Cherokee County teen raises money to buy tombstone for former slave

Cherokee Co. teen raises money for new tombstone for former slave

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - A Cherokee County teenager raised money for and received a tombstone for the grave of a former slave.

Jerry Akins, known throughout the Spring Garden community as “Uncle Jerry,” died in 1896, at what was believed to be the ripe old age of 136.

17-year-old Quinton Kirk, a Spring Garden teen and history buff who started a history page on Facebook, told Akins’ story, including how he made personal appearance tours because of his advanced and unusual age.

He immediately heard from two group members who wanted to contribute to buy Akins a tombstone since his final resting place was an unmarked grave at Pleasant Gap Cemetery.

Kirk raised $1,400 for the tombstone from a GoFundMe account.

If Akins were really 136 (some sources suggest he was in his 90s when he died), he would have been born in 1760 and would have been old enough to remember the American Revolution, and according to Kirk, he claimed to have met General George Washington himself.

“He actually said in his own account that he’d seen George Washington, riding on a white horse up in Richmond. He gave water to the Revolutionary War soldiers when he was up there because his first master was an officer in the American army,” Kirk said.

Kirk said he’d heard tales all his life about “Uncle Jerry” and his colorful character. An undated photo shows Akins’ pet raccoon in the background, itself part of Akins’ story.

Saturday, Kirk and his family and friends unveiled the tombstone and paid tribute to the bigger-than-life, legendary former slave, who had originally been buried in an unmarked grave next to a doctor who took Akins on his personal appearances.

Perry Monument Company in Centre made the tombstone.

“To think that a man could possibly live that long,” Kirk said, “and all the stories he could’ve told.”

Copyright 2020 WBRC. All rights reserved.