Robert Emmett Rodes was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1829. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1848 where he studied civil engineering. He also taught at his alma mater as an assistant professor until 1851 and left when a promotion he desired was given to Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. After leaving the Virginia Military Institute, Rodes went on to become the chief engineer for the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Annie Bethel Scales Bannister was born on February 6, 1882 on a farm in Henry County, Virginia to Joel Cephus Bannister and Sarah Louise Scales. Her parents both came from mixed heritage: her father was of black, white, and Native American ancestry and her mother was the daughter of a slave and a wealthy white Virginian.