One of my favorite things about family history is uncovering the stories of ordinary people. People who lived their lives in unassuming ways but still managed to do pretty incredible things. All too often, though, those stories get lost to time in the face of bigger and brighter personalities. Family history is a way to turn the light back on some of those stories from the past and make sure that those people are remembered.
I wrote last week about the TV show, Timeless. It really is one of my favorites and last week’s season premier did not disappoint with its exciting traipse through World War I France and the encounter with Marie Curie and her daughter, Irene. This week, however, the “Time Team” is off to 1955 where they will meet a man whose name is not quite as well known as Madame Curie.
Born in Danville, Virginia in the summer of 1921, Wendell Oliver Scott was the son of an auto mechanic. In February of 1942, 20 year old Wendell, registered for the World War II draft. On his draft card, he listed his employer as the Danville Taxi Company. You could say driving was in his blood.
He served in the Army and when the war was over, he returned home. He got married. They had a couple of kids. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became an auto mechanic.
Five years after he turned in that draft card, in 1947 (coincidentally, the same year that Jackie Robinson broke into baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers), Wendell started racing cars. That put him on a path that led him to become the man who broke the color barrier in professional racing. After more than 200 races won in the minor leagues, he earned a spot in NASCAR’s top series in 1961, at the age of 40.
There are so many nuances to Wendell’s life that can’t really be explored in a brief blog post or even a more detailed newspaper article. I’m excited to see what parts of his story are shared tonight on Timeless. But, as I’ve learned more about him this week, I’m reminded that there are stories in every family, every life. As family historians, we are so lucky that we get to discover, preserve, and share these stories in ways that can inspire the future.