Felix Breazeale, son of Drury Wood Breazeale, son of John Jackson, son of Dr. Willis, must have more than the mere mention which has been accorded others of his generation because he is one member of the Breazeale clan who attained world-wide fame. An item from a newspaper at the time of his death tells the story.
"Louden, February 10, 1943. "Uncle Bush" Breazeale, who heard his own funeral preached five years ago, is dead. He died peacefully last night at the cabin in the hills near Kingston, where he had lived alone most of his 78 years. Quinn's Funeral Home at Louden, which gave its service for the funeral on Sunday, June 28, 1938, today said that burial will be at Cave Creek Cemetery. It is at his own request that no funeral is being held, that the burial is in his own casket and that the body will lie in state for an hour at the cemetery before interment."
The old fox hunter had planned a quiet service five years ago. "Just wanted to hear what the preacher has to say about me while I am alive," he had explained to A. Summers, at that time editor of the Roane Counter Banner. A small item in the Banner was picked up by an A. P. Reporter and the story went round the world on wires.
Instead of the few Uncle Bush had expected, cars jammed Dogwood Lane and a crowd estimated at 8 ,000 spread in all directions from the little church in the glade by the stream. Traffic officers were called out but could do little with the throng. Some women fainted in the crush. When the hearse arrived, his fox hunting friends, acting as his pall bearers, had some difficulty opening the way for the "corpse" to walk to his place beside his hand-hewn, hand-polished, and flower-decked casket.
It was a hot day as Reverend Charles Jackson preached the sermon with many words of fullsome praise for the old man who was held in high esteem by all who knew him. Uncle Bush mopped his brow, fanned himself gently, stirring his white hair and whiskers, and thoroughly enjoyed the unique ceremony. The "Friendly Eight Octette" sang his favorite hymn, "On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand" as the solemn "ashes to ashes" were intoned and the service ended.
Afterwards Uncle Bush shook hands with thousands and signed his mark, a scrawled "x" on hundreds of cards and books. "Folks, I'm tellin' ya, this business of having your funeral before die beats sparkin' in a buggy, " he chuckled. Someone asked him why he had never married and he explained that he couldn't get the woman he wanted and wouldn't have the women he could get.
Then Uncle Bush went back to his hillside cabin and to his almost constant companion for seventeen years - "Mule" - just a mule he had taught to do tricks as a colt-"a heap smarter than most folks you meet," he said. But the excitement was not completely over. Letters poured in from many of the states and several foreign countries. One girl in Germany wanted Bush to write to her. When Uncle Bush made one of his infrequent visits to Knoxville he would drop by the News-Sentinel office to again express his appreciated and to show his fan mail.
Felix was an uncle to the late Martin Littleton, famous New York Lawyer, and of Mrs. Rachael Vanderbilt Morgan. His father, D. W. Breazeale, married Sarah Littleton.
From "The Story of Oliver Springs, TN And Its People, Vol III" By Snyder E. Roberts, pub 1984
Roane's Most Publicized Funeral The Roane County Banner had leaked the news to the outside world that 74-year old Uncle Bush Breazeale planned to have a full funeral service on June 26, 1938 while he was still alive and could enjoy it. The idea caught on. The power of the press was soon in evidence as the news spread like wildfire nation-wide. His "funeral" plan was reported nationally by the Associated Press and the UP, and photographically by Life magazine.
The funeral on June 26th attracted the largest crowd ever assembled in Roane to that date; the estimates ranged from eight to twelve thousand people. Cars from at least fourteen states were backed up for two miles from the two Cave Creek Baptist Churches built side by side (one Primitive, the other Missionary) to highway #70. enterprising John Cook charged 25 cents per car to park in his field. He was reported to have taken in $300. Vendors from soft drink trucks did a flourishing business. Hot dogs sold well. Knoxville and Chattanooga florists shops sent floral offerings. By 2:00pm the crowd was in place. The press was represented by reporters and cameramen from the Knoxville News Sentinel and Journal, Chattanooga Times, News and Free Press. Young Don Whitehead who was to become a war correspondent, and two time Pulitzer winner was there.
The funeral cortege was late due to the traffic jam along the road. At last the Hawkins Mortuary (of Loudon County) hearse arrived bearing the home-made walnut coffin, and Bush in the front seat. The crowd was so eager to get a glimpse of him that officers had difficulty in clearing a lane for the pallbearers to carry the coffin to its place in front of the tent on the Churchyard. Children were held high by their parents so they could see. Ten persons fainted from the heat and excitement. Uncle Bush was seated in front of his coffin dressed in a new suit, shirt, tie, etc. donated by Halls of Knoxville. For a period, he was the center of attraction for cameramen who took pictures of him and the crowd.
Songs were sung by the Friendly Eight Octette of Chattanooga. Fred Berry of Knoxville said "There's a Gold Mine in the Sky." the Rev. Charles E. Jackson from Paris, IL, delivered the funeral sermon. The festive atmosphere soon changed to fit the solemn occasion. He said: "This service is not a bad idea. Much good should come from a service divested of the usual tears and heartaches. It gives us an opportunity to take thought of tomorrow and anticipate the great adventure called death. Mr. Breazeale and I never intended anything but that this should be a solemn service."
At the conclusion of the formal program, Bush shook hands with a thousand or more friends and well-wishers. He autographed many "official programs" by marking his *X*. Bush said, "This will be my only funeral. It was the finest sermon that I ever heard, and when I die there won't be another one."
Bush Breazeale was Roane's greatest celebrity. A few days later (July 4, 1938), he was dressed out in a Harriman "Papermaker" baseball uniform and threw out the first pitch in the double header between Harriman and Loudon. Shortly afterwards, Robert Ripley featured Bush in his syndicated column, and took Bush to New York City for a radio interview. When Bush got back from New York, Mrs. Claude Johnson said someone asked him, "Mr. Breazeale, how did you like New York?" Bush replied, "Oh just fine. You know, they were the finest folk, and treated me wonderfully, but to be honest about it, their victuals wasn't worth a dern."
The Breazeale Family
The Breazeale family is one of the oldest and most prominent in Roane History. The Breazeales came from SC to Knox County, TN where HENRY BREAZEALE was made Assistant District Attorney in 1797, and was elected as the first County Court clerk in Roane in 1801. He held this position for 34 years. His son, JOHN WOOD M. BREAZEALE, was an attorney, a newspaper publisher, and Roane's first historian. He was the author of "Life As It Is" written in 1842. The family has produced many lawyers.
Felix "Bush" Breazeale was born June 29, 1864 on Dogwood Road in Roane. He was one of eight children of DRURY W. and SARAH LITTLETON BREAZEALE. Bush was first cousin to the well-known NY attorney, MARTIN LITTLETON, and to Mrs. RACHEL (LITTLETON) VANDERBILT, also of NY.
Bush never married. He said, "The one I wanted, I couldn't get, and the ones I could get I didn't want." He made his home with his parents until their deaths, and lastly with his nephew, BERT BREAZEALE. He had lived the life of a farmer, and enjoyed fox hunting.
Felix "Bush" Breazeale lived another five years and died at the age of 79 on February 9, 1943. Although Bush had not requested another funeral, Mrs. Nancy Maxwell of Harriman said, and Clarence Johnson of Cave Creek remembers, that a small service was held on a very cold day before Bush was laid to rest in the Cave Creek Cemetery located on a hill above the two church houses.
|From "IMBD.com" A movie spun out of equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend about the mysterious, 1930s Tennessee hermit [Felix "Bushaloo" Breazeale]who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party... while he was still alive.|