Where did the baby name Jimalee come from?

Photo of Adlai Stevenson and Jimalee Burton in 1956.
Adlai Stevenson with Jimalee Burton (r)

The name Jimalee has appeared just once in the U.S. baby name data, in 1956:

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: 5 baby girls named Jimalee [debut]
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: unlisted

What put it there?

The answer seems to be an image that ran in newspapers nationwide in September of 1956. The image featured politician Adlai Stevenson — who’d just landed in Tulsa, Oklahoma — receiving “an Indian peace pipe” from a woman named Jimalee Burton.

Jimalee Burton, née Chitwood, was born in Oklahoma in 1891. She was an artist, poet, and musician who claimed to be of Cherokee descent. (I say “claimed” because, in various early records, she and her family members — parents James and Mary, and sister Maude — are all repeatedly classified as “white,” never as “Indian.”)

What are your thoughts on the name Jimalee? Would you use it?

Sources:

  • U.S. Census (1900 & 1910)
  • “Stevenson Presented Peace Pipe.” Daily News-Record [Harrisonburg, VA] 25 Sept. 1956: 1.
  • SSA

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