What’s in a name?


My name is John Marshall Underwood. I am the son of Wayne Marshall Underwood, the grandson of Clarence Marshall Underwood and the great-grandson of Marshall Olympus Underwood.

While my name is only part of who I am, it is a definite reminder of where I came from, my heritage.

All of the people mentioned above, including myself, were born in Baldwin County, or at least raised in Baldwin County (my dad may have been born in Pensacola, but I’m pretty sure the rest were born at home and not in a hospital).

My great-great grandfather, Nimrod Underwood, moved to Baldwin County somewhere around the 1850s. He had two sons, John Henry and Marshall, who each had 10 children.

Needless to say, there aren’t too many people that I run into through my work that don’t start the conversation by saying, “Are you related too …?” It really doesn’t matter who the person is they are asking about. The answer is almost always in the affirmative. If it isn’t, we may have to dig a little deeper to find the relative that I recognize, but I’m probably still related to them.

Yes, Lyle Underwood, longtime coach, educator and administrator at Fairhope and Baldwin County high schools (who has a stadium named after him in Bay Minette), is my dad’s first cousin, as was George Underwood, a longtime minister in Baldwin County and former director of the Baldwin Baptist Camp.

Yes, Ollie Underwood, who founded Underwood Printing in Foley was John Henry’s grandson, which would make his dad (Leslie, if you’re keeping score), my grandfather’s first cousin.

Same for Ken Underwood, former Magnolia Springs council member. His dad, Claude, was my grandfather’s first cousin.

Vic Underwood, whose wife Ruth served on the Baldwin County School Board, and his brother Terry, who taught for many years at the Robertsdale Vocational School (South Baldwin Center for Technology); yes, their dad, Vern (Claude’s brother), was my grandfather’s first cousin.

And most recently, yes, County Commissioner Billy Joe Underwood is married to my cousin, Gary, whose grandfather was my grandfather’s first cousin (or was his dad my dad’s first cousin? I get confused, either way, yes, we’re related).

I could go on, but you get the idea.

My Baldwin County heritage, however, goes deeper than the Underwoods.

My great-great grandfather married Elizabeth Nelson. Her father, the Rev. Joseph Nelson, built and founded Barnwell Baptist Church.

My great-grandfather Marshall married Minnie Bishop, who was also born in Baldwin County (Judge Jody Bishop, yep, cousin somewhere down the line). Her mother, Caroline Bragg, was also born in Baldwin County.

I was recently honored to be a part of the Heritage Family recognition at the Baldwin County Coliseum, part of the Alabama 200 traveling exhibit.

There is an old saying, “American by birth, Southern by the Grace of God.” I can certainly say the same about Baldwin County.

I am proud to be an American and I am proud to be a (multiple) fifth-generation Baldwin Countian.