Timeline - Leon May


Leon’s grandfather, Jacob May, was born in Hochst, Germany. He was one of twelve children.


At 19, Leon’s grandfather moved to the United States of America and kept in touch with his family in Europe. Jacob May founded May Hosiery Mill in Nashville in 1909.


Leon May was born in Nashville, Tennessee.


Leon accompanied his parents to Europe. His father used his love of traveling as an excuse to travel to Germany; but in reality, the purpose of the trip was to try and help Jewish friends and relatives who were trying to flee Germany.

During their visit the family traveled to Strasbourg. In Strasbourg they met with Paula Conn and her mother. The May family was able to arrange for Paula, her mother, and daughters to leave Germany and move to Nashville.


The May family returned to Germany. Leon remembered their visit to Stuttgart; the city was decorated with Nazi flags.


In 1938, the May family returned once more to visit Hoechst, Germany before Kristallnacht. They visited a Jewish cemetery and Nazi officials confiscated the film in their cameras, despite the fact that no pictures had been taken.

Leon’s grandfather Jacob and father Mortimer managed to help people flee Germany with each visit. The family provided jobs in their hosiery mill and places to live for everyone they were able to help escape.

Leon’s great uncle, Moses, and his son-in-law were arrested in a raid during Kristallnacht. They had to pay heavy fines in order to be freed. This convinced them to leave Germany, and make the move with their families to Nashville before the end of the year.


August: Mortimer May was a delegate to the first World Jewish Congress in Geneva, Switzerland, held on the eve of World War II. Leon attended many of the sessions.

September: When war was finally declared in Europe, it became impossible for the Mays to bring more refugees. In total, the May family was able to bring 210 Jews to Nashville.


1941-1945: Leon May served in the U.S. Navy on active duty for three years of World War II.


A non-Jewish delegation from Hoechst came to Nashville to visit Jewish refugees.


Leon May resided in Nashville, Tennessee.


Leon passed away on January 25, 2019