It has often been reported that Bessie Smith was taken to a whites-only hospital in Clarksdale, Mississippi but was refused services and died shortly later due to the delay in getting treatment for her traumatic injuries. The jazz writer and producer John Hammond gave this account in an article in the November 1937 issue of DownBeat magazine which has been completely discredited. What most people don’t realize is that there was actually 2 car crashes involved that night. The first (and fatal) crash was caused by Bessie’s lover who was driving at the time Richard Morgan who misjudged the speed of a slow-moving truck ahead of him. Skid marks at the scene suggested that Morgan tried to avoid the truck by driving around its left side, but he hit the rear of the truck side-on at high speed. The tailgate of the truck sheared off the wooden roof of Smith’s old Packard vehicle. Smith, who was in the passenger seat, probably with her right arm or elbow out the window, took the full brunt of the impact nearly severing her right arm off at the shoulder. While Bessie laid on the side of the road, waiting for the ambulance and receiving first aid, a second car traveling at a high rate of speed plowed into Bessie’s disabled vehicle. Bessie was ultimately transported to the G. T. Thomas Afro-American Hospital (now the Riverside Hotel) in Clarksdale, where her right arm was amputated. She died that morning without regaining consciousness.
First husband Jack Gee thwarted all efforts to purchase a stone for his estranged wife, twice pocketing money raised for that purpose. Smith’s grave remained unmarked until a tombstone was erected on August 7, 1970, paid for by the singer Janis Joplin and Juanita Green, who as a child had done housework for Smith.
Final Resting Place:
2911 S Wilmington
Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, 19079
Grave Location:Section C, Lot 26, Grave 3
Grave Location Description
As you enter the cemetery off of Hook Road drive past the office on your right and make the first left turn. Drive along the road and park just past the maintenance shed on your left. Park on the right and the section on your right is Section C and is well marked. Walk about 50 feet into the section and look for the only upright black monument for the final resting place of the legandary Bessie Smith.
Grave Location GPS39.901961,-75.260662
Read More About Bessie Smith:
- Wikipedia Entry
- Forebears: Bessie Smith, The Empress Of The Blues
- Bessie Smith on the Last Road to Clarksdale
- Bessie Smith "This Little Girl With a Powerful Voice"
- Bessie Smith House in Philadelphia
- Eight Remarkable Tales of the Empress of the Blues
- Stomp Off - The Death of Bessie Smith as told by the doctor that treated her
- History vs. Hollywood: the Bessie Smith movie
- When blues legend Bessie Smith beat up fellow singer Gertrude Saunders over affair with husband
- The Death of Bessie Smith