Berrien Upshaw

Birth Name:
Berrien Kinnard Upshaw
Birth Date:
March 10, 1901
Birth Place:
Monroe, Georgia
Death Date:
January 12, 1949
Place of Death:
Salvation Army, Galveston, Texas
Cause of Death:
Suicide - leaped from building
Cemetery Name:
Oakwood Cemetery
Claim to Fame:
The Odd and the Interesting
Berrien "Red" Upshaw was a mean, nasty, ill-tempered loser and wife beater - and those were some of his good qualities. But he did have one quality that served him well - he was known as a suave and charming man to the ladies. His charm wooed a young Margaret Mitchell and she married Berrien “Red” Kinnard Upshaw, an ex-football player from a prominent Raleigh (North Carolina) family, on September 2nd 1922. But after after 4 months Upshaw took off to the mid-west and engaged in bootlegging and other illegal pursuits. He returned back to Margaret but the family wanted nothing to do with him. The marriage was annulled two years later and Margaret married John Marsh (Red's best man at the wedding). Margaret went on to write the best-selling novel Gone With The Wind while Upshaw continued to drink heavily, was institutionalized briefly in the early 1940s and leaped to his death from the 2nd story of a Salvation Army flop-house in Galveston, Texas in 1949. In the end, Berrien Upshaw was so disliked, even by his own family, that his family in the last line of his brief obituary specifically requested no flowers be sent.

The Rest of the Story …

Many literary scholars over the years have surmised that the fictional character Rhett Butler from Gone With The Wind was modeled after Berrien Upshaw. Both individuals were tall, dash, and a bit dangerous. However publicly Margaret Mitchell has stated this is patently false. In private she has admitted that Rhett Butler was the man she thought she was marrying in 1922.

The actual resume or backstory of fictional character Rhett Butler from Gone With The Wind comes from the career of George Alfred Trenholm who was a wealthy South Carolina businessman, financier, politician, profiter and slaveholding planter who owned several plantations and strongly supported the Confederate States of America. He was appointed as its Secretary of the Treasury during the final year of the American Civil War. His merchant firm was estimated to have made $9 million (equivalent to $86 million in 2022) by blockade running with its 60 ships during the war. The ships carried cotton, tobacco, and turpentine to England and brought back coal, iron, salt, guns, and ammunition. Although he was imprisoned briefly after the war and suffered economic setbacks, Trenholm prospered. He also served on railroad and bank boards. He was elected to state office again in 1874 and died in office.

And this revelation seems to hold water. Trenholm and Rhett Butler were intrepid, tall and handsome men, both Charleston-born. They were considered two of the richest men in the South and amassed fortunes during the Civil War through blockade running – the risky business of transporting munitions, medicines and merchandise through the Federal blockade in fast cargo ships. Lee says both men had brilliant minds and similar political views. At the war’s end, both were accused of making off with the Confederacy’s missing gold and were jailed for a short period.

Cemetery Information:

Final Resting Place:

Oakwood Cemetery

701 Oakwood Avenue

Raleigh, North Carolina, 27601


North America


Map of Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina
Map of Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina

Grave Location:

Section A, Lot 168 Northeast Corner, Row G, Grave 1

Grave Location Description

Enter the cemetery through the gates on Oakwood Avenue and stay to the right. Drive ahead weaving through the middle of the cemetery until you come to the locked back gate that exits the cemetery. With the exit on your right continue around to the left 150 feet and look for the low-slung Bunn crypt on your right. Facing the Bunn crypt walk 7 spaces to the left and then walk 7 rows into Section A to the edge of the cemetery for the final resting place of scoundrel Red Upshaw.

Grave Location GPS

35.78533791517131, -78.62361259172738

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