The Epix true-crime documentary series “Fall River” wraps up tonight with the two-part conclusion to the grisly saga of the “Satanic cult murders” of 1979 and 1980. The twisted tale from a dark chapter of Fall River’s history has garnered excellent reviews and made viewers ask themselves some difficult questions.
The biggest question is: “Where the hell does this guy get off saying everybody in Fall River has been to prison?”
“If you’re from Fall River, you’ve probably done some time,” says Chris Hayes, a private investigator. “That’s like high school reunion in Fall River, you go to jail.”
Hayes opens the series by badmouthing you, me, your vavó, and 89,000 other people in this city. They’re the first sentences spoken in the entire series.
It’s not necessary to fact-check statements that are clearly stupid. But it’s worth remembering from time to time that during its history, Fall River has been home to a stunning variety of people who have done amazing things besides smash up their parents’ heads or get sent to prison.
This is the first in a series of articles looking at notable Fall River natives and residents. Some, you’ve no doubt heard of many times — others might be new to you. Let’s revel in some hometown pride:
George Stephanopoulos (news anchor)
More than one person on this list has had the ear of the most powerful political figure on the planet. No one else has then parlayed that access into such a long career in national media. Born in Fall River in 1961, he was raised in Cleveland, earned a political science degree and became a Rhodes Scholar earning a master’s degree in theology. He worked on the campaign for future president Bill Clinton, becoming his communications director and senior adviser until December 1996 (a few months after Bill visited George’s hometown of little old Fall River, actually). After leaving the Clinton administration, he joined the TV network ABC as a journalist, eventually becoming host and chief Washington correspondent for This Week, chief anchor for ABC News, and co-host of Good Morning America, where you’ll still find him every weekday. Want another Fall River connection? He’s married to actor Alexandra Wentworth, who played Jerry’s girlfriend in the “Seinfeld” episode “The Soup Nazi,” written by Spike Feresten … of Fall River.
Elizabeth Buffum Chace (abolitionist)
She might be known as “the Conscience of Rhode Island,” but Fall River has a claim to Elizabeth Buffum Chace’s legacy too. Chace was born in 1806 in Smithfield, R.I., to a staunchly anti-slavery Quaker family. The Buffums moved to Fall River in the 1820s, and in 1828 Elizabeth met and married Samuel Buffington Chace, a prominent textile mill owner. After her marriage, she dedicated herself to becoming a radical anti-slavery advocate and hero for American freedom. She became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, opening her Fall River home to slaves fleeing the slave-catchers and sending them north to Canada. She and her sisters (including Sarah Buffum Borden, wife of Nathaniel B. Borden) helped found the Fall River Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1835, and insisted that Black women be allowed to join despite the protests of other white members. Chace’s politics were decades ahead of her time: she wasn’t just anti-slavery but a fierce anti-racist who openly opposed discriminatory laws against Black people, a feminist who fought for women’s rights, a crusader for prison reform, activist for rights for orphans and poor children, and an advocate for the homeless. In the years after she moved back to Rhode Island, her politics made her a social outcast. But anyone in Fall River today who believes in freedom for all would call her a friend.
Morton Dean (news anchor)
Get a load of this clown. Wait, that’s not an insult — he literally has performed as a clown! Born in Fall River in 1935 and an alumnus of Durfee High, Morton Dean has been an award-winning journalist for decades for CBS and ABC, one of the most highly respected people in the business. He’s been a war correspondent from Vietnam to Kosovo to Israel to Yemen, and covered the space program — he was even one of 100 journalists nationwide considered for a trip to space to get first-hand coverage. And yes, he’s only person ever to hold an honorary degree from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. His side hustle started after he reported on women clowns for CBS’s Sunday Morning — ever-curious, Dean got the urge to try performing as a clown himself. For years, he performed with Ringling Bros. occasionally, took it seriously enough to earn the pro clowns’ respect, and called it “a great joy” to entertain kids. “He’s a professional,” one clown once described him, “whether he’s sitting behind a news desk or sitting behind a clown nose.”
Emeril Lagasse (celebrity chef)
Emeril Lagasse, born in Fall River in 1959, worked his way up from the kitchens of Fall River to kitchens across the world. He might be the Diman culinary arts program’s most famous and successful alumnus, with his famous New Orleans restaurant Emeril’s spawning about a dozen more nationwide. The boisterous celebrity chef has hosted multiple award-winning TV cooking shows where he rode a catchphrase craze to national fame (“Bam,” “kick it up a notch,” “pork fat rules,” take your pick), written a stack of cookbooks, and even played himself in a sitcom. Not bad for a guy who started out washing pans at Carreiros Barcelos bakery on Bedford Street.
John Findley Wallace (Panama Canal engineer)
In our fair city, which later became famous for burying a waterfall to make room for a highway, was once born a man who helped connect two oceans. John Findley Wallace was born in Fall River in 1852 and educated in the Midwest as an engineer. Wallace had some experience building railroad lines through the Midwest when President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him in 1904 to be chief engineer of a new transportation project: the Panama Canal. The Atlantic and Pacific oceans were separated by just 51 miles of land, but it was a huge undertaking — one that had sent the French fleeing only a few years earlier, since workers had a nasty habit of dropping dead of malaria. Wallace gave the job the old Fall River “we’ll try,” but he was forced to use inefficient equipment the French had left behind. Wallace found being tangled in red tape with the U.S. government when trying to get equipment and supplies was even harder than hacking and digging through the Panamanian jungle. So in 1905, Wallace quit in frustration. His successors would eventually finish it, but his frustrations with the early phase of the canal led to valuable construction reforms.
Dame Adelaide Lord Stickney Livingstone (peace activist)
Today is the day you’ve learned that a Fall River native was an actual British dame — that’s the female version of “knight” to us peasants. Adelaide Stickney was born in 1881 in Fall River and educated abroad. She moved to England just as World War I had started and, though still an American citizen, began working to bring home British citizens stuck in Germany, Belgium and other countries now considered enemy territory. In 1915, she married an English captain, becoming a British citizen, and was appointed to a committee to study treatment of British POWs. She visited Switzerland, Belgium, and other nations to document her findings, and did significant work in locating the graves of England’s many war dead behind enemy lines, even ordering bodies exhumed and identified. King George V made her a dame of the Order of the British Empire in 1918 — Fall River natives rubbing elbows with literal kings over here. She later continued her work for peace in the mid-1930s by organizing the Peace Ballot, an unprecedented national referendum to gauge the public’s mood and urge support for the League of Nations just as Germany was rearming ahead of World War II.
E.J. Dionne (Washington Post columnist)
Longtime Post columnist and political analyst Dionne was born in Boston in 1952 but raised in Fall River, and he’s more than once credited this city for making him the man he is today. “I always tell people that most of the important things I know, I learned in Fall River,” he told an interviewer in 2012. He was an altar boy at the former St. Mathieu’s parish, in the Brightman Street area, and his strong Catholicism still informs his writing and his politics today. His start in journalism literally began in the mailroom at The Herald News, this very publication, and he wrote for The Standard-Times in college. From Fall River, Dionne went on to Harvard University, became a Rhodes scholar (if you’re keeping score, Fall River is at two Rhodes scholars so far), wrote for The New York Times and eventually joined the Post in 1990. He’s written or co-written over a dozen books on politics and religion.
Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres (MMA fighter)
If good things come in small packages, then awesome things come in tiny packages. That’s true for Tecia Torres, a mixed-martial arts fighter known as “The Tiny Tornado.” Born in Fall River in 1989, Torres and her family moved to Florida in her childhood, and she began training in martial arts at age 5. The 5-foot-1 strawweight has been training ever since, in kickboxing, jiu jitsu, and mixed martial arts. As an amateur, she had a 7-0 unbeaten record, and as a professional MMA fighter she’s racked up 12 wins, 5 losses, most by decision, and is the #10 ranked fighter in her division. She’s 115 pounds of pure muscle, commanding respect in the octagon and outside of it as an advocate for mental health awareness.
Albert Barbelle (Mickey Mouse illustrator)
The city has produced a good number of artists – writers, musicians, painters, dancers, you name it — some of whom have collaborated with major fixtures in the entertainment world. Not everyone has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Mickey Mouse, though. Born in Fall River in 1887, Albert Barbelle was an artist and illustrator who studied his craft in Paris and London. He became a commercial artist in the 1920s in New York, and was one of the most prolific illustrators of sheet music in history — at the time one of the chief ways most people engaged with popular music in their own homes. His sheet music covers are strikingly beautiful. He’s also notable for illustrating the first-ever Mickey Mouse children’s book in 1930. It includes a short story about how a mischievous rodent called “mouse 13” is expelled from “mouse fairyland” for playing too many pranks and winds up in Walt Disney’s house, where he’s named Mickey and enters the movie business.
Maude Darling Parlin (architect)
Lots of people can claim to have made their mark on the city — Maude Darling Parlin’s mark still stands. Born to a family of architects in 1884, she attended B.M.C. Durfee High School and went on to MIT, where she was the only woman in her graduating class of 250 students in 1907. She became the city’s first female architect, designing hundreds of homes and working on the Eagle Restaurant building, the Baptist Temple, the Sullivan Building, the YMCA on North Main Street, the Fall River Co-operative Bank building on Bedford Street, the Women’s Union on Rock Street, Temple Beth-El, and more. Sadly, the former Rialto, Capitol, Bijou, Strand, Park and Empire theaters — also your girl’s handiwork — are no longer with us. But many of her stately buildings from Fall River’s golden age still stand today. You can look around, right now, and see her legacy for yourself.
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We have more notables planned for the future, but if you have a suggestion, fill out the form below to send it to us.
Dan Medeiros can be reached at email@example.com. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.
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