The Tax Man: Turley Toombs
This is the time of year for gathering receipts and documents to meet that looming tax deadline in April… The hustle and bustle of tax season is carved into the address recognized as 1400 S. Woodrow Street, west of Central High School National Historic Site in Little Rock, Arkansas. It is the modest home that was converted into a tax business by Turley Toombs, the Tax Man.
Turley is the child of Willie Toombs, Myrtle Mae Phifer (biological), and Lillie Stewart (bonus mother). He is the firstborn son of Willie and Myrtle Mae, delivered on April 23, 1932, in Little Rock. His sisters, Elizabeth and Velma, were born to his father’s first wife, Adeaner Butler, married in 1924. Willie and Adeaner divorced a few years later, soon after the lynching of John Carter at the corner of 9th and Broadway in Little Rock. It is possible that the emotional reaction of Willie to the lynching altered the trajectory of his marriage. It would be the third traumatic event in his short lifespan: the first was the Elaine Massacre of 1919, the second was the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, and the third was the lynching of John Carter in 1927. Turley is named after a brother to Willie’s father, Knoxie, who lived in Tulsa prior to the massacre and has not been found on any records since the 1920 U.S. Census. Another uncle to Willie, Clarence, continued to live in the Tulsa area until his death.
Myrtle Mae married Willie in 1931. She gave birth to Turley, Katherine, Remous, Romas (died in infancy), Francis, Willie Lee, Betty, Shirley Rae, and Calvin. She died on February 5, 1943. With eight children aged ten and under, Willie married Lillie Stewart. Lillie gave birth to Ruth Juanita, Louise, Queen Esther, and Charles Knox. Willie’s third wife Lillie and first wife Adeaner formed a bond that connected all the children for life and included Myrtle Mae’s memory.
Turley graduated from Little Rock’s Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. He served in the U.S. Air Force in Korea, attaining the rank of staff sergeant. He married Virginia Anne Spence on February 26, 1956. They would be parents to three daughters, Gaylon, Valerie, and Cherie. The 1958 City Directory for Little Rock shows the couple living at 1108 S. Chester Street. Turley’s occupation is listed as Nurse Aide at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Little Rock. His parents and younger siblings were living at 1111 Jones Street, a short walk from his residence. In 1963, he opened his business as a Certified Public Accountant at 1400 S. Woodrow and was purchasing a home at 2212 Rice Street.
All three of his daughters were exposed to the workings of his tax business. Valerie, his second child, would have been the one most likely to inherit and continue the business until she left this world early due to breast cancer.
Turley built a reputation for consistently and fairly handling the taxes of members of his community; associates from his time in the military and previous jobs; and family members. In social settings, when the topic of family surnames would come up, the phrase heard most often was “Are you related to THE TAX MAN?”
Come visit us at the Research Room in the CALS Roberts Library to let our staff and resources help you uncover the past of your own ancestors. Researching property history is a great place to start: see our property research materials here. There are also many genealogy resources online through the library that can help you get started.
By Rhonda Stewart, genealogy and local history specialist for the Central Arkansas Library System’s Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, housed in the CALS Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art