JAMES JONES literary society



Former Handy Student Recalls Colony Days


From Tom Wood, James Jones Literary Society board member:


I recently exchanged some e-mails with Lee Butcher, who grew up in Marshall and knew Jones, and studied writing with Lowney Handy. He had found information on the Handy Colony Collection at UIS, which includes a "skit" he wrote and some letters he wrote to Lowney.


Included in Butcher's e-mail messages of July 17-18, 2000 was an interesting reminiscence of his association with Jones and Handy, which he consented to share with readers of the JJLS web site:


"I met Lowney in a round about way through Jim Jones. My father was the chief of police in Marshall and Jim had joined a man-hunt, which extended to the Handy Colony grounds, for an escaped convict. Later, he told me he had joined to make certain that a black writer at The Colony wasn't harassed. Jim loaned my father a jacket and I was delegated to return it.


"Jim met me at the door and knew of me because I was a fairly renowned trumpet player, although I was 12 years old. He must have been thirty to thirty-five at the time but he treated me like an equal. When Lowney came to the house about an hour later, he told her, 'Hey, Lowney. I've got a new writer for you. Talk to this kid.' He went upstairs and returned with an autographed copy of From Here to Eternity, which I had never heard of.


That was how I got started. I went to The Colony for about three years before I joined the Air Force, and continued corresponding with Lowney throughout that time. She wanted me to go to Arizona with her after I was discharged but I didn't feel that I was mature enough to do anything serious. In retrospect, I was right. The Handy Colony--and Lowney--had pretty much fallen apart after Jim left. Lowney and I lost touch and a year or so later she died. She was an incredible woman and was very generous to me.


"It is nice to chat with a fellow Illini. I haven't been to the Midwest since 1969. At that time, I was impressed by how much Marshall had to offer, something I didn't appreciate growing up. Of course, I appreciated The Handy Colony. Lowney and Jim made up for the deprivation in my family life.


Please feel free to use the information I sent to you about meeting Jim. Lowney did so much for me, and if I can think of anything to add about her, I will surely do it.


--Lee Butcher


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