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Friday, July 01, 2005

He Who Shall Not Be Named (Quite Yet)

From The (Dunn, N. C.) Daily Record of June 29, 2005:

What's In A Name? Tom Stewart Finds Out

By NANCY MAROSITZ Business Editor

Thomas Clifton Stewart of Erwin may walk and talk, but he doesn't exist. At least, not yet.

On June 21, Mr. Stewart received his first-ever copy of his original birth certificate. But it reports that baby boy Alton Blake Stewart was delivered at home to Jehu and Maude Bullard Stewart of Duke (now Erwin), on Oct. 3, 1924, at 7:40 a.m., by Dr. R.M. Buie of Linden.

So who is Tom Stewart?

"My daddy named me Alton Blake Stewart," said Mr. Stewart, in honor of Coats native and North Carolina's first licensed pilot Alton Stewart, who Mr. Stewart called "distant kin," and Blake for another of his friends.

But later when the Mr. Stewart's dad and Mr. Blake had a falling out over a fight between their sons — including Tom's big brother Cecil — the elder Mr. Stewart decided to change his younger son's name to Thomas Clifton.

Mr. Stewart grew up, attended school and joined the Navy all as Tom, unaware of his original name. In the 1950s, however, when he went to work at "an A-bomb plant" in Oakridge, Tenn., the Federal Bureau of Investigation got involved.

"For the job I was assigned I needed the top secret Q clearance," Mr. Stewart said. "The FBI starts investigating you all the way back, but couldn't find a record of Thomas Clifton.

"Two FBI agents knocked on my mama's door and said, 'There is no record of a son born to you on Oct. 3, 1924 named Thomas Clifton,'" he said.


At the FBI's request, Mrs. Stewart traveled to Lillington in 1956 to see Inez Harrington, then register of deeds for Harnett County, who provided a handwritten birth certificate on plain paper, for one Thomas Clifton Stewart. But unknown to Mr. Stewart or his mother, information on the name change was never forwarded to the state office of vital records.


Ms. Cameron [assistant registrar in vital records at the county office] said the state will require a check of Mr. Stewart's school records for the name change request, but since he has documentation in the form of the county-issued certificate and now his original one, and has used the name Thomas all his life, a court order should not be necessary to make the switch.

"Had I not applied for the passport I would have thought the certificate made in Lillington was the valid birth certificate for me," Mr. Stewart said. "I hope they'll send me the new one, and record it this time in Lillington and in Raleigh. I hope it's pretty soon."

[Read the whole story]

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