Thornton Dial is Born
Emelle , Alabama
"I was born in Sumter County, Alabama. A midwife delivered me to my mama in a little country house in the field, one of them kind you can lay down and look up through the ceiling and see the sunshine.
I was born on Luther Elliot's plantation. My great-granddaddy Rich Dial lived there, and his family. Phil, Pete, Will, Bryant, Mattie, Sarah, and Martha Jane were his children. They were sharecropping, picking cotton. They kept on farming and didn't ever come out of debt. The Man advance people from one end of the year to the other end. Every year the Man always say, 'You just about come out of debt this time but didn't quite make it.'
Rich Dial’s daughter Martha Jane was my grandmother. She married Gene Bell. They had my mother, named her Mattie—Mattie Bell. I never owned no daddy. My mama didn’t give me one. My mama told me once that my daddy was James Hutchins. My name supposed to be Bell, or Hutchins, but the Dials raised me and give me their name.
We picked cotton when we got big enough to walk. We go in front of my grandmama and pick cotton, and she carry the sack. We put it in her sack. She take a switch to us if we didn’t pick. I was just a little bitty something but I had to earn my way."