When Thomas Jefferson (T.J.) Brayboy was born on March 6, 1908 in Vicksburg, Miss., the president of the United States was Theodore Roosevelt. He was one of six children. His older sister Lakeisha is 104 years old and still living in Vicksburg.
T.J. came to Chicago in 1933, where he and his wife (who died in 1988) raised nine children, eight of whom are alive (one son is deceased). Looking at Mr. Brayboy, you would think he was about 70 years old. When one of his daughters, Edna, arrived for his birthday party last Saturday, she told her father, “The elevator got stuck in my building, but you know I wasn’t going to miss your party.”
AWN: When you were living in Mississippi what type of work did you do there?
T.J.: I was mostly a farmer, but I also worked at Anderson Lumber Company.
AWN: What type of work did you do in Chicago?
T.J.: I worked for R.R. Donnelly as a Bundler. I was there for 29½ years.
AWN: You’ve seen a lot of history and changes. What one thing is outstanding for you?
T.J.: I felt good when they brought the civil rights in.
AWN: How is your health?
T.J.: I’ve had some trouble with my heart, and I have a pacemaker now for about 20 years.
AWN: What are some of your favorite foods?
T.J.: I have cereal for breakfast and you can bring me anything for dinner. I always had a lovely appetite. My favorite is mustard greens with okra in them. I lived on vegetables when I was coming up. As for meat I had a lot of wild food like rabbit.
AWN: What was some of your hobbies?
T.J.: I mostly did a lot of fishing. I did a lot of hunting and trapping, too, and catch my wild food. I did it all ’cause I had to live with it. I had a variety of food I would eat. I would have coon one week and possum next week.
AWN: Do you belong to a church?
T.J.: Out of my whole life, I’ve served three churches. I was born into Second Union Church [Cleveland County, Miss.]. After moving to Vicksburg, I went to King David Church. When I left there, I came to New Zion Baptist here in Chicago. I’ve been in the church all my life. My daddy didn’t know nothing to do but carry me to church. He never did tell me to go to school. When I got a son old enough to graduate, I talked to him about that. He said the reason he didn’t tell me to go to school-he was so close to slavery, he didn’t know about school. I went to Magnolia School in Mississippi until the third grade. I often wondered about this, but my grandfather was a slave and fought in the Civil War. I knew my grandfather very well, and after he come out of the war he was drawing a check back in those years. They considered him a rich man. He was getting $90 a month. My grandfather was named Paige Brayboy.
T.J. Brayboy has 19 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and 13 great, great-grandchildren. One of his grandsons, Walter Mason, said he was so grateful to have his grandfather. “God has blessed him and our family. I hope I make it to his age.”
Mr. Brayboy is a resident of Chicago’s West Side. Many thanks to his granddaughter, Bidget Riley, for notifying Austin Weekly News.