The Albritton plot thickens

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Byberry hospital

The running theme continues … Former Negro Leagues players whose final resting places remain a total mystery. Last week I looked at Delaware native Ed Stone, and in this post I’ll come back to Philadelphia’s Alexander Albritton, who was beaten to death in Byberry mental hospital in 1940, as detailed in this story I did for philly.com.

Albritton’s death certificate states that he’s buried in Eden Memorial Park in Collingdale, Penn. However, Eden staffer Mina Cockroft says that facility has no record of any Albritton whatsoever at any point in time, and she double-checked.
She then suggested I contact three other Philly-area cemeteries — Mt. Lawn in Sharon Hill, Mt. Zion in Collingdale and Merion Memorial Park in Bala Cynwynd.

I called all three, and the first two, Mt. Lawn and Mt. Zion, are like Eden — no Albritton’s anywhere at any time.
However, Merion does have at least four Albrittons — Ralph in 1935, Leah in 1954, John in 1958 and Frances in 1998.

Now we could be on to something, because several of those names pop up in Census records as possible relatives of Alexander. Alex had a brother named John, who was born circa 1886), and he has children named Ralph (né about 1916) and Frances, born around 1930.

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But there’s a couple hitches regarding Merion Park. One, apparently the cemetery endured a fire in 1947 that destroyed many records of burials before that year.

Plus, an employee of Merion says that if a certain cemetery is listed on a death certificate — like Eden on Alexander’s record — 99 percent of the time, that is indeed where the person is. She said she’ll do a more detailed search for any Alexander Albritton, but she doesn’t expect to find him there.

That leaves a couple further options at tracking down where Alexander is. One is the funeral home that conducted the burial ceremonies and other events connected to his death and final resting place. The death certificate lists that as Black & White Funeral Home at 1410 S. 20th Street in Philadelphia.

Black & White no longer exists, but that address is still home to a mortuary — Mitchum Funeral Home. However, I’ve left multiple messages there and have yet to receive a call back.

Which winnows the possibilities down to a single one — living residents or descendants of Alexander Albritton. Unfortunately, according to a surviving family remember related by marriage all children and grandchildren of Alexander and his wife, Marie, have passed away. In addition, this relative says the Albritton family never discussed either Alexander’s career in baseball or his tragic death at Byberry.

As a side note, it should be noted that I took a flyer and gave the Pennsylvania state hospitals administration to see if staffers there could be of any help in this matter, and of course these bureaucrats refused to provide any.

“I can’t give out that information,” one nudnik told me. “Nobody can answer any questions about any case. We might permission to even look up the records.”
Sooooooo … there we are.

As a tangent to this conversation, I found out a little big about the lives of Alexander and Marie’s children, and it’s by and large not a pretty picture. In 1938, a 22-year-old man named Joseph Albritton was arrested for fatally shooting a former friend in the head after the former was reportedly beaten and robbed after a “numbers” game went bad at a tap room.
Census records confirm that Joseph Albritton was indeed the son of Alexander and Marie.

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Alexander Albritton and family in the Census

But Joseph wasn’t the only Albritton offspring who ran into legal trouble. In 1966, Alex and Marie’s daughter, then-37-year-old Frances “Goldie” Albritton, a factory worker, allegedly shot to death — and here a sad pattern develops — a former friend in a bar.

Even one bright spot in the Albritton family tree appears to have been snuffed out tragically. Victor Alexander Albritton, Alexander and Marie’s son, was an active duty Marine Corps sergeant who married Janice Crawford in 1948 at the age of 40. However, Victor died five years later at the much-too-young age of 45.

So, all in all, the Albritton saga is just a depressing one all the way around. I’ll keep trying to track down Alexander’s burial site, but at this point I’m not very optimistic, and that’s just very disheartening … Yet another Negro Leaguer, and his family, lost in a cloudy haze of tragedy.

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