Mirror Images: Guinn Williams and George W. Bush

If we told you the picture on the right was George W. Bush in Ronald Reagan drag, you’d almost believe it, wouldn’t you?

It certainly looks like Dubya, only with the Gipper’s hair.

But it’s not—it’s character actor Guinn Williams, often called “Big Boy,” whose career began in 1919 and lasted until the 1960s.

Big Boy and Dubya share more than just facial features. They’re both Texans, though Williams was the genuine article, born and raised in the Lone Star State. They both shared a name with their fathers. And they both were sons of politicians, though Williams’ dad began his career as a rancher (and we’re guessing he did more than clear brush) and a banker before first becoming county clerk of Wise County, Texas, from 1898 to 1902, serving as a member of the State senate from 1920 to 1922, and then serving in the House of Representatives from 1922-1933.

Oh, and the senior Williams was a Democrat, another key difference.

Rep. Williams’ son Guinn was given the nickname “Big Boy” by none other than Will Rogers. Guinn stood 6 feet, 2 inches tall and was muscular, so the handle was an apt one.

Though he acted in many other types of pictures, Williams was perhaps best known for his work in westerns, in which he generally portrayed a dim but likable second banana to the picture’s rootin’-tootin’ hero.

We’ve never seen a Guinn Williams picture without being reminded of Dubya; we find the resemblance striking. Watch the clip below, taken from Rafter Romance (1933) and also featuring Robert Benchley and Ginger Rogers, and see if you don’t agree.

In search of Pat

Maude Ellen Johnson Oakes in 1937

We only knew one of our great-grandparents, our mother’s grandmother Maude Ellen Johnson Oakes, who as a teenager in the 1890s, traveled with her family in a covered wagon from Illinois to Oklahoma. She lived to the age of 92, so in her lifetime, she saw an astonishing number of changes. Think of it—she came to Oklahoma in a covered wagon in her youth and lived long enough to see men on the moon, not to mention the advent of cars, radio, moving pictures, television, women being given the right to vote (she was nearly 40 then), the civil rights movement, and on and on.

Distracted by the tunnel vision of youth, it never occurred to us to ask Maude, who was in her eighties and nineties when we knew her, about her husband, and though we’re not proud of it, we’ve long considered genealogy buffs kind of, well, dorky.

But with the recent passing of our mother and our weekly devotion to Who Do You Think You Are?, the notion of tracking down info on our ancestors suddenly began to appeal. We took Ancestry.com, which is featured frequently on WDYTYA?, up on their offer of a two-week trail membership, and began digging.

It’s remarkable, really, what one can uncover in a short amount of time.

Patterson and Maude
in happier times

In 1900, Maude married a man named Patterson Nehemiah Oakes, who was born in North Carolina (as was his father before him; his mother was born in Tennessee). Maude was born in Illinois (Taylorville, we learned from a news clipping published at the time of her death), as was her mother. Her father was born in Ohio.

In 1910, Maude and Patterson lived in a town called Canadian in the Texas panhandle. All three of their sons—Cecil (my grandfather), Herbert, and Elmer—had already been born. Patterson was working as the manager of a confectionery.

In 1920, they were still married and living in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, about 60 miles south of Oklahoma City. Their address was 102 N. Elm Street. Patterson was a civil servant—a rural carrier (which I’m guessing refers to mail). Maude was a saleslady at a dry goods store.

Maude is listed in the 1920 census as being 37 years old, which is a couple of years younger than we thought—we had her as being born in 1881, but perhaps she fudged her age a bit? Patterson was 41.

One additional tidbit of info: According to that census, everyone in the family—Patterson, Maude, and their three sons Cecil, Herbert, and Elmer—could read and write.

We’ve not managed to pin down the date, but Maude and Patterson were divorced sometime relatively soon after that 1920 census was taken. We know it wasn’t long after the census because Cecil, their eldest son who was born in 1904, was still in high school at the time. We may never know why Maude and Patterson (did he go by Pat? Not sure) parted—Granddad never spoke of the divorce or, indeed, Patterson himself to our mother and her siblings.

Now, let’s jump forward to 1930.

Maude and Pepper, greatest
dog ever, in 1970

Patterson is now married to a woman named Ellen, who was born in Indiana (as were both her parents) and was 12 years older than Patterson. In 1920, he is 52; she is 64.

Ellen has been married before (as has Patterson, of course).

They live at 338 East 3rd Street in Oilton, Oklahoma, about 39 miles west of Tulsa, where he is employed as the manager of a filling station. Ellen works as a seamstress out of their home.

They own a radio (yes, that was a question on the 1930 census).

Patterson died in 1948. The date, place, and cause of death we’ve not tracked down, though we’re still on the case. Maude died in February 1972, on our mother’s birthday.

That’s all we have so far. I’d still like to know what came between Patterson and Maude in the early 1920s, but when you consider that, six or seven weeks ago, we didn’t even know a single thing about Maude’s husband—not even his name—it’s not a bad start.