The Most Colorful Southern Names in Our Editors’ Families

Southerners have a way with names

Hannah Hayes
Stack of Vintage Photos
bgwalker/Getty Images

There are so many activities in which Southerners prevail: smoking pork shoulder, brewing iced tea, creating captivating, folksy aphorisms, and talking to complete strangers in elevators being some of them. But perhaps one area in which we excel without question is this: we have a way with names.

Yes, here it is not strange to know a woman named Russell or Azalea Jean or 15 more all with some sort of derivation of Mary Somethingorother. Nor is it strange to know a large man who goes by Tiny on his checks or another who goes by Corn Cob Castille in the phone book. Walk around a New Orleans cemetery and you might see names like Lawless Love or Louisa Lu “Blue Lou” Barker. Take a perusal of recent names from Mississippi’s birth announcements and it’s clear we have no intentions of stopping this tradition: Delta Jane, Nirvana Grace, Catcher David, Maverick Gray, and Magnolia Joelene.

We wanted to see what colorful Southern names run in our own editors’ families, and the results do indeed prove our point.

Sid Evans, Editor-in-Chief
“It’s not a relative, per se, but my Godfather’s name is True Redd. He had a sister named Cherry, and his wife’s name is Lady Margaret. He’s from Memphis and Lady is from Lula, Mississippi, but they live in Oxford now. I've always thought they had the coolest names ever.”

Omega Long
Assistant Editor Brennan Long (left) with her grandmother Omega Long at the Greenbrier.
Courtesy of Brennan Long

Brennan Long, Assistant Editor
“My Grandmother Omega Long was the youngest of six children growing up on a farm in Floyd, Virginia. Her parents thought six was a good number of children to have and nothing comes after Omega! Lord knows what they would have named the seventh child. My other grandmother is Hazel Mildred and her sisters were Wilma Ruth and Shirley Juanita. Growing up in Virgilina (a tiny town half in North Carolina and half in Virginia), they were both so embarrassed about their middle names that they always introduced themselves as Wilma Ray and Shirley Ray.”

Jessica Thuston, Executive Editor, Special Editions
“My two grandmothers were Tennybelle (Family legend says because she was a Southern belle conceived in Tennessee, so my great grandparents combined it to be Tennybelle.) and Alpha Amelia.

And these are the full names of some of my grandfather’s brothers and sisters:
Veda Iula (my mother is named Veda after her. It’s pronounced vee-da, but her aunt’s name was pronounced like a double name: vee-da I-you-la)
Mema Laennis (she and Veda were sisters, and it was always said like a double name: mem-uh-luh-ennis)
Madison Grady, but they called him Sassy. Some other great names from that side of the family include Charner Lafayette and Maude Pearl.

All Oklahomans!”

Susan Alison, Copy Chief
“My mother (like her mother) is Henrietta, a good old South Carolina name. But she dislikes it to the point that she wouldn’t let my sister name my niece Henrietta—and call her Henri, or maybe Etta. It also earned Mom the college nickname Stinky, because a friend said “Henrietta" sounded like the name of a skunk. When I was about 6, I had a hot-pink Henrietta Hippo. I’m sure she felt honored.

My husband has an aunt Mabel Gertrude in Virginia. She is a talented, funny, beautiful blonde and has pulled it off like she has everything else: with grace, courage, and aplomb. But, despite her many wonderful qualities, no one has made her a namesake.”

Steve Bender, The Grumpy Gardner
“My great-aunt on my mother’s side was named Bertha. Bertha Butt.”

Nona Louise and Gladys Jewel Barker
Nona Louise and Gladys Jewel Barker, sisters of editor Hannah Hayes’ great grandmother Mittie Lois.
Courtesy of Rhonda Fleming Hayes

Hannah Hayes, Associate Editor
“My Mississippi side of the family not only has a surname of Jobe, which has quite a Southern Gothic-ring to it, but also a few first names that are solid gold. The Barker side of the family includes my great grandmother Mittie Lois and her sisters, wait for it, Gladys Jewel, Nona Louise, Cleo Patree, Birdie Belle, and Jessie Ward, and her brothers Dupree, Umbra, and Jack. Aunt Gladys would never take left turns if she could help it, and the sisters swore by Pond’s Cold Cream.”