Front Yard v. Alabama Supreme Court

The NYT wrote this week about the little cemetery for his wife that James Davis has in his Stevenson, Alabama front yard.

(These pics I took in 2012:)

From the article:
James Davis figures that his first mistake was asking permission. If a man promises his wife he will bury her in the front yard, then he should just do so.

But ever since Mr. Davis granted his dying wife’s wish by laying her to rest just off his front porch, he and the City of Stevenson have been at odds. From City Hall to the courts, the government of this little railroad town in southern Appalachia has tried to convince Mr. Davis that a person who lives in a town cannot just set up a cemetery anywhere he likes. On Oct. 11, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed a judge’s decision saying as much.

But Mr. Davis, 74, is not inclined to back down.

“They’re waiting on me to die,” he said early last week, standing on the porch of the log house he built and looking out over his lawn, which along with the grave features an outhouse and a large sign demanding that his wife be allowed to rest in peace. “I am not digging her up.”

…Mr. Davis and his wife, Patsy, grew up in Dayton, Tenn., having first met when she was 7 and he was 11. She was a teenager when he asked her to accompany him to a strawberry festival. “We went on that one date, and it was me and her the rest of the time,” he said. They were married for 48 years and had five children.

…According to court filings, Mr. Davis declared to the City Council members that he would sue and take his case to the State Supreme Court if necessary. But instead, he just decided to ignore them.

“I just got a backhoe and went ahead,” Mr. Davis said, later arguing that the lack of a specific burial ordinance meant that they had no right to stop him. He installed a vault, the funeral home put his wife in the coffin, and on a Saturday morning 10 days after the City Council vote, Mrs. Davis was laid to rest before a gathering of family members.

The city sued him a month later.


According to the NYT, last Friday he warned of “an incident” if the city came onto his property, but asked if the town would agree to him digging up the coffin, having Patsy cremated (although she had been afraid of the idea in her later years, he said time has passed and thinks she would not mind now), and putting her urn back in the grave.  Sounds like that’s what will happen.

Mr. Edmiston acknowledged that there was no law against tombstones or the placement of ashes, but he insisted that the coffin and the vault be removed. So if Mr. Davis fully complies with the city’s order, the yard will end up looking exactly as it does now, only with an urn rather than a coffin underneath.

This may raise the question as to what the whole fight was about. But Mr. Davis has no doubts.

“There was never any couple in love like us,” he said. “We was meant to be together.”

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