About Names: Dr. Evans on the name “Tyrone”

Stage actor Tyrone Power (Photo: Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his July 16th column, he discusses the name “Tyrone”.

Tyrone learns there’s more than one of him later this week.

“They Cloned Tyrone,” a science-fiction comedy spoofing 1970s “Blaxploitation” films, debuted June 14 at the American Black Film Festival. It premieres on Netflix July 21. John Boyega plays Tyrone Fontaine, a drug dealer fighting back after discovering he’s a clone created by a sinister government project.

Tyrone’s a county in Northern Ireland. It’s the English form of “Tir Eoghain (Eógan’s land),” bestowed by members of the O’Neill dynasty claiming descent from Eógan mac Néill when they conquered it in the 11th century.

In 1673, Charles II created Irish noble Richard Power (1630-1690) the 1st Earl of Tyrone. His cousins began naming sons “Tyrone,” pointing out their noble connection.

William Grattan Tyrone Power (1797-1841) was the only child of one such cousin, Tyrone Power of County Waterford. He became the actor and playwright Tyrone Power, known for bettering the image of the Irish in his roles. Power toured America four times.

Power’s great-grandson, director Tyrone Guthrie (1900-1971), founded Minneapolis’s Guthrie Theater. Power’s grandson Tyrone Power Sr. (1869-1931) moved to America as a teenager and became a star of stage and screen. It was Sr.’s Cincinnati-born son Tyrone Power (1914-1958) who became the most famous, being a major star from first film “Lloyd’s of London” (1936) to his last, “Witness for the Prosecution” (1957).

In the 19th century Tyrone was rare outside the Power family. The first American Tyrone, Tyrone Landrum, was a free Black head of household in Derry, Pennsylvania, in 1800. Four of the 12 Tyrones in the 1870 census were his descendants.

The census often designated the Landrums as “mulatto.” Many Landrums in America had immigrated from County Tyrone, which may explain the name.

Fifty-three Americans had the given name Tyrone in 1930; 714 in 1940; and 4,283 in 1950, showing its popularity was caused by movie star Power. What’s remarkable is that already in 1950, 67% of these Tyrones were Black.