Library holds book review
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 13, 2015
For her first literary piece, author Allison Rawls Bullock finished a tale of two families and two states that began more than 100 years ago in Opelousas, Louisiana.
Tuesday, the author reviewed her book, “Mizpah: The Bobby Dunbar Kidnapping Legend,” at the Friends of the Margaret Reed Crosby Memorial Library brown bag book review event.
The Columbia native is the granddaughter of Hollis Rawls, who served as the attorney for Cantwell Walters, the man accused of kidnapping 4-year-old Bobby Dunbar.
After her father’s death, Bullock found a file, which contained letters, newspaper clippings, witness statements and many other documents pertaining to the case that captured the nation’s attention in the early 1900s.
Bobby Dunbar was 4-years-old when he disappeared from a swamp near Opelousas, Bullock said. A tracking dog followed his tracks, stopped in the middle of the train trestle and barked at the water below.
A $6,000 reward was offered for information regarding Bobby’s whereabouts.
Walters was from North Carolina and traveled the southern states repairing pump organs, Bullock said. Julia Anderson worked for Walters’ family in North Carolina and had an illegitimate 4-year-old son named Bruce.
Walters took Bruce with him one year on his travels down south and they stayed at a boarding house in Poplarville about a month before Bobby’s disappearance.
Walters was jailed for the kidnapping after Bobby’s father Perry misidentified Bruce as his son, despite the fact that Bruce was missing the scar on his foot that Bobby suffered after stepping in a fire.
Many witnesses in Poplarville and Pearl River County gave sworn testimony that Bruce was not Bobby and Walters was innocent, Bullock said. Bruce’s mother Julia even traveled to the area to identify her son. However, Bullock said the Dunbars had already brainwashed Bruce into thinking Walters and Julia meant to cause him harm.
In spite of evidence to the contrary, Louisiana residents were ready to hang Walters for the alleged kidnapping, Bullock said.
Walters was eventually found guilty of kidnapping, Bullock said. A reporter from New Orleans interviewed Walters and asked him for one last word to the public. Walters wrote, ‘‘Mizpah, the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent from each other.’’
Walters was not sentenced to capital punishment after the trial instead, he was sent to prison in New Orleans. For two years, Bullock’s grandfather sought to exonerate Walters.
The Louisiana Supreme Court overturned the verdict, Bullock said. After his release, Walters disappeared.
“My family, the Dunbars and the Rawls, needed to know this story,” Bullock said. “This book is based on actual letters, court documents, handwritten affidavits and newspapers accountings of what happened. I tried to tell it word for word. There’s a lot of Mississippi and Louisiana history in this book. After reading my book, Dunbar relatives had DNA work done, which proved the family did take Bruce Anderson.”
The book contains additional details about Bobby’s disappearance.
Bullock’s book is available for purchase on www.amazon.com and Kindle. Copies are also on sale in Columbia at Broadstreet Boutique.
The next brown bag lunch will be on September 15, 2015, where former CIA agent Sandy Conner will review Steve Coll’s book “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. The event begins at noon in the library’s Holland Hall.