WHITTLE: From rural Gum Road, global fame came for ‘Gumms’

Dan Whittle, The Murfreesboro Post, January 30, 2011

Liza Minelli, left, and her mother, Judy Garland

This is an open invitation to you, Liza, from a community of mostly modest hard-working folks who humbly claim kindred spirit to you, mainly through your relatives named Gum and/or Gumm, with one “M” or two “MMs” being optional.

So, to borrow part of a famous song’s title, “won’t you come home?” Or at least come, take a look back at your Gumm and/or Gum family lineage and musical roots?! Plus, we need your help through your fame.

(Note for Readers: Liza Minelli’s grandparents, Frank and Ethel Gumm, lived in Rutherford County in the early 1900s. The Gumm house still stands and is occupied today on historic East Main Street in Murfreesboro. And there’s Gum Road in eastern rural Rutherford County, near Cannon County.)

Liza you don’t know me, but through my country newspaper column, I indirectly was responsible back in the 1990s for the local Chamber of Commerce extending an invitation through a publicist for you to visit your roots while you were performing in nearby Nashville. Time and circumstances didn’t allow that to happen.

This second invitation is personal, much more personal from the heart of a grandfather with a brain-injured one-year-old grandson who needs your help.

This column/letter is directly to you, Liza, because of your God-inspired compassion for children like our little Jon Beckett Nelson, who is fighting courageously to recover from a baby-sitters’ decision to leave him unattended on an adult bed.

When his blessed little head got caught between head board and mattress, doctors will never know how long Jon Beckett’s brain went without oxygen.

Nonprofit Special Kids’ caregivers have performed miracles for our grandchild.

And through news reports, we’ve learned you experienced personal health-related miracles when a vicious illness threatened your joyful singing and dancing, not to mention, your life.

Special Kids needs an infusion in funding, to help future children receive the life-sustaining miracle of a functioning life.

And three, our community would love to honor you with a special day, week or month, because on our part, it’s the right thing to do.

Plus a big  No. 4 reason, I’m certain your local Gum and/or Gumm plus Baugh relatives would dance up and down Gum Road, along with the rest of us, for you to come, break bread and let us get to know the great Liza with a “Z” up close and personal.

And out of respect, our award-winning community play house folks in Murfreesboro or Woodbury would welcome you with their entertaining/loving arms, plus I’m certain our newspapers would give you front page coverage and the Chamber of Commerce would do what folks like them always do when it comes to benefitting their community.

You would not have to perform, we’d “pay” just to look at you as you maybe signed a few autographs.

Most Respectful, Dan Whittle, columnist.

P.S. From afar, I’ve always admired your shapely dancing legs, and oh yes, your singing and acting too!!

Gumm link to RuCo

More about the Gumm and/or Gum linkage to the region: Liza was born in 1946 in California the daughter of the late Vincente Minelli and Judy Garland, who was born the daughter of Ethel and Frank Gumm after they had moved from Murfreesboro.

The family has spelled the name “Gum” or “Gumm” dating back to Virginia, depending on the clan.

Liza’s grandfather Frank Gumm’s Tennessee roots run deep, both in the Baugh and Gumm linkages, dating back to the late 1800s  when John Gumm and Mary Baugh were born and ultimately wed. They were young when William Techumseh Gumm, the first of seven young’ens, was born. When William married Clemmie Baugh, they moved into the Baugh’s home on East Main Street that remains a present-day residence.

Their son Frank was born in 1886 into relative wealth, but family economic times’ changed.

But as a teenage boy, Frank’s “fortunes” changed for the good when Murfreesboro’s wealthiest man, George Darrow, took an interest, and arranged for Frank to sing in the Episcopal Church.

Darrow eventually arranged for Frank to enroll at the University of the South, which seemed to fit Frank’s needs temporarily.

However, two years before graduation, Frank returned to Murfreesboro to work as a court stenographer by day. He performed at a theater owned by an uncle by night.

This return was probably brought on to help out in the Gumm family’s financial woes.

After Tullahoma, Frank’s route in life led to him to perform on stages throughout the U.S. before landing in Minnesota, where he met his wife-to-be, Ethel Milne.

From their union, Judy Gumm was born into the performing theater family.

As a young girl, Judy performed with The Gumm Sisters.

Judy Gumm Garland was destined to become an international entertainer and the mother of Liza, who like many in the Gumm family lineage, has achieved stardom in her own right.

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