As Queen of the Trace, Byrnes worked tirelessly for parkway

Published 12:34am Sunday, May 12, 2013

NATCHEZ — Roane Fleming Byrnes had a way about her, a way of getting things done.

After all, they don’t call her the Queen of the Natchez Trace for nothing.

Byrnes led the Mississippi division of the Natchez Trace Association from 1935 until 1970 and wined and dined the Washington elite at her home Ravennaside. She worked and lobbied tirelessly to see that the Natchez-to-Nashville road was completed.

Unfortunately, Byrnes died at age 80 in 1970, long before the completion of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

But if Byrnes could see the Trace today she would smile, said Kate Don Green, whose late husband, Lawrence Adams, was related to Byrnes.

“I think she would just love it,” Green said. “She would be so pleased.”

Byrnes, and her husband, Ferriday Byrnes, had no children. Young relatives named her “Sweet Auntie” and the nickname became well known, just as did the “Queen of the Trace” moniker.

Green remembers the enthusiasm Byrnes brought to meetings about the Trace.

“She would really get those things going,” she said.

A room in Ravennaside, which Byrnes’ great-nephew Rusty Jenkins calls the Trace room, became familiar to visiting officials. The room, which had a mural of the Trace on the wall, is the setting in which she entertained officials.

“She was so well-connected,” Jenkins said. “She fought and fought to get it going.”

Green said she believed Byrnes’ enthusiasm and love for the Trace stemmed from her love of history.

“I really think the history of the Trace just infatuated her,” Green said.

Byrnes knew what the Trace would mean to Natchez, and said that was behind her drive for its completion, Green said.

“That was just her way,” Green said. “She knew to get things done.”