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William Murphy's Life Story

William Travis (‘Buddy’) Murphy
February 12, 1864 – October 30, 1932
Half-brother of Paul Laurence Dunbar through their mother, William was born enslaved to R. Weeks (or Wilson or Willis) Murphy and Matilda Burton in Kentucky. His father lived on a different plantation than his mother and had no role of significance in his life.

William moved to Dayton with Matilda in 1866, shortly before the birth of his younger brother Robert. They initially lived with Matilda’s mother on Howard Street. William, who was eight years older than his half-brother Paul, finished the ninth grade before obtaining a job as a janitor at a Dayton hotel, the Beckel House. William moved to Cincinnati by 1885 in search of work. By the time of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, William lived in Chicago. Little is known about his family and later life; he died in Chicago in 1932.

Did You Know?

Paul Laurence Dunbar and Orville Wright Central High School 1891 graduating class.

Central High School, Dayton, Ohio 1891 graduating class. Paul Laurence Dunbar is first from the left in the back row. Orville Wright is fourth from the left in the back row.