Independent baby name blog & directory, est. 2006.
How popular is the baby name Tom in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Tom and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Tom.
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Next Sunday in Rio de Janeiro, 30-year-old identical (and alliterative) triplets Leila, Liina, and Lily Luik of Estonia are expected to run the women’s marathon. This will make the “Trio in Rio,” as they call themselves, the first set of triplets to compete in an Olympics.
In comparison, about 200 sets of twins have competed in the Olympics over the years. Here are some of the Olympic twins with similarly alliterative names:
Åke & Arne (Sweden) [not technically alliterative; see JJ’s comment]
A few weeks ago I posted about the baby names Silver and Free Silver, which were bestowed by bimetallism buffs in the 1890s.
Decades later, in the 1930s, Canadian writer Silver Donald Cameron was born.
His name had nothing to do with monetary standards, though. He wasn’t even born a “Silver.” He was simply Donald Cameron until the early 1970s, when he decided to adopt the name Silver to set himself apart from all the other Canadian men named Donald Cameron.
How did he come up with Silver? He didn’t. A friend gave it to him:
“Lard Jasus, b’y,” said folk-singer Tom Gallant, “you need a proper Cape Breton nickname.” I know what he means: Black John MacDonald as distinguished from John The Piper MacDonald and Gimpy John MacDonald and John By-The-Church MacDonald. What are my own characteristics? I’m short: what about Donald The Runt? Or Brief Donald? No, no dignity: if he had called himself Clubfoot George would we remember Lord Byron?
Tom struck a chord in his Yamaha, gazed at me. “That hair,” he said. It’s my most striking feature, prematurely grey hair, set off by black eyebrows and moustache. Don’t ask me how I got that color scheme, ask God: He did it. Children stop me in the street to ask me if I’m wearing a wig. Adults chalk it up to noxious personal habits and secret vices.
“That hair,” said Tom. “That’s it. Silver Donald Cameron.”
Cameron refers to himself as “Silver Donald” all over his website, awesomely.
Nicknames have been a tradition on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, for hundreds of years. They’re particularly popular among the coal miners, and tend to fall into several broad categories: place names, occupational names, patronymics, physical features, and personality traits.
Other nicknames based on physical features don’t tend to be as complimentary as “Silver.” They include “Buffalo Head,” “Potato Nose,” “Saucer Eyes,” “Popeye,” and “Bandy Legs.”
“Alex the Clock” had one arm that was shorter than the other. “Waterloo Dan” had backed into a hot stove in his youth and thereafter sported the brand “Waterloo No. 2” (written backwards) on his bum.
People don’t get to choose their own nicknames on Cape Breton, but let’s pretend for a moment that you live there and you get to choose yours. What would it be?
When a major celebrity chooses an uncommon baby name, there’s a good chance that name will become trendy.
Seems like this might be a modern phenomenon, right? Maybe tied to the rise of the Internet?
Nope. In fact, I bet you’ll be surprised at just how far back it goes.
Let’s take a look at celebrity baby names through the decades, focusing on those that inspired debuts on the SSA’s baby name list. (To debut, a rare names needs to be given to at least 5 babies of one gender or the other in a single year.)
Which baby name was the very first to debut on the charts thanks to a celebrity baby?
The answer depends on how strict you want to be about spelling.
If you exact-spelling debuts are what you want, the first I know of doesn’t appear until the late ’40s.
If variant-spelling debuts are okay, though, there’s a celebrity baby name from the early ’40s that inspired at whopping six of them:
In October of 1941, actor/comedian George Jessel (43 years old) and showgirl Lois Andrews (17) welcomed a baby girl named Jerilyn.
The name Jerilyn itself had already been on the list for a few years, but usage rose significantly in both 1941 and 1942:
1943: 182 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 558th]
1942: 325 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 397th]
1941: 135 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 608th]
1940: 10 baby girls named Jerilyn
The popularity of similar names like Jerrilyn and Jerelyn also increased, and six other variants appeared on the national list for the very first time in either 1941 or 1942 (asterisks denote debuts):
I was skeptical about this one for a while, as I’d never heard of George Jessel before. Was he really high-profile enough for his baby to have that sort influence? Turns out he was indeed a popular entertainer from the ’20s until at least the ’50s. He’s the one responsible for the “Garland” part of Judy Garland’s stage name, and some sources even claim he invented the Bloody Mary.
Even more variants of Jerilyn (e.g., Gerilynn) debuted during the ’40s and early ’50s, when young Jerilyn was being mentioned in newspaper articles and appearing on TV and in films with her father. Here’s a fundraising film from 1953, for instance, featuring both George and Jerilyn.
Jerilyn Jessel’s influence on the U.S baby names was impressive, but, technically speaking, she didn’t put “Jerilyn” on the map.
The first exact-spelling celebrity baby name debut was Yasmin, which appeared on the list in 1949.
In December of 1949, actor Rita Hayworth and her husband Prince Aly Khan welcomed a baby girl named Yasmin. The same year, the baby name Yasmin appeared on the SSA’s list for the very first time.
(The name Yasmin was late addition to the post. Thank you, Becca!)
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1950s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In October of 1951, actors Tyrone Power and Linda Christian welcomed a baby girl named Romina. The same year, the baby name Romina appeared on the SSA’s list for the very first time.
In September of 1953, Power and Christian welcomed their second baby girl, Taryn, whose name was likely inspired by “Tyrone.” The same year, the baby name Taryn debuted on the list.
In November of 1956, boxer Floyd Patterson and his wife Sandra welcomed a baby girl named Seneca. The same year, the traditionally male name Seneca debuted on the list as a female name. Patterson said the name was inspired by a street sign.
In October of 1958, actor/singer Rosemary Clooney and actor José Ferrer welcomed a baby girl named Monsita — their fifth child. The same year, Monsita debuted. It fell off the list the very next year, though, making it a one-hit wonder.
Honorable mentions from the ’50s include:
Liza, which became more popular after Liz Taylor named her daughter Liza in 1957.
Tyrone, which became more popular after Tyrone Power named his third child Tyrone in 1959. The increased usage could also have been influenced by the death of the actor himself the same year, though.
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1960s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In September of 1961, singer of Nat King Cole and his wife Maria welcomed identical twin baby girls named Timolin and Casey. The same year, the baby name Timolin debuted on the list.
In September of 1965, actor/director John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands welcomed a baby girl named Alexandra “Xan” Cassavetes. The same year, the baby name Xan debuted on the list.
In June of 1968, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed a baby girl named Maryum. The same year, the baby name Maryum debuted on the list.
In March of 1969, singers Cher and Sonny Bono, welcomed a baby girl named Chastity. The same year, the baby name Chastity debuted on the list. In May of 2010, Chastity legally changed genders and adopted the name Chaz.
At least eight of the baby names that debuted during the 1970s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 1970, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed twin baby girls named Rasheda and Jamillah. The same year, the baby name Rasheda debuted on the list.
(An Ebony article from 1971 misspelled her name “Reeshemah.” The same year, there was a spike in the usage of Reeshemah and a dip in the usage of Rasheda.)
In 1971, comedian/activist Dick Gregory and his wife Lillian welcomed a baby girl named Ayanna. The same year, the baby name Ayanna debuted on the list.
In July of 1973, Dick Gregory and Lillian welcomed a baby boy named Yohance. The same year, the baby name Yohance debuted on the list.
In March of 1974, musician/producer Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton welcomed a baby girl named Kidada. The same year, the baby name Kidada debuted on the list.
In August of 1975, singer Tito Jackson (of The Jackson 5) and his wife Dee Dee welcomed a baby boy named Taryll. The same year, the baby name Taryll debuted on the list.
In April of 1975, singer Mary Wilson (of The Supremes) and her husband Pedro welcomed a baby girl named Turkessa. The same year, the baby name Turkessa debuted on the list. Turkessa was just 3 babies away from being the top baby name debut of the year. Here’s how Mary came up with the name:
Pedro brought me a beautiful plant. I asked him was it was called. “Turquesa,” he replied, “Spanish for turquoise.” So we named our daughter Turkessa.
In November of 1975, singer Diana Ross (also of The Supremes) and her husband Robert welcomed a baby girl named Chudney. The next year, the baby name Chudney debuted on the list. Here’s how Diana came up with the name:
Friends kept suggesting popular names like Courtney, but so many girl babies were getting that. I suddenly thought of something I liked very much — chutney. Only I didn’t know how to spell it — I put a ‘d’ where the ‘t’ should have been on the birth certificate. And that’s how my little girl became Chudney!
In 1978, Puerto Rican dancer/singer Iris Chacón and her husband Junno welcomed a baby girl named Katiria. The same year, the baby name Katiria debuted on the list. Most of these babies were born in New York.
At least three of the baby names that debuted during the 1980s were inspired by celebrity babies, and at least one was inspired by a celebrity grandbaby:
In September of 1984, singer Gladys Knight didn’t have a baby, but her son James (b. 1962) and his wife Michelene did. They welcomed a boy named Rishawn. The next year, the baby name Rishawn debuted on the list.
In November of 1986, football player Willie Gault and his wife Dainnese welcomed a baby girl named Shakari. The next year, the baby name Shakari debuted on the list.
I wrote about Condola a few months ago, but here’s a recap: In December of 1986, actress Phylicia Rashad and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad welcomed a baby girl named Condola. The next year, the baby name Condola debuted on the list.
In December of 1987, filmmaker/actor Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow welcomed a baby boy named Satchel. The next year, the baby name Satchel debuted on the list. He now goes by Ronan, and rumor has it that he is *possibly* the biological son of Frank Sinatra.
At least three of the baby names the debuted during the 1990s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In July of 1991, actors Demi Moore and Bruce Willis welcomed a baby girl named Scout. (And in August, that famous image of 7-months-pregnant Demi ran on the cover of Vanity Fair.) The next year, the baby name Scout debuted on the list, for both genders.
In February of 1995, actor Michael J. Fox and his wife Tracy welcomed twin baby girls named Aquinnah and Schuyler. The same year, the baby name Aquinnah debuted on the list. (I wrote more about the name Aquinnah a few years ago.)
In July of 1998, model Christie Brinkley and her husband Peter welcomed a baby girl named Sailor. The same year, the baby name Sailor debuted on the list as a girl name. It had debuted as a boy name the year before.
Honorable mentions from the ’90s include:
Seven, which became more popular after Erykah Badu named her son Seven in 1997.
Zion, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her son Zion in 1997.
Selah, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her daughter Selah in 1998.
At least five of the baby names that debuted during the 2000s (the decade) were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 2001, singer Shania Twain and her husband Robert welcomed a baby boy named Eja. The same year, the baby name Eja debuted on the list (as a girl name).
In August of 2001, actors Tisha Campbell-Martin and Duane Martin welcomed a baby boy named Xen. The same year, the baby name Xen debuted on the list.
In March of 2003, singer Toni Braxton and musician Keri Lewis welcomed a baby boy named Diezel. The same year, the baby name Diezel debuted on the list.
In June of 2005, magician Penn Jillette and his wife Emily welcomed a baby girl named Moxie (middle name CrimeFighter). The next year, the baby name Moxie debuted on the list.
In September of 2006, model Anna Nicole Smith and her partner Larry Birkhead welcomed a baby girl named Dannielynn. The next year, the baby name Dannielynn debuted on the list.
Honorable mentions from the ’00s include:
Massai, which became more popular after Nia Long named her son Massai in 2000.
Rocco, which became more popular after Madonna and Guy Ritchie named their son Rocco in 2000.
Denim, which became more popular after Toni Braxton named her son Denim in 2001.
Maddox, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted son Maddox in 2002.
Carys, which became more popular after Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas named their daughter Carys in 2003.
Stellan, which became more popular after Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany named their son Stellan in 2003.
Apple, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their daughter Apple in 2004.
Coco, which became more popular after Courtney Cox and David Arquette named their daughter Coco in 2004.
Zahara, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted daughter Zahara in 2005.
Moses, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their son Moses in 2006.
Kingston, which became more popular after Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale named their son Kingston in 2006.
Suri, which became more popular after Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes named their daughter Suri in 2006.
Shiloh, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their daughter Shiloh in 2006.
Pax, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their adopted son Pax in 2007.
Harlow, which became more popular after Nicole Richie and Joel Madden named their daughter Harlow in 2008.
Knox & Vivienne, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their twins Knox and Vivienne in 2008.
Honor, which became more popular after Jessica Alba named her daughter Honor in 2008.
Nahla, which became more popular after Halle Berry named her daughter Nahla in 2008.
Bronx, which became more popular after Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz named their son Bronx in 2008.
From the movie Bridesmaids, bridesmaid Annie (played by Kristen Wiig) being kicked out of first class by flight attendant Steve:
Annie: Whatever you say, Stove.
Steve: It’s Steve.
Annie: “Stove” — what kinda name is that?
Steve: That’s not a name. My name is Steve.
Annie: Are you an appliance?
Steve: No I’m a man, and my name is Steve.
The report [from the Central Bureau of Statistics] also noted that in 2012 only 36 boys were given the name Ovadia. However, following the death of spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in 2013, 117 babies were given this name and in 2014, 209 newborns were named after the rabbi.
Basically, the katakana names given to baby girls born prior to the 1900s were a result of gender discrimination. The ability to read was not prevalent amongst the poor of that time period, so many families would pay a scholar to help them decide on a splendid name in meaningful kanji for their sons. However, that same measure was almost never taken for daughters. […] Only girls belonging to the most wealthy and noble families, such as the daughters of samurai, would be given names in kanji as an indication of their status.
But more offbeat names can pose problems. How about the Rooneys’ Kai? Kai means ‘pier’ in Estonian, ‘probably’ in Finnish, ‘ocean’ in Hawaiian and Japanese, ‘willow tree’ in the native American language of Navajo, and ‘stop it’ in Yoruba.
And Suri, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ daughter, means ‘pickpocket’ in Japanese, ‘turned sour’ in French and ‘horse mackerels’ in Italian.
Arabic, as a spoken language and written text, is something the Western gaze is enamored by, but also terrified of. A quick Google search renders a flood of results about the popularity of Arabic in the non-Arab world. From warnings of things to keep in mind so you don’t end up with a failed Arabic tattoo to white mothers seeking out trendy Arabic baby names, there are numerous examples of how Arabic is made palatable to the white gaze. At the same time, you will find horror stories of students detained for carrying flashcards and study materials in Arabic on a plane, or of a Brooklyn father stabbed by two teenagers who overheard him speaking in Arabic while walking home with his wife and 8-year-old son.
I have a non-trendy classic name which is still reasonably popular, and not only has it failed to provide me with a magically charmed life where nothing ever went wrong, its impact has been minimal at best. Meanwhile, my peers with the trendy names of our generation, such as Jodi and Jason, don’t seem to have had their lives ruined by their names.
I am a Showa-born man, and here’s my pet peeve: This year, only three girl names ending with “ko” made the top 100 list. Back when I was a schoolboy, the mimeographed list of the names of kids in my class was full of girl names ending with “ko.”
Shigehiko Toyama, a scholar of English literature, once recalled this episode: One day, he received a letter from an American person he had never met, and the envelope was addressed to “Miss Shigehiko Toyama.” He understood the reason immediately. This American had some knowledge of things Japanese, and must have presumed Toyama was a woman because his given name ends with “ko.” An episode such as this is now part of ancient history.
From The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (2003) By Elizabeth Crawford:
Lamb, Aeta Adelaide (1886-1928) Born in Demerara, where her father was a botanist; she was named Aeta after a palm he had discovered there.
Demerara was a colony in British Guiana, and aeta (or æta) palm refers to Mauritia flexuosa, a South American palm tree.
Want to see more quotes like these? Check out the name quotes category.
In the girls’ top 10, Lena replaces Fien (short for Jozefien, the Dutch form of Josephine). In the boys’ top 10, Seppe and Jules replace Lars and Alexander.
I would have guessed that Seppe was a diminutive of Joseph (akin to the German name Sepp). According to a Behind the Name contributor, though, Seppe is a West Frisian name that can be traced back to Sibe, a “Frisian short form of masculine names that have sigu or sigis for a first element” and a second element begins with the letter b (e.g., Sibald, Sibert).
About 32% of Belgians live in the southern region, Wallonia, where the official language is French (and, in some areas, German). Here are the top 10 baby names for Wallonia:
In the girls’ top 10, Malak and Anna replace Ines and Louise. In the boy’s top 10, Amir, Lucas and Yanis replace Ayoub, Nathan and Anas.
Morocco World News notes that “heavy immigration from Morocco and other Muslim countries has left its traces, as Mohamed has been the most common male name in the Brussels Region recently.” Mohamed was the #1 boy name in Brussels from the late 1990s until 2011, in fact. And the same wave of immigration has given a big boost to many other Arabic names (Amir, Bilal, Hamza, Imran, Malak, Nour, Rayan, Yousra, etc.) within the last few decades.
Q: People love to pass judgment on baby names — everyone has an opinion. Your daughter Rainbow has an unusual name; did you have to deal with a lot of judgment there?
A: Oh, yeah. I got flooded with stupid commentary on social media. It’s definitely a unique name. I like unique names and I wouldn’t have picked it if were common. But, growing up, there was a girl in my class named Rainbow. I grew up in Oregon, where a lot of hippies went to start families. There was a girl at school named Rainbow, and I was so jealous and I wanted it to be my name. So it’s definitely unusual, but it’s a name. It’s not like I called her Coffee Table. People love to say, “That’s a stripper name.” But I’ve spent a lot of time in Vegas and strippers aren’t named Rainbow. They’re named Amber, Crystal and Jessica.
Joady Guthrie was named for Tom Joad, the hero of John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” because his father, himself a political activist and an Oklahoman, or “Okie,” was sympathetic to the plight of 1930s farmers of the Great Depression. Many of Woody Guthrie’s songs championed Dust Bowl migrant workers and working people.
The seven-week-old two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus), born to second-time parents Marilyn and Leander, needed a helping hand when his mum stopped producing milk, and was unable to care for her infant.
Keepers have named the young male Edward after Johnny Depp’s famous character, Edward Scissorhands, due to his impressive claws – which will grow up to four inches in length and enable him to cling on and climb easily through the tree-top branches of his Rainforest Life home.
The truth is that the obsession with word magic and names is a primitive one, inherently irrational. Names are notional. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet–or as rancid, depending; a mountain by its older name is just as tall. Yet the desire to remedy the wrongs of the past by righting our nomenclature is a deep one, and it burns on. Word magic it may be, and no more than that, but we believe in magic, and we think in words.
Nothing depends on names. The rock will not get an inch taller or shorter or changed in nature depending on what we call it. If Ohioans want to keep calling it Mount McKinley, let them, and let them take a place of pride along with those who are fighting to keep Pluto called a planet. We are not slaves of our tongues. But we are citizens of our languages. Choosing names is a way of expressing emotions. The things of this world can exist with as many names as we choose to give them, and the biggest among them can take on many identities without getting any smaller.
Erfolgswelle [a baby-naming company in Switzerland] has a business not just because there are people in the world with $31,000 lying around to finance its services, but because there can be a game-theory component to baby-naming. While some parents choose traditional names for their kids, and many others choose family names, and many others choose names that have been lifted from pop culture…many other new parents seek unusual names that, they hope, will help their kids stand out rather than fit in. As the sociologist Philip Cohen put it, exploring the precipitous decline of the name Mary in recent years, “Conformity to tradition has been replaced by conformity to individuality.”
(Thank you to commenter Pernille for making sure I saw this one!)
Mr. Pinckney’s late mother, Theopia Stevenson Aikens, was a baseball fan who named her son after Roberto Clemente, the Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star, who had died in a plane crash seven months earlier while delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, family members said. His last name, one of the most stories in South Carolina politics, is that of a pair of white slaveholding cousins who signed the United States Constitution.
From a comment about Vietnamese names by reader Pham Quang Vinh in Viet Nam News:
Vietnamese address other compatriots by their first name, not by their family name like other peoples in the world and always call it in Vietnamese way, which means they will pronounce the last syllable of the longer full name for addressing that person.
For example, if a person is named Nguyen Manchester United, everybody will know he comes from the Nguyen family and no matter what follows Nguyen, including a middle name or addressed name or not, it must be translated and spoken in Vietnamese way and will become something like man-chet-to-diu-nai-tit, so, people will call him Tit.
Nobody cares about what lies before the “Tit” in his full name. If he is stopped by a policeman on the street, he would be called “Anh (Brother) Tit” or “Ong (Mister) Tit.”
That headline makes me squirm a little, but it’s true: I’ve found a handful of baby names on the SSA’s list inspired by racists.
Racist politicians, to be specific.
Decades ago, these demagogues used race‑baiting as a way to win elections in the former Confederate states — the same states that have only recently started to pull down their Confederate flags in the wake of last month’s horrific Charleston church shooting.
In fact, the ongoing Confederate flag controversy is what reminded me to finally post about these names, as the names (just like the flag) can be seen as symbols of either “racism” or “southern pride” depending on your point of view.
(Please note that the SSA data below refers only to male usage, and that I’ve only included state data that refers to the state in question.)
White supremacist Coleman “Coley” Blease was a politician from South Carolina:
U.S. Senator from South Carolina, 1925-1931
South Carolina Governor, 1911-1915
South Carolina Senator, 1907-1909
South Carolina Representative, 1890-1894, 1899-1901
Here’s part of an article about a speech Blease delivered regarding the lynching of Willis Jackson in 1911:
“[Blease] stated that rather than use the office of governor in ordering out troops to defend a negro brute and require those troops to fire on white citizens, he would resign from the office to which he had been elected, and would have caught the train to Honea Path and led the mob.”
Of all the men listed here, Blease (rhymes with “please”) had the biggest impact on baby names, including not one but two SSA debuts. I’d call this impressive if it weren’t so disturbing.
The baby names Colie and Blease both debuted in 1911. Colie was the top debut on the national list that year, in fact. The names Coley, Cole, and Coleman also started seeing more usage in South Carolina around that time.
13 (9 in SC)
19 (5 in SC)
19 (6 in SC)
110 (8 in SC)
9 (8 in SC)
22 (13 in SC)
18 (7 in SC)
25 (10 in SC)
120 (10 in SC)
15 (14 in SC)
21 (12 in SC)
21 (7 in SC)
26 (13 in SC)
116 (8 in SC)
17 (15 in SC)
18 (15 in SC)
23 (10 in SC)
23 (12 in SC)
102 (12 in SC)
15 (14 in SC)
16 (8 in SC)
15 (6 in SC)
19 (9 in SC)
75 (5 in SC)
20 (19 in SC)
23 (21 in SC)
19 (9 in SC)
23 (11 in SC)
69 (15 in SC)
12 (all 12 in SC)
16** (8 in SC)
9 (7 in SC)
8** (all 8 in SC)
40 (6 in SC)
**Debut on national list.
And, just to be thorough, here’s the SSDI data for these five names over the same time period. (As usual I’m only counting first names here, not middles.)
If you do want to count middle names, though, Blease was much more common than the above number suggest, as many people got first-middle combos such as…
Theodore G. Bilbo was a politician from Mississippi:
U.S. Senator from Mississippi, 1935-1947
Mississippi Governor, 1916-1920, 1928-1932
Mississippi Lt. Governor, 1912-1916
Mississippi State Senator, 1908-1912
Here’s a quote from Bilbo’s book Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, published in 1947:
“The South stands for blood, for the preservation of the blood of the white race. To preserve her blood, the white South must absolutely deny social equality to the Negro regardless of what his individual accomplishments might be. This is the premise — openly and frankly stated — upon which Southern policy is based.”
The baby name Bilbo appeared on the SSA’s list during the 1910s and 1920s, and almost all of these Bilbos were born in the state of Mississippi:
1916: 22 baby boys named Bilbo, 22 (100%) born in Mississippi
1915: 17 baby boys named Bilbo, 17 (100%) born in Mississippi
1914: 12 baby boys named Bilbo, 12 (100%) born in Mississippi
1913: 8 baby boys named Bilbo, 8 (100%) born in Mississippi
1912: 8 baby boys named Bilbo, 7 (88%) born in Mississippi
1911: 9 baby boys named Bilbo, all 9 (100%) born in Mississippi
1910: 7 baby boys named Bilbo [debut], 6 (86%) born in Mississippi [MS debut]
According to the SSA data, peak usage was in 1916. According to the SSDI data, though, it was in 1911, with 45 babies getting the first name Bilbo that year.
James K. Vardaman, a.k.a. the “Great White Chief,” was another politician from Mississippi:
U.S. Senator from Mississippi, 1913-1919
Mississippi Governor, 1904-1908
Mississippi Representative, 1890-1896
Here’s a quote from Vardaman (there were many to choose from, but this was the worst):
“If it is necessary every Negro in the state will be lynched; it will be done to maintain white supremacy.”
The rare baby name Vardaman is a 2-hit wonder that debuted in 1911:
1911: 8 baby boys named Vardaman [debut], 6 (75%) born in Mississippi [MS debut]
According to the SSA data, peak usage was in 1911. But according to the SSDI data there were two peaks: one in 1911 (16 babies with the first name Vardaman) and and earlier one in 1903 (20 babies with the first name Vardaman, including one with the full name Vardaman Vandevender).
J. Thomas “Cotton Tom” Heflin was a politician from Alabama:
U.S. Senator from Alabama, 1920-1931
U.S. Representative from Alabama, 1904-1920
Alabama Secretary of State, 1903-1904
Here’s a vignette about Heflin:
In 1908, while a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he had shot and seriously wounded a black man who confronted him on a Washington streetcar. Although indicted, Heflin succeeded in having the charges dismissed. In subsequent home-state campaigns, he cited that shooting as one of his major career accomplishments.
The baby name Heflin was another 2-hit wonder. It debuted 1920:
1920: 5 baby boys named Heflin [debut], 5 (100%) born in Alabama [AL debut]
According to [Hoke] Smith, it would be “folly for us to neglect any means within our reach to remove the present danger of Negro domination.” He also approved the use of “any means” to purge elected African American officeholders.
Usage of the baby name Hoke began to peter out mid-century, but during the first half of the century (when it was making the U.S. national list regularly) most of the baby boys named Hoke were born in Georgia specifically:
1916: 15 baby boys named Hoke, 9 (60%) born in Georgia
1915: 15 baby boys named Hoke, 10 (67%) born in Georgia
1914: 18 baby boys named Hoke, 11 (61%) born in Georgia
1913: 12 baby boys named Hoke, 7 (58%) born in Georgia
1912: 9 baby boys named Hoke, 8 (89%) born in Georgia
1911: 9 baby boys named Hoke, 8 (89%) born in Georgia
1910: 19 baby boys named Hoke, 16 (84%) born in Georgia [GA debut]
1909: 10 baby boys named Hoke, unlisted in Georgia
Some of these namesakes, like Hoke Smith Rawlins (b. 1931 in Georgia), got Smith as a middle name.
Murphy J. Foster was a politician from Louisiana:
U.S. Senator from Louisiana, 1901-1913
Louisiana Governor, 1892-1900
Louisiana State Senator, 1880-1892
Here’s Foster (as governor) talking about the disfranchisement of blacks under the newly approved Louisiana Constitution:
“The white supremacy for which we have so long struggled at the cost of so much precious blood and treasure is now crystallized into the Constitution as a fundamental part and parcel of that organic instrument […] There need be no longer any fear as to the honesty and purity of our future elections.”
For at least half of the 20th century (from the 1910s to the 1960s) a significant proportion of the U.S. baby boys named Murphy were born in Louisiana specifically:
1916: 69 baby boys named Murphy, 24 (35%) born in Louisiana
1915: 61 baby boys named Murphy, 36 (59%) born in Louisiana
1914: 51 baby boys named Murphy, 18 (35%) born in Louisiana
1913: 28 baby boys named Murphy, 8 (29%) born in Louisiana
1912: 41 baby boys named Murphy, 15 (37%) born in Louisiana
1911: 18 baby boys named Murphy, 9 (50%) born in Louisiana
1910: 14 baby boys named Murphy, 6 (43%) born in Louisiana [LA debut]
1909: 15 baby boys named Murphy, unlisted in Louisiana
…And the racist-inspired baby names don’t end there! Many other racist politicians from the South, even if they didn’t appreciably affect the baby name charts, still had an influence on baby names. Here are two examples:
Still other politicians, like 2-time Alabama Governor Bibb Graves, are borderline cases. Graves was a progressive politician, but he was initially elected with the help of the Klu Klux Klan, which he was a member of at the time (he later quit).
Finally, here’s the thing I’m most curious about: How did all of the namesakes accounted for above come to feel about their names in adulthood? Were they proud? Ashamed? A mix of both…?