Miriam filled him in on the family history from the Hutchins side.
Seeing that Bill, 75, was overwhelmed by the revelation, Miriam decided to ease him into the fold. On June 30, she and two of her sisters drove to Park Forest to meet Bill and Marty.
“The meeting could not have been better,” she said. “We had a wonderful time.”
Without saying a word, Bill reminded her of her grandfather, the Rev. Tobias Hutchins, former pastor at the Second Baptist Church and the Union Baptist Church, both in Danville.
Miriam said she noticed that Bill displays the same sincerity and kindness that defined previous Hutchins patriarchs.
Meeting the clan
Having broken the ice, they decided Bill and Marty should meet the entire Hutchins clan in Danville in October.
“They met a host of new faces — several generations of Hutchins who were eager to exchange family stories and strengthen new bonds,” Miriam said.
Bill, who was raised by his grandparents, is used to a quiet life. So, meeting the local relatives was quite a jolt.
“I was surprised at the size and vitality of the family,” he said. “My Danville relatives are so alive and so kind — I could have benefited from this kind of relationship and family (while growing up). I would probably be a better person for it.”
Bill also was impressed with the youngest relatives, describing the children as respectful and nice, and adding, “I was very happy to see it.”
Bill also learned that the Hutchins side of the family is very diverse — with Mexican, African-American, Indian and Caucasian blood.
In addition, he learned that his Danville lineage has historical significance.
The Hutchins family tree includes Bill’s cousin, Jan Hutchins, a Danville native who graduated from Yale University and became mayor of Los Gatos, Calif.; Tobias Hutchins, the brother of Bill’s grandfather, who gave a eulogy for President Abraham Lincoln’s favorite servant and was cited in Bobby Short’s book as coming to Danville “like a blast of dynamite”; and historian Fred L. Hutchins, another brother of Bill’s grandfather, who’s honored with a special day in Memphis, Tenn., each year.