The Curious Case of Theodore Flowers

This past week has been full of much needed research. I spent much of my time searching through databases at It is a helpful tool when conducting genealogy; however, not for African American research. They have a limited number of black newspapers provided, which made me extremely upset, but hey it was a free trail. Despite this shortcoming, I was able to pull a few articles from the Pittsburgh Courtier, Harrisburg Telegraph, and a small newspaper based in Jacksonville, Florida. As I stated before, it was nothing much.

Now, this post will focus again on Theodore Flowers. His death certificate left me with a great amount of questions: Why was he murdered? By who? What exactly were the events that led up to his homicide on November 5, 1933 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania?

Let me begin with what I know about Theodore.

He was the sixth child born to Harry Flowers (1846-1926) and Nancy Sawyer (1873-1963) on March 16, 1903. Raised in Jacksonville, Florida, Theodore spent his childhood as a farm help on his family’s land. Following the divorce of his parents, I am unsure of who Theodore lived with. He would have been ten years old when his father and siblings moved outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but he is not listed as a member of his father’s household in the 1920 Federal Census. Without the 1920 Federal Census record for his mother, I am unsure of whether or not he lived with her and her husband, Henry Sams, for they migrated in the 1920s to Philadelphia. It is also important to note that the majority of the Flowers children resided with their father with the exception of the older sons who were worked and lived in boarding homes in Harrisburg. With only the 1910 Federal Census and death certificate for Theodore, I also  learned of his marriage to Irma Flowers, yet it is important to note that she (Irma) marked out wife of as she provided the information for the death record.

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 See, a clear clean slash through…more questions….

Outside of this new search on the “marriage” of Theodore and Irma Flowers, I came across an article from the Pittsburgh Courtier, a black newspaper based in Pennsylvania.


Pittsburgh Courtier, November 18, 1933

“X” marks the spot where Harry Morgan and Theodore Flowers “shot it out” last Sunday evening in an argument over a pistol. The scene is at 22nd and Montgomery streets, Philadelphia. .

And so we have part of the story, but nothing more. I will need to go through more African American newspapers in order to learn more about the life and death of Theodore Flowers.

Until the next post,


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