Jimmie Lee was born in Mississippi and worked in the cotton fields. The photo at left was taken while she was on her way home from a day of work. Shortly thereafter, Jimmie Lee moved West with her common law minister/husband, Rev. Chris Greenwade.
While working as a restroom attendant at the Riverside Hotel in Reno, Nevada, she was approached by a patron who asked if she would be willing to adopt a yet-to-be-born, mixed race baby that needed a stable home. She agreed in order to get a tip from the woman, but eventually found herself in a predicament when the woman, Louise, a hair dresser from San Francisco, returned a few weeks later demanding that Jimmie Lee go to pick up the newborn baby who was waiting at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. After much heated discussion that disrupted the casino, and involved Chris Greenwade, Jimmie Lee agreed to the adoption. Chris Greenwade’s powerful explanation of this unique situation delayed some of Jimmie’s fear of raising a mixed race child.
Louise’s involvement stemmed from her friendship with Dorothy Barbe, Tamar’s mother. Louise was both her beautician and confidant and was known for her trips to the casinos in Nevada. Unbeknown to anyone, the unborn baby’s father was not named, but only described on the original birth certificate as being “Negro”.
The natural assumption at the time was that the baby would be dark skinned taking the dominant genes from the father. However, when the baby was born the skin color was milky white and the baby had blue eyes and blond hair, quite similar to her biological mother, Tamar.
As time passed, Fauna did not darken as expected and Jimmie never believed that she was what was then called “mulatto”. Fauna, on the other hand, never
doubted her documented racially mixed background and was determined to do what she could to fit into the only culture she knew. Growing up in a time when Civil Rights Legislation was merely background noise, she confronted racism from the white people she encountered for living with “Negroes” while at the same time experiencing distrust and contempt from the people in each of the black neighborhoods in which she resided with Jimmie Lee.
Jimmie Lee began a relationship with Homer Faison when Fauna was only about 3 or 4 years old. He worked at the Esquire Barbershop as a shoeshine man and they continued to raise
Fauna as her own, protecting her from harm, feeding, clothing and nourishing her until Fauna married at the age of 16 when she delivered her first daughter, Yvette. During these most important early years, Jimmie Lee knew that there was something special about her ward and provided only an occasional glimpse about her real mother, Tamar. When Fauna decided the time was right, she pursued her real mother to find out the true identity of her birth and why she was given away in the first place.
Throughout this difficult search, the relationship between Jimmie Lee and Fauna maintained its bond and in fact, grew stronger. After meeting Tamar for the first time, she knew that it was important to not give up Jimmie Lee as her “mother” and for the rest of Jimmie’s life, Fauna took special care to keep Jimmie Lee as close as possible.
Jimmie Lee was known for her strong personality and unusual care-giving skills. Her relationship with Homer Faison lasted until his death. For Fauna, he was the only father she ever knew.
Since Jimmie Lee’s death, Fauna has maintained her memory by telling a story that covers two decades of strife, heartache, comedy, omissions and mistakes, incest and murder, intrigue and bizarre behavior; but always with the purpose of overcoming the color barrier that she lived with from the day she was born.