Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jake Wells -- Two Strikes You're Out

Known as the "Father of Vaudeville" in Atlanta, Wells managed the Richmond Bluebirds of the Atlantic League to three pennants before purchasing his first theatre in Richmond, Virginia, in the late 1890s.  In his nearly 30 year career as the "Dean of Southern Vaudeville," the showman purchased several other theatres and opened a chain of summer amusement parks throughout North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia.  Five weeks before committing suicide on March 16, 1927, the 63-year-old promoter suffered a nervous breakdown precipitated by concern over his own ill health and that of his wife.  On the fatal day, Wells accompanied by Betty Schaeffner, manager of his Park Hill Inn, was driving near Hendersonville, North Carolina, when they stopped to pick wild flowers.  Schaeffner began picking flowers while Wells leaned against a pine tree.  Moments after uttering, "It'll all be over soon," the promoter drew a revolver from a pocket and shot himself under the chin.  The woman vainly tried to wrest the gun from Wells before he fired a second deadly bullet into his head.

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