In this Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, file photo, Meghan Markle, right, watches the closing ceremonies of the Invictus Games with her mother, Doria Ragland, in Toronto. Ragland's father, Alvin Ragland, was born in Chattanooga in 1929, according to Chattanooga Public Library records. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
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American actress Meghan Markle is a 36-year-old divorced, mixed-race woman who is about to marry Prince Harry of Wales, sixth in succession to the British throne.

It will be the first time a woman with a black mother marries into the royal family, according to Markle is also three years older than her groom-to-be.

"It's historic redemption," says the Rev. Rozario Slack, pastor of Temple of Faith Deliverance Church of God in Christ on East 27th Street. "Black people in America have not been royalty, but in Africa that's not uncommon. We are descendents of kings and queens and princesses."

Being biracial with African-American ancestry isn't all that makes Markle unique.

She also has ties to Chattanooga.

Her father, Thomas Markle Sr., a lighting director who lives in Mexico, is white. Her mother, Doria Ragland, a social worker and yoga instructor from Los Angeles, is black. Ragland will be with her at St. George's Chapel in Windsor on Saturday when she marries Prince Harry.

It's uncertain if her father will attend.

Her maternal grandfather, Doria Ragland's father, comes from Chattanooga, according to Mary Helms, manager of the Local History and Genealogy Department at the Chattanooga Public Library downtown.

"The way I became aware of this (Meghan Markle's ties to Chattanooga) is that we received a reference call asking if we had any information on Alvin Ragland," says Helms. "I began to look to see what existed about Alvin Azell Ragland."

Alvin Ragland is Markle's maternal grandfather. He was born in Chattanooga around 1930, according to Chattanooga's 1930 Census. At age 14, he worked as a hotel porter downtown.

"What I think is interesting is that you can actually see the place her grandfather worked as a porter at the Northern Hotel, and that's where the present Mountain City Club is located [729 Chestnut St.]," says Helms.

A report in the library's history department filed under John B. Wells III states that Alvin Ragland was born in Chattanooga on Feb. 21, 1929. He was the son of 22-year-old Steve R. Ragland and 16-year-old Lois Russell.

Markle's great-great-grandfather Jeremiah Ragland had his own tailor shop business in Chattanooga in the 1920s where he worked as a presser. And Jeremiah's daughter Dora Cooper was a teacher at the old James A. Henry Elementary School in the 1930s. The family lived at 1021 Grove St.

DailyMailTV, a CBS-affiliated broadcast version of the British tabloid, has reported that Dora Cooper, Markle's great-great-aunt, and that Cooper was still teaching at Henry Elementary as late as 1948.

Tim Hensley, communications officer at the Hamilton County Department of Education, confirms that Alvin Ragland's second wife [Markle's step-grandmother], Ava Burrow Ragland, taught kindergarten at Normal Park, Woodmore, Spring Creek and Red Bank elementary schools from 1991 to 2002.

Alvin Ragland eventually moved to Los Angeles, where he died March 12, 2011, at age 82. says Markle is the first (partially) black woman to marry into Britain's royal family, but not the first to marry into royalty in broad terms. Others include Countess Lei Von Habsburg of Austria, Countess Nyanut Von Habsburg of Austria and Emma Thynn, Viscountess Weymouth.

Only women born into the royal family may officially hold the title of princess, according to After marriage, Markle's title is expected to be Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Sussex.

The city of Chattanooga's director of multicultural affairs, James McKissic, calls the upcoming royal wedding "wonderful" and says he plans to watch it on television.

"Even though she is not the first black woman to marry into a European royal family and there are royals of all races throughout the world, it does show that we continue to make progress on race relations," says McKissic.

Contact Yolanda Putman at or 423-757-6431.