St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Same name, different guy

The Oracle recently suffered a different kind of identity crisis, one that many of us experience from time to time. The evening news anchor described the horrific deaths of two small children and then stated that the name of the person charged with their deaths was, well, me! I changed channels to hear the same story. Sure enough, the first and last name of the culprit was indeed the same as mine. Further investigation showed that he had a different middle initial, was more than a decade younger and lived 300 miles away, but the first and last name were mine, even spelled the same. I even got a phone call during the newscast from a concerned member of my church, seeking to verify that it wasn’t me.

Unfortunately, my reputation probably took a hit among others who heard the newscast but didn’t inquire any further. Of course, it could have been worse. My photo has appeared before in the Post-Dispatch. At least when they ran the current story, they didn’t dig out that old photo of me.

A friend of mine once had it worse. He was falsely arrested because his name was the same as the real defendant. Both my wife and I periodically receive calls from collection agencies demanding payment for debts rung up by others having our names. My wife once changed doctors after his staff confused her medical records with a similarly named patient.

This kind of thing happens more often than we think. Even if your name isn’t as common as Smith, Jones or Williams, it’s amazing how many other people out there have your same name. Just for grins, do a Google search using your own first and last name. I’ll bet there’s more of you than you thought. In my own case, in addition to lots of graduation lists and military rosters, Google found references to a 1996 Democratic presidential elector from Ohio, a dentist in central Missouri, a meter reader and union official in Kentucky, a Student Association president in New York, a donor to Syracuse University, a Navy officer, a financial adviser, and a Florida photographer, all with my first and last name. And this is just people whose names have made it onto web sites.

A few years ago, a St. Louis aldermanic president (later an appellate judge), a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate and a popular singer/songwriter were all named Paul Simon. On one Saturday Night Live program, Don Pardo announced Paul Simon as host and both the senator and the singer appeared, saying, “I assumed they meant me.”

The “name’s the same” situation can be disastrous for politicians. The late Circuit Clerk Joe Roddy (father of the current alderman) lost his office to upstart Freeman Bosley, Jr. in a close primary in which a mysterious candidate named Clara Jo Roddy got more votes than the final margin of decision. (Note to lawmakers: Instant Runoff Voting would foil “stalking horse” candidacies.) The ballot appeal of Eric Harris, a Libertarian committeeman in St. Louis County, suffered from the notoriety of the Columbine High School murderer of the same name.

There can also be a positive side to name confusion. In 1984, Democrat Matt O’Neill narrowly won his first term as state representative over an attractive young Republican lawyer when the Post Dispatch Voters Guide mistakenly printed the photograph of a different, younger, better looking Matt O’Neill who previously ran for office in the same area. In another election, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Michael Roberts, a conservative white guy from Kansas City, polled very well (for a Libertarian) in African American wards in St. Louis, the home base of former alderman (and current business tycoon) Michael Roberts. In the 1960s, a perennial candidate named John Francis Kennedy upset the endorsed Democrat to win statewide office in Massachusetts, home state of the similarly named president.


Blogger ArchPundit said...

A bailiff in Madison County has been confused by credit reporting agencies as the Liberian Dictator Charles Taylor. He actually wrote me about it after I posted. And to top it all off, he's white.

June 8, 2005 at 12:52 AM  
Blogger St. Louis Oracle said...

Readers should check out ArchPundit's referenced post at

I especially like Ralph's comment.

June 8, 2005 at 5:08 PM  

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