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Biography of artist, Jesse LaPrade


Jesse was born April 1, 1941 in Bainbridge, Georgia. His biological mother died in child birth and his biological father passed away shortly after arriving in the United States. John Lovelace LaPrade and Lucuy Francis Finchum LaPrade became his foster/adoptive parents and took Jesse home at the hospital’s urging because they had just lost their own child in child birth. His adoptive parents gave him the same name as the one they had decided on for their expected child, except for his middle name, Cobb. Jesse was unhappy with this name throughout his early life. His classmates called him “Cobby” just to antagonize him! Jesse’s birth certificate shows the spelling of his first name as “Jessie,” a name usually used for females, because Lucy believed the child would be a girl.

1956 - 1960

Student at Chatham High School located in Chatham, Virginia

1960 - 1961

Jesse enrolled as a student at Roanoke Technical Institute in Roanoke Virginia studying electronics.

1962 - 1963

Jesse transferred to Danville Branch of Virginia Tech, taking two years of pre-engineering. Jesse married his high-school sweetheart, Betty Sue Sours in June 1962, after completing his course of study in Danville, Virginia.

1963 - 1966 Jesse was a student at Virginia Tech at Blacksburg Virginia, changing majors from physics to geophysics to geology to electrical engineering and finally to ornamental horticulture. He received his Bachelor’s degree on the June 12,

 Jesse took only one art course while attending Tech, which was Perspective Drawing and earned an “A.” He enjoyed the experience so much he almost changed his major yet again to fine art, but just could not bring himself to tell his father! He was taking ornamental horticulture when he took the art course.


Jesse enrolled as a student at N.C. State University in plant pathology. He received his Master’s degree on the July 12, 1968. Jesse accepted a position with the University of Florida Extension Service as an acting assistant county agent working in Naples, Florida.
Jesse’s wife and sweetheart refused to move to South Florida and became estranged.
In spite of Jesse’s pleading with Betty Sue to join him, their marriage ended in divorce that was mutually agreed upon by both parties and not contested in court.
Jesse worked for about two years in Naples, established a landscape maintenance business and married Betty June Davis on September 26, 1969, after Jesse and Betty Sue’s divorce decree was granted earlier that same year.
Jesse and June will have been happily and devotedly married for 40 years in September 2009.
Jesse’s adoptive mother, Lucy, died in January 1969.

1969 Married Betty June Davis and is still married to June today. Foster/Adoptive mother, Lucy Francis Finchum LaPrade died in January 1969.
1970 - 1973

Jesse enrolled at the University of Florida at Gainesville, studying plant pathology, majoring in postharvest plant pathogens and aflatoxin producers, and completed his doctorate program successfully. He received his Ph.D. on December 15, 1973.

1974 - 1978

Jesse was offered and accepted a position with Clemson University, working at the Pee-Dee Experiment Station located in Florence, South Carolina. In January 1973, June and Jesse’s only son was born in Florence on December 24, 1976. Mr. John Christopher LaPrade was the light that shined brightly for this couple, and he was born healthy and loud. June was discharged from the hospital on Christmas Day with the present of the century. Jesse was very successful in his work with Clemson University and became well known and respected. This led to a job offer from Union Carbide Agricultural Products. Jesse proudly accepted the offer, and the family moved from Florence to Jacksonville, Florida in June 1978.


Jesse received extensive training on agricultural chemicals used as pesticides in Jacksonville and was granted a field research and development position with Union Carbide Agricultural Products, and the family was moved to Dothan, Alabama in June of 1980.
In 1986, Union Carbide sold their stake in agricultural products to a French-based company, Rhone Poulenc.  Jesse was offered and accepted a job with that company and remained in Dothan, which the entire family preferred. Jesse was terminated by Rhone Poulenc on December 21, 1989 after a frank discussion with the American vice president.


“The Letter”
Jesse started a new career assigned to a temporary position with Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service on September 1, 1990.
Jesse’s foster/adoptive father, John Lovelace LaPrade, died on May 8, 1991.

In a conversation with his foster father several days before John died, Jesse was told that “there is a letter that you must read, if anything happens to me.” This was before his surgery in a Tallahassee Hospital in late May of that year. When his dad died, Jesse stated, "I was totally engulfed in grief and disappointment and did not read his letter until I came across it in Dad’s briefcase that I retrieved from his mobile home that was left to me and not my brother or sister after Dad died. The letter fully explained that I had been adopted and I was taken home by John and Lucy to be their child.” Their genetic children, John Christian and Patricia Ann LaPrade did not accompany John L. or Lucy to the hospital when their child was to be delivered but stayed with a housekeeper at their home in Attapulgus, Georgia where Jesse’s adoptive parents were living at that time. Jesse also said, “After I read the letter I was totally astonished, bewildered, and confused, since Dad said that my genetic mother had documents and memorabilia in her purse that proved to the hospital attendants and to him that her husband, my true father, was a direct decadent of Vincent Van Gough! Dad said in his letter to me that Lucy did not learn about that relationship, but was so distraught about losing her third child in child birth that she insisted that they adopt me right on the spot, which we ultimately did. Dad also said that Mother had tried to tell me several times when I was young; growing up in Virginia, but you did not respond or would not accept her revelation to you. Dad was correct, but Mom chose the very worst time to tell me that I was adopted such as after bringing home a report card from school that had all ”D” grades on it except for Gym class, which I thoroughly enjoyed and did excel at! I realize that the letter had the potential to totally change my life, but I was totally happy with who I thought that I was. I felt like I could not live up to expectations if I showed the letter to my wife and or my son, John, so I burned the letter in our wood-burning fireplace. It was chilly on December24, 2003 and we had a fire burning. I started celebrating Christmas day a bit early and had a few drinks, I actually lost count, but I do remember the letter distinctly and burning it after I read it,” Jesse reported to the Opelika-Auburn News on December 15, 2005.


I have enjoyed a very interesting, stimulating, challenging and successful career with Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System since 1990 and have now earned and was awarded full professor status. I plan to retire within the next couple of years, provided my health holds out.
In early 1994, I became interested to see if maybe, just maybe, I could paint a picture and see how well it worked out. If I was satisfied, I might tell June about the letter. Who knows? This might be fun.
I cannot prove any relationship with Vincent Van Gough or anyone else, but my sister Patricia told me and my brother John in November 2005 that her mother, Lucy, did tell her that I was indeed adopted and asked her to try to help me fit in better with the family. My sister, Patricia is a Baptist minister’s wife; although, her husband is now deceased she never compromises the truth for anyone.
To me, it doesn’t matter about any relationship with anyone, I only know that there is a burning desire that I possess to create art and to share my prizes with the world! I also want to teach everyone how to succeed in today‘s busy world. I have witnessed almost everything imaginable. After 68-plus years of experience of dealing with personal, business and family problems, I feel confident that I can show you what to expect as your life unfolds, and I dearly love to help people. That is exactly what I plan to do from this point forward. I have finally found a way to share my art originals without selling my original compositions. You can get all of the details at my Web site.
You must go to my Web site to see how all of this has worked out. Who knows? You may find something interesting.

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