Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Nannie Doss: Lonely Hearts Lady Loved Her Man to Death

Frank

"If'n you don't listen to me, woman, I ain't gonna be here next week."
-- Frank Harrelson, 2nd husband's final words

After her break-up with Charley Braggs, Nannie found employment in a cotton mill in Anniston, just outside Blue Mountain. Hours were long and hot, but it gave her the excuse she wanted, to get out of the house and away from her nagging parents, to whose house she returned. It was an equal compromise. Mama Lou Hazle enjoyed watching over her grandkids and Nannie appreciated the interested glances she was receiving from the boys in the shop.

But, she didnt want to make the same mistake, marrying another immature dungaree mountain boy with a mother complex nor one with his wandering ways. (Even though she had spent a good portion of her married life in other men's beds, she acted as if she herself believed it was Charley's womanizing that caused the divorce.)

Nannie turned wide-eyed to the lonely-hearts column in the local newspaper, writing fastidiously to a number of men whose advertisements interested her. Only one of their responses engaged her, however; that from 23-year-old factory worker Frank Harrelson who wrote pretty verse and whose black-and-white Kodak photo looked even prettier, what with dimpled cheeks like Clark Gable and wavy hair like Grant Withers. In return, she sent him a cake, a picture of herself and pert words that edged on the essence of sex. Since Harrelson lived in nearby Jacksonville, he fired up his flivver and headed straight south to Blue Mountain. On her door stoop, waiting, he found an alluring young thing, more magnetic than the photo she had sent. The picture hadn't captured that twist of amour that sparkled so...so afire...in her black eyes.

He proposed; she accepted. "They married in 1929," reads Terry Miller's Deadlier Than the Male. "The rains came and went, the autumn leaves fell and they made love by crackling log fires in the winter. But all the time drink was part of Frank's life. As the months went on the honeymoon period crumbled and Nannie realized that her tall, good-looking husband, with the square chin and rugged features, was an alcoholic."

Not only that, but she discovered much to her chagrin that he had spent time in jail for felonious assault. Gentleman Frank was no gentleman.

When she wed this disappointment-to-be, Nannie had taken her two daughters from Grandma Hazle's tender loving care, a place they liked being, and brought them with her to Jacksonville. There is no recorded testimony of the girls' experience with, nor their opinion of, their stepfather, but they must have been in for a shock. Too young to have clearly recalled the shouting bouts between their natural father and mother, their earliest memories probably lay in their days and nights with Lou Hazle. Now they were old enough to understand what it all meant when the Jacksonville cops showed up at their door a couple of times every week to tell Nannie that Harrelson was in the brig again for brawling drunk in a gutter. And they saw Nannie's dark face, and comprehended her dark moods, sometimes sinister, each time she had to fetch the wavering and slur-tongued Harrelson from the hoosegow.

Life went on. Strangely, Nannie abided for many years. Her husband's drinking rarely let up, but she abided. He'd even smack her around in his most drunken state, but she abided. He'd yell at and threaten her growing kids for nothing, but she abided. Black and blue, forlorn and unloved, in tatters and lace, she abided. The marriage would last sixteen years.

"But, don't get the impression Nannie was a sympathetic character," Sherby Green reminds us of her cousin. "She simply had not yet discovered how to rid herself of a husband, that was to come."

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