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Almost Yesterday is a glimpse into the rich history of our region. Dr. Frank Nickell takes listeners on a journey to specific moments in time, such as the first radio broadcast on KFVS, the history of Farmington’s Carleton College, and the short-lived safari on a Mississippi River island. A gifted storyteller and local historian, Dr. Nickell’s wit and love for the past are combined with sounds and music that augment his narrative.On Saturday, June 7, 2008, Almost Yesterday received First Place in the "Special Programs" category at the Missouri Broadcasters Association Awards Banquet in Kansas City, Missouri.Almost Yesterday airs every Wednesday at 5:42 and 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Almost Yesterday: Salesman Drowns After Car Rolls Over

It seems like Almost Yesterday that a traveling salesman drowned in a drainage ditch along Highway 60 west of Sikeston, Missouri. The accident occurred at approximately 11:00 P. M., Friday night, May 17, 1946.

The 29 year old salesman from Chicago, William Blythe, had only recently been discharged from the military, where he participated in a number of significant European battles. The Manbee Equipment Company of Chicago was proud to have him return to their sales force.

In early 1946 Blythe purchased a small house in Chicago, and a used 1942 Buick sedan. As they could not move into the house for two months, Blythe sent his pregnant wife home to her family in Arkansas, and on May 15 left Chicago to retrieve his wife.

According to State Patrolman Eugene Harris, a tire blew out on Blythe’s car just west of Sikeston, and the car went off the road, rolled over twice, and ended in a drainage ditch. Coroner Orville Taylor concluded that Blythe received a mild blow to the head in the roll over, got out of the car, tried to climb the ditch bank, lost his footing, and fell backward into the murky water, and drowned.

Two hours after the accident John Lett and Chester Odom of Sikeston discovered Blythe’s body in three feet of water, a hand still grasping a sapling on the bank.

Blythe’s wife, Virginia, remained with her relatives in Hope, Arkansas until the August 19, 1946 birth of her son, “William Jefferson Blythe III.”  When he was four, William’s mother married Roger Clinton and gave young Billy Blythe the name, “William Jefferson Clinton,” – later the 42nd president of the United States. 

Frank Nickell is a retired history professor at Southeast Missouri State University.
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