I guess some of my ancestors in the US South were slaveholders, because there are black Linebargers. Readers from other countries may not know that after slavery ended in the United States, after our Civil War, it was not uncommon for newly emancipated people to take the last name of the former slave-owners.

I get Google Alerts for Paul Linebarger, and the other day an obituary turned up for an American Linebarger in Texas who recently died at age 80. His first name wasn’t Paul, but there was a Paul in the article. There were no obvious clues in the story as the race of this man, but reading it did remind me of a family story from when I was in high school.

My father had some interest in genealogy (which I must admit to lacking) and he was also a very outgoing person. He flew around the United States at times, to give talks, mainly, and since it was before the jet era, the prop planes didn’t go as far and he often had layovers in a variety of airports. He developed a habit of checking phone books at the airports, and calling Linebargers in them, just to say hello and chat a bit.

One day he did this. The woman who answered heard his spiel and then called her husband to the phone to talk with my father. He heard her call out, “It’s somebody who says he’s one of those white Linebargers.”

This tickled my father, and every now and then he’d tell the story.