Something went wrong jumping off the train, and he met his fate

Posted by | August 19, 2016

He used his middle name Levoid. He was a restless soul, traveling here and there, looking for that elusive something and never finding it. James Levoid Bryant (1918-1941) was very popular with acquaintances, but unfortunately started drinking at an early age. He liked to play the part of the hobo, travelling around the United States on trains, sometimes getting into mischief.

Levoid’s brother Bert said that he went with Levoid once to Chattanooga on a train, “but I bought a ticket for the trip home.” The train yards had detectives who regularly kicked the stowaways off the trains, so riding in that style meant continually looking over one’s shoulder.

On another occasion Bert remembers being in town [Liberty, SC] with friends, when someone said, “Look, there’s Levoid!” Across the street was a clothing store, closed for the night. However, the lights were on and Levoid was wandering about inside. Bert called the police and Levoid spent the night in jail.

It finally got to the point where Levoid was sent to the state penitentiary in Columbia. In August 1941 their father Rome had a stroke. Bert and another man named Abbott, who was an undertaker, made arrangements for Levoid to obtain a 30-day furlough from prison. Thus he was with his father when he passed away shortly after the stroke.

At the end of the furlough, Levoid didn’t return to the prison. Instead he conceived the idea of joining the army. The recruiters were unaware of Levoid’s convict status. He was posted for basic training at Fort Jackson, ironically in Columbia.

Shortly after this, he somehow obtained a pass, and began making his way home to Liberty. It is assumed he once again illegally rode the train. Bert believes something went wrong jumping off the train, and he met his fate. It is not uncommon for train jumpers to injure or kill themselves dealing with a moving train. Add alcohol to the equation and it becomes quite dangerous.

The Pickens Railroad Company’s ‘Doodle’ engine ran between the towns of Pickens and Easley. It got its nickname because it could not turn around on the tracks, so to return from Easley it backed into Pickens “like a doodle-bug.” The railroad company was founded in 1890, and the Doodle was operating regularly during 1941, when Bryant died. Easley is a mere 6 miles from Bryant’s hometown of Liberty. We can’t know for certain, but it’s likely that Bryant rode this train. Photo has been altered for dramatic illustration.

According to the recollection of Levoid’s brother Bert, the sheriff called the family to report a man fitting Levoid’s description found dead along some nearby railroad tracks. Sister Ruby asked Bert to go down there, since she knew she wouldn’t be able to bear it. Upon arrival, Bert unfortunately found it was Levoid. His head was crushed and his arm was broken, according to the newspaper, although Bert said he didn’t look bad.

He also said Levoid was almost on the track. The accident occurred right in front of the family’s former home, a place where Levoid would have played as a little boy. The sheriff wanted to leave the body there until the coroner could arrive later for investigation. Bert strongly told the sheriff to have the body transported immediately to the funeral home.

Having just lost his father three months earlier, Bert broke down. He kept the contents of Levoid’s pockets: a partial pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes, a box of wooden matches, a round cardboard box of aspirins, and a packet of razor blades. Levoid was only 23. It was a sad end to a troubled young life.

source: “Descendants of Terrell Kirksey Bryant”

7 Responses

  • Joan says:

    A life story — interesting, tragic, and poignant.

  • Lisa says:

    Levoid was my great grandmother’s brother-RIP

  • Retta McCulley says:

    Levoid was my grandmother, Lillie Bryant Lovell’s, half brother. I remember her telling this tale often. She often stated that she thought someone murdered him and put him on the track. The undertaker was J.M. Abbott.

    Another Levoid story from Lillie: Levoid liked to drink, and came in one evening quite drunk and argumentive. He threw something across the room and knocked Lillie’s birth mother, Julia Davis’, clock off the mantle and broke a corner of the “banjo” style clock. I still have the clock and enjoy telling about the broken corner!

  • Karen says:

    I so enjoyed finding this story and a piece of my family history. Levoid would be a distant cousin of mine. His father Rome is my 2nd Great-Grandmother’s (Carrie Corrine Bryant) brother.

  • Lisa says:

    Julie Davis Bryant and Rome Bryant were my 2nd great grandparents. Their daughter Emmie Bryant Tollison was my great grandmother. Is there anyway possible to get a copy of a picture of Julia’s clock?

  • Edward Bryant says:

    Levoid was my uncle. I was only 7 years old when he was killed so I never really got to know him. I lived near Liberty and remember hearing of the accident and his death. Bert was my father.

  • Delbert Bryant says:

    Ha! I wrote this story! Amazing to see it got picked up and shared with others. This all came from an interview with my dad, Bert Bryant.

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