hull wrote to Judge Gore that Skovron had been granted a visa. Skovron moved to Nashville that summer. He later married and became a successful businessman. He left his large estate to eleven charities and left $200,000 to the U.S. government, in gratitude for the country which “gave me the gift of liberty and life through Judge Gore and Cordell Hull” (page 75 of Sons of the Cumberland: The Early Years of Cordell Hull and John Jordan Gore by Mark Dudney).

The Jackson County Historical Society contacted the Tennessee State Historical Society, asking them to approve an historic marker to be erected in front of Judge Gore’s home and decided to use a portion of the first annual gift from the Skovron estate to purchase it. Our family, elderly members of the family who lived here before us, members of our local historical society, and our state senator at the time (who herself spent part of her childhood on this farm as the daughter of a sharecropper) participated in a ceremony in our front yard when the marker was erected.

God gives each of us the ability to help others. Workermen kept people safe by clearing debris from our road. Judge Gore and Secretary of State Hull saved Elias Skovron’s life. Elias Skovron gave his great wealth to help many people.

A child is never too young to help others. Even the tiniest baby brightens the lives of those who notice him.

And I need to help the folks who stop to read Judge Gore’s marker. This is how it looked last Thursday.

After noticing its condition, I Googled “How to clean an historic marker” and—believe it or not—I found a YouTube video about how to do it! Maybe by Christmas, it will look like it did when it was first erected.

And do not neglect doing good and sharing,
for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Hebrews 13:16


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