On 30 December 1921, the Wilson Daily Times reported the cases the Superior Court recently heard, including:
It was a curious crime. Jack Anna Ricks Rich had inherited a farm from her husband ten years earlier, and as noted above, Charlie Martin was a long-time tenant. In fact, when Martin registered for the World War I draft in 1918, he listed Jack Ann Rich as both his employer and his nearest relative.
Charlie Martin was listed in the 1900 and 1910 censuses of Cross Roads township, Wilson County, as a single farm laborer boarding in the households of white farmers. He seems to have had no close family. When he died at Rich’s hands, a neighbor struggled to provide adequate information about him. Martin’s birthdate was unknown, and his age was “look to be 45 or 50 years.” His parents were unknown, but his birthplace was thought to be Ohio (though census records listed North Carolina.)
Portraits of Rev. Franklin B. Woodard are posted on the blog of Legacy Museum of African-American History in Lynchburg, Virginia. The text of the post: “Rev. Frank B. Woodard was born and raised in Wilson County, North Carolina. He studied at Virginia Seminary and graduated in 1904. Woodard led churches in Michigan and Iowa and served as the President of the Iowa–Nebraska Convention. He died in 1919.”
In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Frank Woodard, 25; wife Appie, 23; son Frank Jr., 1; and Samuel, 20, farm laborer.
In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Frank Woodard, 37; wife Appie, 32; and children Frank, 11, and Romulus, 9.
On 29 August 1906, in Lynchburg, Virginia, Franklin Brown Woodard, 38, born in Wilson County, North Carolina, to Frank and Apsilla Woodard, married Margaret C. Minnis, 27, born in Bedford County, Virginia, to Henry L. and Mamie Minnis.
In the 1910 census of Bluff Creek township, Monroe County, Iowa: Frank B. Woodard, 41, born N.C.; wife Margurite C., 31, born Virginia; and children Thelma K., 2, born Michigan, and Virginia L., 1, born Iowa.
On 2 June 1915, Franklin Brown Woodard, 46, widowed, born in Wilson County, N.C., to Frank and A. Woodard, married Rosa Mildred Jones, 36, born in Buxton, Iowa, to Lewis and M. Jones, in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Rev. Frank B. Woodard died 5 September 1919 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The Bystander (Des Moines, Iowa), 12 September 1919.
Rev. Woodard’s body was returned to Lynchburg for burial.
Woodard’s wife Rosa was appointed guardian to her step-daughters Thelma and Virginia. Though certified to teach, Rosa Woodard was in poor health, and year after year applied to the Linn County, Iowa, District Court to draw money from Frank Woodard’s estate to provide for the girls.
Petition for letters of guardianship.
Rosa Woodard’s first application for funds. She stated that it was too late in the year to get a teaching job.
Another petition for funds, in which Rosa Woodard revealed that she had been ill for months and had spent several weeks at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Virginia Lavurn Woodard, born in Buxton, Iowa, to Frank Brown Woodard and Margaret Celeste Minnis, married John Henry Hughes Jr., born in Bedford County, Virginia, to John Henry Hughes and Lucretia Ann Griffin, on 1 March 1931 in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Rosa Jones Woodard
Rosa Jones Woodard died 1 August 1957 at her home at 904 Eighth Street, Lynchburg, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 February 1885 in Lynchburg to Louis Jones and Margaret Taylor; was a widow of Frank B. Woodard; and had worked as a teacher and school matron. Informant was Virginia Hughes, Lynchburg.
Photos of Frank and Rosa Woodard courtesy of Legacy Museum; photo of Woodard headstone courtesy of findagrave.com; Iowa Wills and Probate Records, 1758-1997, http://www.ancestry.com.
The Redemptorist Fathers held the house until 1969, then they sold it to private owners? and it began its steep slide. The city of Wilson condemned 600 East Green in 1977, but took no further action against it. In 1990, the city repealed the condemnation order to allow a new owner to rehabilitate it. This Daily Times article described plans for its renovation, and Roderick Taylor Jr. described a little of its history.
Wilson Daily Times, 26 December 1990.
In 1994, Oxford House, a living facility for recovering addicts, took over in the space. I have not been able to determine how long it remained open. It is clear, though, that the Reid house/nunnery has been vacant and moldering for much of this century. Since I photographed it in 2016, it has lost the midsection of fascia and soffit above the upper floor and the front porch ceiling has begun to collapse.
Black Wide-Awake‘s temporal cut-off is generally 1949, but 2020 calls for flexibility. If you are of voting age, but are not registered to vote, I don’t know what will stir you. Here’s a story for you though.
This receipt acknowledged the seven dollars my grandmother paid dentist George K. Butterfield for services on 17 September 1955. I’m not sure why she saved it, but perhaps the times felt historic. Just a few months before this office visit, Dr. Butterfield had thwarted the city’s voter suppression shenanigans to win a second term on Wilson’s Board of Aldermen. In 1957, to make sure this didn’t happen again, Wilson dynamited its ward system.
Dr. Butterfield’s son George K., Jr. is, of course, the United States Congressman for the 1st District of North Carolina, which includes Wilson County. “That is the thing that has precipitated my whole interest in law and politics,” Butterfield Jr. told the Wilson Daily Times in a 3 February 2003 article, “I’ve learned how government can work for you and against you. And in this case, it worked against a significant portion of the community.”
The bullet-point version:
In 1928, Dr. Butterfield was one of 46 Black registered voters in Wilson.
In the 1930s and ’40s, several organizations formed to support political and educational advancement of African-Americans, including voter registration.
By the early 1950s, about 500 Black voters were registered, almost all of whom lived in the city’s Third Ward, a long narrow precinct that crossed Wilson east to west.
In early 1953, Dr. Butterfield announced his candidacy for a seat on Wilson’s Board of Aldermen, the precursor to today’s city council. He drew immediate widespread support from unionized tobacco leafhouse workers (many of whom were women), churches, and the small African-American professional class.
A few days before the election, incumbent Herbert Harriss challenged the eligibility of 185 voters. Of 150 voters struck from the rolls as a result, all but three were Black.
On election night, Dr. Butterfield and Harriss each received 382 votes, but Butterfield objected that the registrar had violated regulations requiring votes be counted where ballot boxes were opened. City Attorney W.A. Lucas conceded the count was irregular, but declared the point moot, as there were tie-breaker provisions. Over Dr. Butterfield’s expostulations, the City Clerk placed the two candidates’ names in a hat, blindfolded a three year-old girl, and asked her to draw a name.
Dr. Butterfield won!
Two years later, the City of Wilson rolled up its sleeves to get in front of Dr. Butterfield’s re-election. First, it threw out all the registration books, ostensibly to clear the rolls of dead or otherwise ineligible voters. It gave citizens one month to re-register by notifying their ward registrar at his house on a weekday, a difficult feat for factory workers and domestics working on the other side of town from their homes. Next, the city expanded Ward 3 on its western end to pull in hundreds more white voters. And the Wilson Daily Times did its part to highlight the peril by publishing running tallies of new registrations by race.
Wilson Daily Times, 8 April 1955.
Wilson Daily Times, 25 April 1955.
On election day, 93% of all eligible Black voters voted — let me say that again, NINETY-THREE PERCENT OF ALL ELIGIBLE BLACK VOTERS VOTED — and Dr. Butterfield won again! (Won’t He do it?)
In 1957, faced with another Butterfield campaign, the City went for the nuclear option and chucked the whole ward system for “new and fair” city-wide, at-large seats. Further, to thwart bloc voting, voters would not be able to vote for just one candidate. Rather, they had to select six or their ballots would be invalidated. Jim Crow protocols prevented Dr. Butterfield from campaigning directly to white voters, and he was unable to counter when his white opponents sneered at his ties to “special interest groups” like the NAACP and cast him as a candidate solely interested in advancing Black issues. (One, oh, the hypocrisy! Two, doesn’t this all sound familiar?)
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Butterfield placed eighth of 16 candidates and was the sole incumbent to lose his seat.
The story didn’t end there, of course. Butterfield’s final defeat coincided with the emergence of new grassroots civil rights organizing efforts to attack segregation and racism in every corner of Wilson life. I’m shining a timely light on Dr. Butterfield’s pioneering political career to remind you that there is nothing new under the sun; that voter suppression is the weapon of choice whenever you show your strength; and that, though you may not win every battle, you can do no less than the Black men and women of Wilson who defied their government and risked it all to vote over and over and over.
“Victors in May 3 City Elections Are Given Oaths of Office Today,” Wilson Daily Times, 6 June 1955.
The deadline for registration in Georgia is October 5.
The deadline for registration in North Carolina is October 9.
For the full, fascinating source of my summary of Dr. Butterfield’s elections, please read Charles W. McKinney Jr., Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina (2010).
P.S. Right on time — today, the first in the New York Times’ video series, Stressed Election, focuses on voter suppression in Georgia, where I now live.
In 1918, Moses Woodard registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 6 November 1873; lived at 615 Darden, Wilson; worked as a laborer for Imperial Tobacco Company, Ltd.; and his nearest relative was wife Mary Woodard.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 615 Darden, carpenter Moses Woodard, 47, and wife Mary, 32.
“Septicemia due to a burn on finger. Arm had to be opened in two places”
Hat tip to J. Robert Boykin III for sharing this clipping.
James T. Parker — James Thomas Parker. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1003 Washington Street, chauffeur George Connie, 41; wife Nona, 36, laundress; and laborers Cora Parker, 38, widowed cook, and her son James T., 15.
Jim L. Parker — probably, in the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Parker James L (c) student h 305 Pender
Joe Haskins — Joseph Franklin Haskins. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1200 Wainwright, valued at $1700, Coca-Cola Plant laborer Damp Haskins, 24; wife Sudie B., 21; children Damp Jr., 2, and Hellen, 6 months; mother Hester, 72; brother Joseph, 18; sister Martha Pitt, 52, servant; and nephew Jim R. Haskins, 10.
Fletcher Pierce —Fletcher Forest Pierce. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 905 Vance Street, insurance agent Nazareth Pierce, 54; wife Ada, seamstress; son Fletcher, 17, and daughter Elmira, 25.
Esmond Langley — Esmond Connell Langley. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 901 Viola Street, grocery store merchant Jarrette J. Langley; wife Mary, 49; and children Ivary, 21 public school teacher, Esmond, 19, grocery store delivery boy, Ruttena, 16, Alcesta, 14, and Eunice, 8.
Chas. W. Gilliam — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 805 East Nash Street, valued at $8000, physician Matthew S. Gilliam, 45; wife Annie L., 42; and children Charles W., 17, Matthew, 15, Emily, 13, George T., 12, and Herman, 10.
Chas. Edwards — probably: Charles Edwards registered for the World War II draft in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born in Wilson, N.C., on 20 July 1912; he lived at 1342 Fulton Street, Brooklyn (updated to 1165 Fulton Street); his contact was sister Scottie Carter, 150 Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn; and he was employed by Etta Webb, 1144-A Fulton Street, Brooklyn.
James E. Farmer — James Edward Farmer. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 706 East Green, plasterer John A. Farmer, 60; wife Nona, 61; sons James E., 17, and Woodie, 22, barber; and daughter-in-law Savana, 22, lodge bookkeeper. [His parents, in fact, were John W. and Edmonia Barnes Farmer.]
Thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for sharing this clipping.
From the 1949 edition of The Bear, the yearbook of Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina:
Helen Jean Harrison
In the 1930 census of Bailey township, Nash County: farmer Ellie W. Harris, 45; wife Rosa A., 44; and children Carrie L.,21, William E., 19, Ojetta, 18, Lila M., 16, Ethel M., 14, Mattie E., 13, Robert H., 10, Jessie L., 10, Beatrice, 8, George L., 6, and Hellin J., 2. Ellie, Rosa, and their four oldest children were born in South Carolina; Ethel in Virginia; and the remaining in North Carolina.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 303 Lane Street, Eli Harrison, 56, mechanic helper in “carpentering”; wife Rosa, 54, tobacco factory laborer; and children Ethel, 23, Jessie, 19, Beatrix, 17, Leroy, 16, and Helen, 12. Eli, Rosa and Ethel Harrison was South Carolina-born; the others, North Carolina.
In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Finch Mill Road, farmer Thomas W. Wilson, 42; wife Anna, 33; and children Winnie, 12, Vina, 10, Corina, 8, Hester, 6, Thomas, 4, and Georgianna, 2.
In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Tom Wilson, 56; wife Leanna, 40; and children Sarah, 17, Ester, 15, Thomas, 14, Georgia, 11, Nancy, 9, Gola, 7, and Margie, 3; and sister Nance, 16.
Thomas Wilson Jr. died 20 May 1928 in Wilson township, Wilson County, “drowned, boat capsized.” Per his death certificate, he was 22 years old; single; a farmer; born in Wilson County to Thomas Wilson Sr. of Caswell County and Leanna Briggs of Pearson [Person] County; and buried in Rountree cemetery.
Leanda Tyson died 20 May 1928 in Wilson township, Wilson County, “drowned, boat capsized.” Per his death certificate, he was 18 years old; single; a farmer; born in Wayne County to Walter Tyson and Olive Parker; and buried in Rountree cemetery. Walter Tyson, Elm City, was informant.
Eddie Jarvis Lofton registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 1 May 1911 in Wayne County, N.C.; lived at 816 Mercer Street; his contact was mother Tynce Lofton, 902 West Broad Street; and he worked for Loftin Cafe, Tarboro Street, Wilson.
Thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for sharing this clipping.