Reverend Hildred Ray O’Dell, saint and sinner

The defining moment of Hildred Ray O’DELL’s life was surely the embezzlement charges he faced in 1946. On 27 April 1946, Reverend Hildred O’DELL resigned from pastoring Gospel Tabernacle. The 1941 Polk’s Directory for Springfield, Greene, Missouri, lists Gospel Tabernacle at 933 Franklin Avenue and lists Reverend O’DELL as the pastor there even though he was arrested and transported to Laclede County, Missouri. Perhaps he was transported and charged in Laclede County because that is where the checks were cashed.

In any case, he had pastored Gospel Tabernacle for 9 years prior to resigning on 27 April 1946. That was a Wednesday (although some newspaper accounts reported that he resigned on Friday). On Friday, he cashed a $2,000 check that was supposed to have gone to the church’s general fund. On Saturday, he cashed another $50 check at Lebanon State Savings Bank and that was the last he was seen before his arrest. On Monday, 2 May 1946, the Missouri State Highway Patrol broadcast a pickup order for Reverend O’Dell. His arrest was swift and happened on Sunday, 8 May 1946 in Treece, Cherokee, Kansas. After his arrest, he signed a waiver for extradition and was transported to Laclede County, Missouri, where he was facing not only the embezzlement charges but also some civil attachment suits filed by “indignant members” of the church. Reverend O’DELL posted $25,000 bond and waived his Preliminary Hearing. His trial was set to be heard in the September term of the Circuit Court.

Pastor O’DELL issued a statement through his un-named attorney which said, “I wish for continued progress of the church, and ask former members to have the same faith in me that I have had in them in times past. I also ask them to hold this faith until I have an opportunity to tell my story at my trial.” Unfortunately, I did not locate any information about the trial or the outcome or Pastor O’DELL’s side of the story.

I can imagine scenarios that involved both his innocence and his guilt and I don’t feel he can be judged to be either without knowing all the facts. We are still “innocent until proven guilty” here in this wonderful country. What I do know is that by 18 December 1947, when Reverend O’DELL’s brother, Merritt Mildred, passed away suddenly of a heart attack, Reverend O’DELL was living in Los Angeles, California. At that time his father, Charles O’DELL was still living as were three of his sisters- Imogene O’DELL NORTH, Margaret O’DELL NEAL, and Lela O’DELL JOHNSON. All three sisters were living in near Treece, Cherokee, Kansas, where Merritt lived when he passed away. Based on Merritt’s obituary, I am presuming that their mother, Rose WALTON O’DELL, passed away prior to 18 December 1947. I do know that in 1930 at the time of the census, Rose was still living in Kansas with her husband and some of her children (including Hildred who was 21, single, and working as a Mill Man in a lead mine).

So, I leave Hildred’s case with you, having failed to resolve the issue of his guilt or innocence. I also give the family genealogists a caveat- this is my best guess as to Hildred’s identity based on the evidence available to me and using all available clues as to age, location, etc.

How do you find, jury- guilty or innocent?

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