Viola Lucas, at the age of forty-one, gave birth to Henry Lee Lucas in Virginia. The family was incredibly poor, and, like most destitute families back then, it included eight hungry children. Viola’s husband was an alcoholic who’d lost both his legs in a railroad accident. By all accounts, Viola was somewhat contentious-which appears to be a nice way of putting it. All stories concerning Lucas devote the early pages to tales of his mother’s cruelty, the most infamous being that she sent him to school wearing dresses, with his hair grown down to his shoulders and curled into rather becoming ringlets.
During the year of 1960, when she was seventy-four years old, Viola visited her wayward son. They drank a considerable amount of alcohol and got into an argument that quickly escalated out of control. Lucas the Younger hit his mother across the side of the neck, but then discovered that he was holding a knife. He decided to cut his losses and left his mother to bleed to death on the floor. His sister later discovered her and called an ambulance, but it was too late for the old woman.
Viola Lucas has been described as a sadist and a shameless prostitute, who often entertained her lovers in front of her disabled husband and young children. But this may not have been entirely her fault-she may have had a mental disorder such as psychopathy or sociopathy. Also,her own childhood may have been just as miserable-as the poet Philip Larkin says, “Man hands misery down to man/ It deepens like a coastal shelf/ Get out early while you can/ And don’t have any kids yourself.”
Viola Lucas may not have been easy to deal with, but she still deserves a commemoration.
Rest in peace, Mrs. Lucas.