Adelaide “Alex” Sink who is currently running for Governor of Florida was named after Adelaide Bunker, her great-grandmother. It was Adelaide’s husband that drew the most attention for generations to come, along with her conjoined twin brother-in-law during the mid 1840s. Now their great-granddaughter is carrying on the legacy in a whole new light. Alex Sink was born and raised in Mount Airy, North Carolina where her famous relatives had settled almost two centuries ago. She also has strong ties to the Tampa Bay area community.
Tampa Bay Connection’s to Alex Sink
Her husband, Bill McBride, and two children, Bert and Lexi, now live in Lake Thonotosassa, Florida near Temple Terrace. Prior to that, her husband was an attorney with a large law firm in downtown Tampa while she was president for one of Florida’s largest banks. My mother at one time babysat for their children when they lived in South Tampa in the early ’90s. In 2002 Alex’s husband ran for Governor of Florida against the incumbent, Jeb Bush. It was at that time news of Alex Sink’s distant relations to the famous Siamese Twins had circulated, but was never fully discussed
Chang Bunker – Alex Sink’s Great-Grandfather
Now that Alex Sink is running for Governor of Florida, not her husband, it was only a matter of time when the whole story of her past and the famous Siamese Twins were out in the open at last. When you hear about conjoined twins they are oftentimes referred to as “Siamese Twins.” That’s because Chang and Eng were the most famous of all conjoined twins for generations.
They were born in the country of Siam, now present day Thailand, to ethnic Chinese parents during 1811. News of this birth spread to the King of Siam who wanted them killed, but somehow decided to spare their lives. These identical male twins were given Thai names meaning left (Chang) and right (Eng). At birth they were conjoined facing each other, but were able to position themselves side by side with only a 5-inch band of flesh attached at the base of their chests.
In 1829 Chang and Eng were discovered by an American captain named Able Coffin. He put the twins under contract where they traveled the world on the freak show circuit performing acrobatics, playing chess and answering questions. Chang and Eng were becoming more famous than kings, queens and presidents. Mark Twain even wrote a short story about these famed Siamese Twins. After three years of exploitation they left their manager. They began to learn English and eventually retired to a small community at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.
Mount Airy, NC: Home of Chang and Eng Bunker, “Andy Griffith Show” & Alex Sink
In a recent interview when Alex Sink was asked why Chang and Eng Bunker chose a small town in North Carolina to settle down in. It was during Alex’s childhood where she heard “North Carolina was the valley of humility between two valleys of conceit – Virginia and South Carolina.” The twins eventually chose an American surname of Bunker, because that was the last name of their banker. They also became American citizens.
Each of them fancied a local woman whose name was Sally Yates. Luckily Sally had a sister, Adelaide. The two couples were married in 1843 with Eng marrying Sally and Chang with Adelaide. As a result of their union, so did the family. Eventually they needed two separate houses for the wives and children. A grand total of 21 children were fathered by Chang and Eng Bunker.
During their time in Mount Airy, NC, which is only 37 miles northeast of Winston-Salem, the twins strongly considered separation surgery, but all doctors were against performing it. In January 1874 Chang developed bronchitis and died one morning when Eng awoke to see his dead brother. Three hours later Eng died of shock. Eventually the twins and wives were moved to their final resting places and buried in 1917 at the White Plains Baptist Church cemetery where the twins helped build on their donated land.
Family Secrets of the Bunkers
Near the cemetery along Bunker Road, past Eng and Chang Road to Barney Fife Boulevard is the annual Bunker reunion of all the dozens of descendants. Dottie Sink, Alex’s sister, said their mother, Chang’s granddaughter, Adelaide was reluctant to talk about her side of the family. However, it was their father who encouraged them to appreciate that side of the family.
Many other family members were sworn to secrecy not to talk about “The Twins.” One of Alex’s and Dottie’s aunts didn’t even know Chang and Eng were their ancestors until after the birth of her six children. As a child when Alex went into a store on Main Street a clerk would ask “you must be one of the Bunkers?” It was because of her unique eye shape. She also grew up in Chang Bunker’s farmhouse. To always answer the clerk’s question Alex Sink would stick out her chest and say “Yes I am” very proudly.
Adam C. Smith, “Alex Sink says grit and pride were legacy of famous ancestors, Siamese twins Chang and Eng”, St. Petersburg Times – TampaBay.com
About Alex, Alex Sink for Governor of Florida
The Siamese Twins – Chang and Eng Bunker, The Human Marvels