Lewis Frank Yokum was born on the outskirts of Walnut Grove, Missouri on March 17, 1893. He was the youngest of several sons of John "Jack" Yokum and Fannie (Greenewade) Yokum. (One sibling, Joseph Yoakum, became a well-known artist in the 1960s and 1970s, as explained later.) Frank spent his early years living in and around Cave Springs, within a few miles of Ash Grove. In 1903, Frank's father was killed by gunshot in Walnut Grove, during a conflict between Frank's older brother Charles and a local white man, Arthur Pitman. By 1910, Frank was living near Ash Grove with several siblings and his mother and working for the Ash Grove Lime and Portland Cement Company. During World War I, Frank served briefly in the 164th Depot Brigade, from June 20 to October 31, 1918. His civilian profession, as listed on his discharge record, was nailing barrels, which suggests that he had previously worked in the cooperage of the Ash Grove Lime and Portland Cement company. Sometime before 1920, Frank married Effie Reaves and they had a son, William Lloyd Yokum. In 1920, Frank was still working for Ash Grove Lime, reportedly at the lime kilns. In 1922, Frank played a season of professional baseball with the Kansas City Monarchs, in the Negro Leagues. Frank played pitcher and was talented enough to earn the moniker of “Fireball Yokum”. After his brief stint with the Monarchs, Frank returned to Ash Grove and the lime company, where he was working as "lime burner" in 1930. By this time, Frank, his wife, and their son lived in a house on one end of the property that his mother-in-law Cassie Reaves had purchased in 1911 on the west side of Ash Grove. Frank lived with his wife and son in their home in Ash Grove until his death of cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 72 on February 14, 1966 (Russel 2012). The death certificate states that Frank Yokum was interred in the "Berry Cemetery near Ash Grove, MO" on February 17, 1966.
Grave Marker: The grave marker for Frank Yokum is a flat, rectangular, military issue monument. The monument bears an inscribed image of a cross within a circle and inscribed text commemorating Frank's military service during World War I. The marker is 8 x 9 x 2 inches in size.
Upper face of monument
LEWIS FRANK YOKUM MISSOURI PVT 3 CO 164 DEPOT BRIGADE WORLD WAR I MARCH 17 1893 FEB 14 1966
Frank's older brother Joseph Elmer Yokum (or "Yoakum") became a well-known outsider artist after he was "discovered" in the 1960s by faculty at the Art Institute of Chicago. The brothers were close in age, both worked for the Ash Grove Lime and Portland Cement Company, and both served overseas in the first World War. Joseph Yokum's works include drawings of locations in and around Ash Grove, including the limestone quarry and lime kilns where the brothers labored. Joseph Yoakum died in 1972, and since that time his work has become increasingly renowned. For example, the Chicago Art Institute produced an exhibit of Yoakum's work that was shown at three major museums including the Museum of Modern Art in 2021 and 2022.
Berry Family, Ash Grove, MO; Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum; Dept. of Sociology, Anthropology, and Gerontology, Reynolds College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, Missouri State University