The obituary of Mark Benjamin Sharpe.

“Mr. Mark Benjamin Sharpe, 98, of Wilson, N.C. died at Sunrise Assisted Living Center on April 8, 2009 in Charlotte.

“Former N.C. Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. honored Mark, a successful farmer, civil rights activist, and patriarch, with the ‘Order of the Long Leaf Pine,’ the state’s highest civilian award, for his unselfish accomplishments.

“Memorials may be made to the Mark B. Sharpe Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 608, Matthews, N.C., 28105.”


In the 1920 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: on the public road from Tarboro to Stantonsburg, farm laborer Allen Sharpe, 43; wife Mary A., 38; children Carrie, 17, John, 14, Nettie, 12, Beatrice, 10, Peter, 9, Mark, 8, Bertha, 5, Ethel Branch, 3, and niece Dora, 19,

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Allen Sharpe, 56; wife Mary A., 47; children Carrie, 25, Nettie, 22, Peter, 19, Mark, 17, Bertha, 15, Blanche, 13,  Senie, 11, and Odell Sharp, 8; plus grandchildren Roosivilt, 7, and Minnie Howard, 4.

In 1940, Mark Benjamen Sharpe registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he resided R.F.D. 1, Macclesfield, Wilson County; was born 26 February 1912 in Wilson; was married to Clara Farmer Sharpe; and worked for U.H. Cozart, Wilson.

On June 25, 1951, Mark Benjamin Sharpe, 38, of Macclesfield, Wilson County, son of Allen and Mary Barron Sharpe, married Mary Fleming, 28, of Elm City. Primitive Baptist elder Luther Hyman performed the ceremony in his home in the presence of Dora Hyman, Doris Lee Hyman and Lester Gray Smith.


In the late 1940s, Mark Sharpe led a group of African-American parents in Gardners township whose persistent and creative demands that Wilson County meet its obligation to educate their children resulted in the building of Speight High School, near the town of Saratoga.  For a full account of their triumphant struggle, see Charles W. McKinney’s Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina.

Obituary printed in, 20 April 2009.


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