From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Castleman, William Saffell Jr. "Will"

(born: 1888  -  died: 1953) 

Will Castleman was a bartender in Frankfort, KY in 1940 when he and his wife Christine lived on Wilkerson Street [source: 1940 U.S. Federal Census]. Will had a number of jobs during his life time but mostly ran pool halls, often the only one open to African Americans in Frankfort. However, he was not remembered for his accomplishments in life. His name was noted and very quickly lost to history after the death of Dr. T. L. Berry in 1944. 

Dr. Berry and Will Castleman had had an ongoing disagreement after Castleman's wife called another doctor for an emergency rather than call Dr. Berry, or so that is the story printed in the newspaper. It was said that Dr. Berry had been making threats toward Castleman. It all came to a head on Wednesday, June 7, 1944, when Dr. Berry came to the liquor store in the Craw section of Frankfort, where he found Castleman. Dr. Berry drew his gun and fired a shot at Castleman [source: "Local Negro doctor shot," The State Journal, 6/8/1944, pp. 1 & 6]. The shot missed Castleman,  the bullet lodging in the wall over his head. Will Castleman drew his gun and fired several shots at Dr. Berry. One of the shots struck the doctor in the chest beneath the heart. Dr. Berry staggered across the street to the pool hall, where he died. 

Judge L. Boone Hamilton wanted Will Castleman jailed until after an examining trial. Castleman went to jail for the night and the following day pled not guilty (self-defense), waived the examining trial, and was released from jail on a $2,500 bond [source: "Castleman is freed under $2,500 bond," The State Journal, 6/9/1944, p. 1]. The bond was signed by J. P. Sullivan and Mike Deakins. Will Castleman's case was held over to the Franklin County Grand Jury.

Castleman may have served time for the death of Dr. Berry, but the following year he was back in Frankfort and would remain in Frankfort, his hometown, for the remainder of his life. He was born in Frankfort around 1888, and in 1900 he, his brother Forest, and their mother Sue Smith lived with Sue's mother Emily Smith [source: 1900 U.S. Federal Census]. The family lived in a rented apartment in Long Lone Alley. Sue Smith and her mother were employed as cooks for a private family.

Emily Smith was born around 1834 [source: 1900 U.S. Federal Census] and died in 1909 [see Find A Grave]. In 1910 William lived with his mother along with a roomer in a rented place on Washington Street in Frankfort; there was no mention of his brother Forest [source: 1910 U.S. Federal Census]. At the time, Sue Smith was employed as a laundress and Will worked at a pool hall. He continued working at pool halls until he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1918 and was living and working in Dayton, OH, according to his World War I Draft Registration Card.

By 1921, Will Castleman was back in Frankfort working at the pool hall located at 412 Clinton Street and living at 616 Washington Street [source: pp. 68 & 320 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1921-1922-1923]. His mother Sue, born in 1860, died in 1925. In 1930, Castleman was a janitor at the state capitol building in Frankfort [source: 1930 U.S. Federal Census]. In 1932, he was a porter with the Railroad Commission at 408 W. Clinton St. [source: p. 71 in Carson's Frankfort, KY. City Directory for 1932-1933].

One year after the death of Dr. Berry, Castleman was running a pool hall at 420 Washington Street. He and his wife Christine lived at 420 W. Clinton St. [source: p. 45 in Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, KY.) City Directory, 1945-46]. Dr. Berry may have died in Castleman's pool hall. Castleman was still managing the business in 1949 [source: p. 5 in Polk's Frankfort Classified Business Directory, 1948-49].

In 1951, the pool hall was gone and Castleman was managing the George Taylor Liquor Store [source: p. 49 in Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, KY.) City Directory, 1951-52]; that would be his last job. He died of cancer November 24, 1953 in Frankfort [source: Kentucky Certificate of Death File #116 53-24789]. His arrangements were handled by the Thomas K. Robb Funeral Home; he was buried in Green Hill Cemetery in Frankfort. He was the son of William Castleman Sr. and Sue Smith. At the time of his death, Will and his wife Christine still lived at 420 W. Clinton Street in Frankfort. 

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Franklin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Frankfort, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Castleman, William Saffell Jr. "Will",” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 25, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-07-12 15:32:34