Most of his ancestors are buried in cemeteries in northwest Bladen were born and died. He, too, was born there.
"It's a shame the way people let the old cemeteries that contain the graves of their ancestors grow up and eventually fade away because no one will take the time to keep them up," said Tatum. "People will spend thousands of dollars for a funeral for their loved ones and then a few years later let the cemeteries go to ruins. It doesn't make much sense.
"As I've grown older, I've become more aware of the importance of preserving our past," he added. "I guess most of us are that way. When we're young, we don't think much about it, but that changes as we grow older."
Tatum pointed out that there are numerous cemeteries around the county that have been allowed to go to ruins within one generation after they are last used.
"This part of Bladen County (north of the Cape Fear River) has a lot of old family cemeteries, or cemeteries that were parts of communities that are no longer there, and a lot of them are grown up and in ruins," he said.
One cemetery that contains the graves of several of Tatum's direct ancestors is located on a hill about 250 yards south of NC 53 near Yorick. Unofficially called the Sykes Cemetery, the small graveyard is located in a grove of trees that hides it from public view. Graves in the old cemetery date back to at least the mid-19th century.
"I knew the cemetery was back here before, but I didn't come back here much before we moved back to Bladen County," Tatum said.
Though the cemetery has been partially cleaned, it is obvious that the surrounding trees have been allowed to encroach on the area. The remnants of an old fence are visible in the leaves on the ground but trees have grown up inside where the fence once stood.
"We don't need to do a lot here," said Tatum. "It just needs a chain link fence and maybe a few of the small trees that are encroaching on the cemetery need to be removed. It wouldn't take a whole lot to do it. We've just got to get together and work out something.
"I've been talking to several descendants of folks who are buried back here to see if we can get together and get it fixed up," he said.
Tatum says he does not believe the cemetery was ever deeded and is likely a part of the surrounding land. He says he has spoken to the owner of the surrounding land and that he would not object to the work being done at the cemetery.
Tatum asks that anyone who may have relatives buried at the old cemetery to contact him at 866-5839.