Where did the baby names Juandalynn and Donzaleigh come from in 1970?

Donzaleigh and Juandalynn Abernathy with parents (Ralph and Juanita) and brother (Ralph), circa 1969
Donzaleigh and Juandalynn Abernathy with family

The names Donzaleigh and Juandalynn were both one-hit wonders in the U.S. baby name data in 1970:

Girls named JuandalynnGirls named Donzaleigh

Where did they come from?

Juandalynn and Donzaleigh Abernathy — the daughters of civil rights activist and Baptist minister Ralph Abernathy (1926-1990).

Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr., co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the late 1950s, following the Montgomery bus boycott (which they helped organize). King was the first president of the SCLC, but Abernathy assumed the role after King was assassinated in April of 1968.

In 1969 and 1970 — when Abernathy was in the spotlight as the new SCLC president — African American magazines like Jet and Ebony ran photos of the Abernathy family, which included Ralph, his wife Juanita, and their middle three children:

  • Juandalynn Ralpheda (b. 1954)
  • Donzaleigh Avis (b. 1957)
  • Ralph David III (b. 1959)

(Their oldest, Ralph David Jr., had died two days after birth in 1953. Their youngest, Kwame Luthuli, wasn’t born until the early 1970s.)

Juandalynn’s first and middle names were clearly inspired by her parents’ names, but I don’t know how Donzaleigh’s name was coined.

What are your thoughts on the names Juandalynn and Donzaleigh? Which one do you like more?


Image: © 1970 Ebony

What gave the baby name Fitzhugh a boost in 1898?

Politician Fitzhugh Lee (1835-1905)
Fitzhugh Lee

The surname Fitzhugh saw peak usage as a first name in the U.S. in 1898, according to the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1900: 9 baby boys named Fitzhugh
  • 1899: 6 baby boys named Fitzhugh
  • 1898: 28 baby boys named Fitzhugh (peak usage)
  • 1897: 6 baby boys named Fitzhugh
  • 1896: unlisted

Many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, though, so the earliest decades of the SSA data tend to under-count actual usage. Data from the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) — which reveals a similar spike in 1898 — suggests that the overall popularity of Fitzhugh was a bit higher during that era:

  • 1900: 20 people named Fitzhugh
  • 1899: 30 people named Fitzhugh
  • 1898: 152 people named Fitzhugh
  • 1897: 24 people named Fitzhugh
  • 1896: 14 people named Fitzhugh

So what was drawing attention to the name Fitzhugh in 1898 specifically?

A diplomat named Fitzhugh Lee.

Fitzhugh Lee — like his uncle, Robert E. Lee — served as a Confederate general during the Civil War. Several decades later, he served as the governor of Virginia (1886-1890). Despite these high-profile roles, it wasn’t until later in his life that “he became a national hero.”

In 1896, Lee was was appointed U.S. Consul General in Havana by president Grover Cleveland.

His unabashed and well-publicized support of Cuban independence and “his vigorous defense of American citizens and business interests on the island” did not endear him to Cuba’s Spanish rulers, but did make him very popular at home.

Fitzhugh Lee newspaper illustration (April 1898)
Newspaper illustration of Lee

In February of 1898, the USS Maine exploded (under mysterious circumstances) in Havana Harbor. Fitzhugh Lee finally left the island on April 9. He was the last American to evacuate before the U.S. declared war on Spain on April 25.

The reception of General Lee, upon his return from Havana, was a spontaneous popular endorsement of his services in Cuba, and a splendid tribute to his worth and ability as a man and an American. His progress from Key West to Washington was an almost continuous ovation. All along the route the people by thousands greeted him at each stopping place, and showered upon him their congratulations and tokens of admiration.

What are your thoughts on the name Fitzhugh?


Where did the baby name Xavion come from in 1985?

Xavion's single "Eat Your Heart Out" (1984)
Xavion single

Baby names that start with Xav– may be trendy right now, but they weren’t trendy back in the mid-1980s, when the name Xavion suddenly popped up in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1987: unlisted
  • 1986: unlisted
  • 1985: 13 baby boys named Xavion [debut]
  • 1984: unlisted
  • 1983: unlisted

What put it there?

A Memphis-based rock/funk band called Xavion, which was apparently the first African-American rock group to be featured on MTV.

(An article about MTV programming in a late 1984 issue of Billboard magazine mentioned Xavion in a paragraph about “breakout” acts along with Bad Manners, Dokken, Grim Reaper, Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, and Zebra.)

The band is best remembered for two singles: “Eat Your Heart Out” (which almost reached the Hot 100 chart in September of 1984) and “Get Me Hot” (which reached #72 on the Hot Black Singles chart in January of 1985).

What are your thoughts on the name Xavion?

P.S. Xavion’s lead singer, Dexter Haygood, was a contestant on the first season of (the American version of) The X Factor in 2011.


Where did the baby name Kennan come from in 1952?

American diplomat George F. Kennan (1904-2005)
George F. Kennan

The name Kennan popped up in the U.S. baby name data for the first time 1952:

  • 1954: 11 baby boys named Kennan
  • 1953: 6 baby boys named Kennan
  • 1952: 8 baby boys named Kennan [debut]
  • 1951: unlisted
  • 1950: unlisted

If there’s a reason — and typically there’s a reason — my guess is George F. Kennan, the Russian-speaking diplomat nominated by President Truman in February of 1952 to be the U.S. Ambassador to the USSR.

He started the job in May, but didn’t last long.

Why? Because, in mid-September, while addressing the press in Berlin, Kennan “compared life in the Moscow Embassy with his internment by the Nazis at Bad Nauheim.”

Stalin wasn’t pleased.

In early October, the USSR accused Kennan of making “slanderous attacks hostile to the Soviet Union in a rude violation of generally recognized norms of international law.” He was declared a persona non grata and refused re-admittance into the country.

George Kennan making headlines throughout the year — not to mention the similarity of his surname to the then-trendy baby names Kenneth and Kevin — is likely what influenced a handful of expectant parents to name their sons Kennan in 1952.

What are your thoughts on Kennan as a first name?

P.S. Keenan’s father had a cool name: Kossuth Kent Kennan. He was born in Milwaukee in 1851, the year Hungarian freedom fighter Lajos Kossuth visited the city during a tour of the United States. (Lajos is the Hungarian form of Louis.)

P.P.S. In March of 1967, George Kennan was asked “to go to Switzerland on a secret mission to establish the bona fides of a woman who had defected from the Soviet Union and claimed to be the daughter of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.” The next month, news broke of Svetlana’s defection to the U.S.


Image: George F. Kennan (LOC)