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From The Oakland Vault: The Escapades Of Julia Murphy Hungerford

From the Oakland Vault: The Escapades of Julia Murphy Hungerford

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ove is in the air at Oakland Cemetery! To celebrate this Valentine’s Day, HOF is releasing a few Capturing the Spirit of Oakland scripts from the Oakland vault. Discover the love stories of some of our sweetest couples and the exploits of our favorite flirts.

Born into a wealthy Atlanta family, Julia Murphy Hungerford (1897–1935) spent her childhood moving between Atlanta, Palm Beach, New York, and Paris. She was a well-known socialite and her marriage to the Coca-Cola bottling heir and playboy, Conkey Whitehead, made her even more famous in the society pages of the local press. The couple was notorious for their wild and extravagant parties at Villa Juanita, their mansion on West Paces Ferry Road. Their marriage ended in scandal after Conkey ran off to Cuba with a young dancer. Following a contentious and public divorce, Hungerford was awarded the Villa Juanita property. She remarried in 1932 to Osgood Robert Hungerford. Hungerford maintained her lifestyle of traveling and hosting lavish parties until her death in 1935 at age 38. Julia was a featured resident in the Capturing the Spirit of Oakland tours in 2019.

JULIA MURPHY HUNGERFORD
Capturing the Spirit of Oakland 2019

Yoo hoo! Hallooooo! (Waves her champagne) Welcome to the party! Though I know some of you may already have a cocktail… Or two? (Downs her champagne) Well, my name’s Julia Murphy Whitehead Hungerford. You may call me Julia. Though I was born in 1897, I came of age in the 1920’s – the Roaring Twenties! Now, before we get into my somewhat scandalous escapades, let me tell you about the rest of the family here at the Murphy Mausoleum. I’d introduce you, but everyone’s out and about tonight.

Our mausoleum is an exquisite example of Neo-Classical design, you can tell by the columns, and there’s a lovely stained glass angel inside – not dedicated to me I assure you, but to my father. Both my parents are buried here – both were children of Irish immigrants. My father, John Murphy, was Vice President of The Trust Company of GA bank, and into steel, cotton oil, – and railroads, of course. In 1918, the newspaper called PaPa “Atlanta’s Leading Capitalist” which is why we had rather a lot of money.

My MaMa, Julia Gatins Murphy, bought our plot here at Oakland. I must ask you a favor regarding MaMa. If you see her, don’t mention the champagne. She disapproves of liquor. And men. And parties. And, really, fun of any kind. So, let’s keep our secret, shall we?

My sister Katherine is also buried here, Katie we called her, even though she hated it. Or perhaps because she hated it. And two of her husbands are here, the Riley brothers, Jim and Julian. They were always mad about Katie, so she married them both! Not at the same time, of course.

Anyway, should I tell you about my travels out West or chat about my French Finishing School in New York? Or shall we get to the fun, where I married a playboy who built one of Atlanta’s most famous mansions for me? Yes?

Conkey Pate Whitehead was the charming man who became my husband in 1922. He’d seen me speeding down Peachtree Street one day, with the top down in the middle of winter, wearing my favorite fur coat, and fell immediately in love with me! Conkey’s family was rich, with a capital R. His father and a partner bought the bottling rights to Coca Cola in 1899 for ONE DOLLAR! Conkey lived his whole life in the society pages and our marriage was big news. We sailed on The Mauretania, for our two-year honeymoon, which was grand since Prohibition had been passed in the U.S. If you’ve never been to Paris to drink champagne, you must go.

Upon our return, Conkey built me a house on West Paces Ferry Road called Villa Juanita. Acres of land, a swimming pool, and 10-foot-high fences for my beloved dogs – though we joked it was to keep MaMa from snooping about. I hear it sold for millions in 2016!

Our parties lasted for days – people called it “The Great Gatsby House.” Bootleggers and debutantes danced the Charleston till dawn. During one such bash, MaMa sent my sister out to spy on me. Katie found Conkey in the driveway fighting with a taxi driver who had driven him all the way home from the Kentucky Derby! Later, MaMa sent someone else to find Katie, who had joined the party!

But then, after 7 years, Conkey ran off with a dancer and I sued for divorce. The newspaper printed a picture of him on his yacht, with the girl attached to his side like a barnacle. (Toasts) It was Bon Voyage, Conkey!

So, in 1932, I married Osgood “Robert” Hungerford. He was penniless, but I didn’t need more money. We traveled! In Monte Carlo, we met the actress Fannie Brice – I hear they made a musical about her called Funny Girl, which she certainly was. And we met the actor Maurice Chevalier, who made a pass at me, and Lady Mountbatten, who made a pass at Osgood. Or perhaps it was the other way ‘round!

Anyway, in 1935, after a series of dull illnesses, I died at 38 years old and left Villa Juanita to darling Katie! She founded the Katherine John Murphy Foundation. And The Katherine Murphy Riley Outpatient Diagnostic Center at Piedmont Hospital is named in her honor. Katie stayed in our Villa till her death in 1985, though I’m sure her parties were much tamer than when Conkey and I were skinny dipping at midnight and sleeping till noon!

(Refilling her glass) But now, you must go on and meet the other charming guests at our Oakland soiree! (Raising her glass) Au revoir! And remember, don’t tell MaMa about the champagne. Good night!

 

 

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Marcy Breffle

Education Manager

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