Saturday, November 20, 2010

Are you related to...?

Being asked about other Poindexters to whom I may be related is something I've gotten used to over the years. It never seems to be a very common name, and I'm occasionally asked if it's a pen name. No: Poindexter is my actual last name. Get it out of your system. Actually, I often get complimented on it...especially by the ladies. Well, your mom liked it, anyway...

Because there are a few notable individuals in history with this rare name, I get asked about a few of them from time to time. As such, I've researched a few of them to find out how I'm related. The answer--in most cases--is: not very.  

My ancestors were Normans: decendents of the Northmen who settled Northern France and all the most attractive French women they could kidnap. They eventually settled down and started conquering England, subjecting the Anglo-Saxons to centuries of Norman rule. It is worth noting that no one has conquored England since then. The name literally means "right fist" though can be translated in context to "righteous fist" or, in some cases, "Fist of God." Which kicks a lot of ass. The Poingdestre family of Jersey Island (Normandy) settled on the Southern American Colonies before the American Revolution. They were apparently French Protestants who left heavily-Catholic France. All Poindexters in the United States are decended from them. So, by that standing yes I am related to everyone in the US with the last name Poindexter, but only a few of them are connected to me in any substantial way.

Larry Poindexter: Known as Dex to his friends, Larry is a well known character actor who is most recently known for his role on the Mtv comedy The Hard Times of RJ Berger as Rick Berger, the swinging father of the lead character: the awkward (albeit well-endowed) R.J. Berger. Larry is also a musician, and played with the country band The High Lonesome. Larry and I became friends after I wrote a blog about my possible family relation to him last year. Because most of my family came from Texas, and that was where Larry's family originated, I figured there might be some level of family connection there worth exploiting exploring. Since then, I've done some family research and we're pretty sure that my great-great-grandfather was his great-grandfather. Which makes us...cousins? Sure, that'll work: Larry Poindexter and I are cousins. There is a family resemblance, especially between Larry and my father. In any event, he's a pretty awesome guy and I'm happy to have met him. Larry's father was Tony-Award winning light and sound designer H.R. Poindexter.

Colonel John A. Poindexter: I do not have a picture of this guy. Few people outside of Civil War buffs even know who this is, and even among them it is confined to people who specifically study Missouri's schizophrenic reaction to the War Between the States. John A. Poindexter was a cavalry officer and recruiter in Northern Missouri, later promoted to Colonel and placed in command of the 5th Infantry Regiment in the Missouri State Guard. He was injured at the Battle of Compton's Ferry and captured. The union tried as a spy (he was in civilian clothes when captured, ergo spy) but later released on bail. He died after the war from complications due to his injuries.

It is tempting to connect John A. Poindexter to the Missouri Poindexters to whom my spectacularly virile ancestor John N. Poindexter (also a Confederate soldier) is decended. However, the relationship is unlikely. John A. Poindexter was from Kentucky, which places him closer to my family's colonial home on the East Coast. He was, like many of the East Coast Poindexters, quite or why he wound up in Missouri I do not know. He lived out his post-war days and was buried in Moberly, Missouri...which is way the hell up north of Columbia. Nowhere near where my Missouri Poindexters lived.

Norwood "Pony" Poindexter: A Jazz and bop saxophone player from New Orleans. Pony played with such icons as Charlie Parker, Nat King Cole, T-Bone Walker and Jimmy Witherspoon. Pony was black, and I've met a few other African-Americans with the last name. Larry told me about this fellow, and he's met a few more black Poindexters in his acting and music career, including actor Jeris Poindexter mentioned next. My family connection to any Poindexters of African-American decent isn't clear, and obviously I don't get asked about it a lot--but it's something I'm curious to look into more.

Jeris Lee Poindexter: Stage and screen actor Jeris Lee Poindexter is often recognized by his recurring role on Chris Rock's show Everybody Hates Chris as the homeless man known as Kill Moves, and as Pop on Saving Grace. Jeris Lee has a long career of character roles on a many well known programs. Larry has met him, and even got to see him perform a couple of times.


Admiral John M. Poindexter: Some of you might be old enough to remember the 80s. If you are, then you probably remember this guy. Admiral John M. Poindexter was involved in the Iran-Contra affair with Oliver North and Ronald Reagan. It's a long story and I won't go into it here. He also served in the Bush (W.) administration as the head of DARPA but resigned as a result of a scandal.

Regardless of his political leanings or alleged misconduct, Admiral John M. Poindexter is a highly decorated Naval officer (retired) and a brilliant scholar and tactician. He has a PhD from CalTech in Nuclear Physics. He is largely responsible for the Navy's adoption of computers on naval vessels. He graduated first in his class (1 of 899) at the United States Naval Academy along with John McCain (who graduated 894 of 899). He is to be commended for his service to this country.

I am probably not related to this man. When I was very young, people used to ask me a lot if I was related to him because his name was in the news so much. I had no idea what the whole thing was about but I asked my father. He said he wasn't sure if we were related, but that there was some family resemblance between Admiral Poindexter and my great-grandfather Robert Poindexter. There is also a slight family resemblance between the admiral and my father. That might just be a coincidence, or it might have something to do with a distant family connection.

Admiral Poindexter is from Oden Indiana. I have no information about his father, but unless he was from Missouri or Texas it is unlikely there is any family connection beyond the East Coast Poindexters. If one of John N. Poindexter's many, many sons moved to Indiana, he might be Admiral Poindexter's father. I don't know but it would be interesting to find out. If anyone has any information about that, I'd be most appreciative.

Admiral Poindexter's son is astronaut Alan G. Poindexter.

Asher Poindexter: Most people outside of Joplin won't have any idea who this is, but he is a local musician of note. He plays for Me Like Bees...he's the one with all the beard. He gets asked if he's related to me by people who meet him at shows and his work. I get asked a little less frequently, but when I am I sometimes tell people he's my son just to see how they react--he's like 8 years younger than me and there is NO family resemblance. Most people get that its a joke. Asher, if you're reading this, I'm sorry about the ones who didn't and went away thinking I was your father. I promise to stop doing that. But check out his band, they are very talented.

Buster Poindexter: Holy Christ, this is the one I get asked about the most. Ever since I was a little kid I've been asked if I'm related to this guy. People, listen to me as hard as you fucking can: Buster Poindexter is not his real name. It's a musical pseudonym for actor/musician/comedian David Johansen. He's been in a lot of movies, notably Car 54: Where Are You?, Freejack, and one of my favorite Christmas movies: Scrooged!

As Buster Poindexter, he is best known for the unbelievably obnoxious song Hot, Hot, Hot; which to his credit Mr. Johansen has referred to as "the bane of my life."

Being that he is not actually a Poindexter, I am likely not related to him in the slightest.

Anthony Poindexter: I don't have a picture here either. I guess this guy played football for a while. I have no idea because I don't follow sports. He was apparently really good because they retired his jersey number. I'm assuming that means he was good...that's right, isn't it?

Anyway, this guy is from Virginia so he's probably descended from the East Coast Poindexters. He is a coach at the University of Virginia. 

Joseph B. Poindexter:
Only one person has ever asked me if I'm related to this guy and that was years ago. I just wanted to throw him in because I think he's kind of cool, and I have a brother named Joseph.

Joseph B. Poindexter was the 8th territorial Governor of Hawaii, appointed by President FDR. Before that, he was a US District Judge for Hawaii appointed by Woodrow Wilson. He was born in Oregon in 1869, so it is highly unlikely I'm related to him in any way. History buffs recognize him as the Governor of Hawaii during the Pearl Harbor attack and through part of the War. The man who asked me if I was related to him was a World War II enthusiast so he knew the name.

Hildreth A. Poindexter: A famous scientist from Alabama. He studied tropical diseases, and became well known in that field. His Wikipedia entry includes the following incredibly awesome line: "In the 1940s and 1950s Poindexter’s name became virtually synonymous with study of malaria and other tropical diseases."


This is also the source of the Poindexter name being associated with brainy science geeks. Hildreth was a very public figure, and like most scientists didn't have much in the way of charisma. The first use of the name as an appellation of nerdism come from the mid-fifties, and likely due to Hildreth's numerous television appearance as a scientist.

I'm not related to him in any detectable manner.
Benjamin Poindexter: Okay, now I'm just fucking with you. That's Bullseye, the Marvel Comics villain and nemesis of Daredevil and sometimes The Punisher. His "real" name is unknown, but he sometimes uses the name Benjamin Poindexter. As a fictional character, obviously I'm not related to him in any corporeal sense. However, I include him as an example of fictional characters with whom I am associated as a result of my long, awkward-yet-sexy last name. Other fictional characters to whom I am not in any way related include the Arnold Poindexter from Revenge of the Nerds (which, ironically was first shown to me as a child by my grandfather Mel Poindexter and marks the first time I ever saw boobs in a movie); Poindexter from the cartoon Felix the Cat; the little black kid in The People Under the Stairs; and whomever the hell Tone Loc was talking about in Wild Thing (or Funky Cold Medina, whatever...same damn song).

People DO ask me about my association with these characters (though not Bullseye) apparently under the mistaken impression that fictional characters exist in some mutually shared reality where they are somehow related to the actual people who have the same name. Though this sounds absolutely retarded, I can't say that I blame them...if I ever met someone named Vader I'd probably make the obvious connection despite knowing how stupid it was.
George Poindexter: No one has ever asked me if I was related to George Poindexter--a famous politician from Mississippi who was implicated in an assassination attempt on President Andrew Jackson in 1853. Apparently, George Poindexter paid the assassin to paint his house shortly before the attempt. I'm not making that up, that is why they thought he was in on it. Though he denied the connection (not the house painting, but the involvement in the plot to kill the President) his political career was ruined and he returned to Mississippi.

However, I have been asked (by a professor of American History) if I was related to George Poindexter's cousin, Longfellow Poindexter. Longfellow (a name I am now contemplating giving my first son) is famous for getting almost beaten to death after George Poindexter's memorial by a Tennessee politician Logan "Charlie Two-Shirts" Morland, who is regarded in American political history as having the most idiotic nickname since Herbert "Billy Balls-Out" Wittacre. Morland used a cane made from an Indian spear given to him by President Jackson to put the hurt on Longfellow but ran into the woods to escape after others came to Longfellow's aid.

Morland was reported to have shouted the following epithet as he retreated: "Mississippians are the most absurd excuse for Gentlemen this land ever produced. I will not forget this day and your descendants will live in fear; and your wife has the look and scent of a common Scottish whore!"

Wow. Well, I don't know if I'm descended from this guy or not, but now I'm terrified of a two-shirted hillbilly ghost beating the shit out of me with a magical Indian-wood cane. I do not think that is an unreasonable paranoia.

So that's that. Those are some famous Poindexters and (to my knowledge) the only connection I have to them. I invite any other Poindexters out there to contact me and share family stories or knowledge of our shared ancestry.