‘Invisible History’ brought to light in celebration

By Neil Abeles

Citizens Journal-Sun

With four stories of outstanding African-American citizens of Linden, history came alive for those attending the Martin Luther King Day of celebration Saturday, Jan. 13, in Linden sponsored by the Linden Heritage Foundation. Celebrants gathered in the trial courtroom of the historic Cass County Courthouse.

Mason Barrett, Linden- Kildare High School graduate of 1973 and now administrative judge for the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Birmingham District Office, presented the stories under the descriptive title “Invisible History.”

Barrett took his audience on a journey to remember the four citizens and their examples which went from slavery to military hero, and from football star to inspiring educator. He told each story with the help of a “Sixty Minute-like” television production.

Ms. Rothwell and Professor Barrett with her book “Looking Back: A History of African-American Families and Slaveholders in Cass County……”

In the courtroom at the time and known to some, but not all, was Darlene Warren Rothwell who was holding her book “Looking Back: A History of African-American Families and Slaveholders in Cass County and East Texas from the Colonial Days and Slavery to the 21st Century.”

Books such as these keep the achievements of all people from being invisible, Barrett said. “They have helped me in my journey of life,” he said.

“This is work I will refer to often in my coming years,” Barrett told the audience.

The program took about two hours to celebrate King’s impact.  Several people attending stood to say at the end of the program, “We did not know this.”  Numerous people continued to stay in the courtroom and talk with each other at the program’s end.

The four individuals featured in the presentation were Emily “Mo” Smith, Billy Wayne Allen, Brigman “Brig” Owen and Audrey Mae Barrett,  Here is an abbreviation of their story.


Emily “Mo” Smith – “From slavery to freedom”

Emily “Mo” Smith had a dramatic life to live going from slavery to freedom and becoming a parent and respected leader of others. After being forced to work in various places, she settled in Linden to be honored and loved by her descendants. Her 1941 grave marker was found in the Macedonia section of the Linden Cemetery and is now marked with her name and flowers.

Billy Wayne Allen

Chief Petty Officer – USN

Although born to poverty, Billy Wayne Allen rose to become a Navy Chief Petty Officer, receiving numerous medals while at the same time earning the bachelor’s and then master’s degree from college as well.

A chief petty officer is the most senior enlisted leader and is seen on deck with sailors to provide technical and management advice at all Navy levels.

Brigman “Brig” Owens

Breaking Down Barriers

Brig Owens also rose from poverty to become an NFL star and attorney. He broke down barriers such as playing the quarterback position in football. He went on to star for the then Washington Redskins and is in their hall of fame.

He graduated from law school, owned his own business and led leadership programs especially after receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Cincinnati.

Audrey Mae Barrett

Inspiring Educator

Mason Barrett took a moment of time from his presentation of others to include his mother, Audrey Mae Barrett, among those who are part of an “invisible history.”

Audrey, known simply as “Barrett” to her close friends, led her family as a loving wife, warm community leader and inspiring educator. Her home eggnog at Christmas was a tradition. She gave 45 years of service to education and served as a model to educators especially at Linden-Kildare Junior High which is now the Mae Luster Stephens Junior High.