View Full Version : IL IL- Jacksonville -Black Male 496UMIL, teen, found 1945 died 1993 -deaf, mute, & blind

06-08-2006, 07:17 PM

Unidentified Black Male

The unknown man was discovered on October 11, 1945 in Jacksonville, Illinois
Unable to communicate, deaf and mute teenager

Case History
Police found John Doe in the early morning hours of October 11, 1945, in Jacksonville, Illinois.
Unable to communicate, the deaf and mute teenager was labeled “feeble minded” and sentenced by a judge to the Lincoln State School and Colony in Jacksonville.
He remained in the Illinois mental health care system for over thirty years and died at the Sharon Oaks Nursing Home in Peoria on November 28, 1993.
Deaf, mute, and later blind, the young black man survived institutionalized hell: beatings, hunger, overcrowding, and the dehumanizing treatment that characterized state institutions through the 1950s.
In spite of his environment, he made friends, took on responsibilities, and developed a sense of humor. People who knew him found him remarkable.

After reading a story about John Doe in the New York Times, acclaimed singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote and recorded “John Doe No. 24” and purchased a headstone for his unmarked grave.
Award-winning journalist Dave Bakke has written his story in the book; God Knows His Name
The True Story of John Doe No. 24

06-08-2006, 07:30 PM
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE2DE1231F936A35751C1A9659582 60&sec=health&pagewanted=print

06-08-2006, 07:49 PM
Hello Anthrobones,
Thank-you for posting this.
What an:angel: Mary Chapin Carpenter is.

welder 79
06-08-2006, 08:40 PM
Hello Anthrobones,
Thank-you for posting this.
What an:angel: Mary Chapin Carpenter is...She is a very nice woman

06-10-2008, 11:39 PM
Bumping up

03-03-2009, 08:56 PM
Bumping for this sweet man. I've read the above mentioned book a few times now, it is an incredible story and really makes you care for "John". If you haven't read it, I truly recommend it.

Now if only we could finally find out his true name.

05-06-2010, 04:11 PM
John Doe No. 24 was found Oct. 11,1945 by police in Jacksonville,IL. He was found to be "feeble minded" and was sent to the state hospital. He was a black teenager. He was a deaf mute and was blind from diabetes they believed. He was taught sign language by caregivers and was eventually moved to a nursing home in Peoria where he pantomimed about foot stomping jazz and scrawled the name "Lewis". Was this his name? His caregivers did not believe he was feeble minded. He was happy in the nursing home. He carried a backpack from the day he found. Inside it had a collection of rings, glassware and silverware. He had a straw hat as well. He loved it and wore it all the time. He died of a stroke on Nov. 28,1993. He was aprox. 64 years old. Country singer/songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter after reading about in the New York Times wrote a song called "John Doe No. 24" for him and purchased a grave marker for him as well. Dave Bakke wrote a book about him called God Knows His Name: The True Story Of John Doe No. 24 in 2000. The title is derived from a statement his nurse made as he lay on his death bed. She said " God knows his name." He then died.



Lucy's mom
05-06-2010, 04:31 PM
Wow, sounds like such a beautiful person. I hate to think of what he endured in the mental facilities but at least he had the will power to rise above it. Thanks for posting this...it's amazing that no one ever looked for him. Perhaps they felt he was a hinderance...who knows. I hope someone is looking for him and knows who he is.

05-06-2010, 07:24 PM
I hope so too,Lucy's Mom. Maybe someone in his family is doing genealogy. We have found folks in some weird places so you never know. I also can't imagine what he endured in the mental health system during those years. That system was so stone age then. We have read records of family who were in that system back in the day. YIKES! Awful.

07-15-2010, 02:23 PM
I briefly worked in the nursing home that housed John back in 1974, he was my favorite patient, he was always so happy. I am so saddened by his death. It was thought that he was born to a female who had syphilis and he was abandoned because of his disablities. It is comforting to know that in his remaining years he was loved and cared for. I must find the song by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Thanks for posting!

12-30-2010, 10:16 PM
The article said that "Lewis" was beleived to be 64 when he died in 1993, which would put his year of birth at about 1929. I did a search of the 1930 census for a black male living in Illinois who was born between 1928 and 1930 and there was one match. I was looking to see if they collected disability information that year and unfortunately they did not ask if a person was blind, deaf, etc.

I am not sure of the propriety of posting the person's name here as I have NO idea if it was him. the fact he was found in Jacksonville, IL in 1945 did not mean that he was in IL in 1930.

12-30-2010, 10:26 PM
I wonder where the collection of rings, glassware & silverware he carried in his backpack came from? I am thinking maybe his parents/parent died and he took their possessions and was left to fend for himself. I could be completely wrong of course!

Such a sad story - it would be wonderful to be able to give him his name back.

01-27-2011, 11:53 AM

Well they searched for a mother and they searched for a father
And they searched till they searched no more
The doctors put to rest their scientific tests
And they named me "John Doe No. 24"
And they all shook their heads in pity
For a world so silent and dark
Well there's no doubt that life's a mystery
But so too is the human heart


12-24-2012, 03:52 AM
I have read "God Knows His Name: The True Story of John Doe No. 24" by Dave Bakke. When he was found, he was wearing t-shirt and a vest and that was in October. As for the backpack with stuff, that was much later as he has developed a hording habit from his days in institutions.

The eye doctor who examined his eyes, said that he think John Doe is much older from the looks of his eyes. At least 10 years older.

I would love to find out his true identity. I would love to find out if there is some tissue of his in storage that we can get DNA out of it. He had colon cancer and a surgery for that. Maybe we can find the closest match in the DNA tree if we have his DNA.

12-26-2012, 02:17 AM
...collection of rings, glassware & silverware he carried in his backpack...

It sounds like he had high functioning autism.

06-28-2013, 08:28 AM
More long shots... but looking in the census I found the following (based on the idea that the dentist report could put his birth date earlier than 1929). I didn't search for a Lewis, but did find this:

Faribault, Rice County, Minnesota 1920 Census - William Lewis (b about 1905), attending the school for the deaf. He is noted as being born in Iowa, father born in Georgia and mother born in Kansas.