HistoryMaker Russell B. Sugarmon, a municipal court judge, served on the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee, in the Tennessee State Senate, as a referee in Memphis Juvenile Court system, and on the General Sessions bench.
He describes his experience reading Classics in his early education, even though it took place in school, as autodidactic, which reflects the experience related in many of the narratives we have found in our archival research. Here, he discusses his early education and the value he found in reading Homer and others:
“It was I think three rooms, seven grades, so, the teachers–there were, there were two teachers, plus Ms. Smith, and they had to teach classes in the room with–kids in a different class had to stay because they couldn’t let us out, ’cause they didn’t have anybody to supervise us on the outside. And so, we had a choice while the teachers were teaching, some grade other than the one we were in we could either take a nap, sit there and be quiet, or read. And she had a nice library, so, we all came out of there loving to read. Books opened up access to other times, and other places. I mean, you could visualize, and read about the world. I, I read the ‘Iliad,’ I read the ‘Odyssey.’ I read over the seven years I was there.”
Tangentially related: Sugarmon says that his favorite quote is the mock “Latin” phrase “illegitimi non carborundum,” commonly translated as “don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Sugarmon tells that after he learned the phrase from a friend of his father, he found comfort in it and now shares it with friends in need:
“I’ve had that language put on some bronze plaques, then–every now and then, one of my friends is in a real problem, I’ll give him one, and it don’t cost much. But, they seem to enjoy the refocusing, of a problem.”
The Honorable Russell B. Sugarmon (The HistoryMakers A2003.148), interview by Larry Crowe, 06/28/2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 6, Russell Sugarmon describes his childhood activities. http://brandeis.thehistorymakers.com/iCoreClient.html#/&i=13726
The Honorable Russell B. Sugarmon (The HistoryMakers A2003.148), interview by Larry Crowe, 06/28/2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 2, Russell Sugarmon’s favorites. http://brandeis.thehistorymakers.com/iCoreClient.html#/&i=13722