Memories of William Hines.

I wrote here of the memoir of long-time Darden High School principal Edward M. Barnes. At the time, I believed the pink booklet to be a one-off tribute published by Darden High School Alumni Association. However, on a recent visit to Sallie B. Howard School, I was introduced to an entire library of these works spanning multiple literary genres — written, edited, and published in the 1980s and ’90s by Mrs. Howard for use in the Youth Enrichment Program.

I was particularly interested in this booklet, and Dr. JoAnne Woodard generously offered me a copy. William Hines seems scarcely remembered now, but was for nearly three-quarters of the twentieth century arguably Wilson’s most civically engaged African-American citizen.

The booklet is organized in a series of Mrs. Howard’s recollections. William Hines was her family’s landlord, and her earliest memories involve the house at 1011 Washington Street.

“… [W]hen we moved into his tenant house in 1935 or ’36, it was the first house we had ever lived in with electricity and an ‘inside’ toilet! We felt extremely fortunate as many of Wilson’s tenant houses did not have such accommodations.”

“How well I remember this neat little four-room house …. It sat so near the sidewalk there was hardly room to frow flowers in the front. In fact, the front porch steps were practically on the sidewalk itself! This, however, was not unusual as many houses were similarly situated during that time. I suppose the rationale of the builders was to leave room in the back so that the residents could plant gardens if they so desired. And in those lean days — nearly everyone desired!”  

“Mr. Hines owned many houses all over Wilson. He also owned his own barber shop where he employed as many as 12 barbers. The house we lived in sat right across the street from others who also owned their own homes. I remember my mother being highly impressed by the green striped awnings of some of these homeowner neighbors. Each summer they would lower these pretty awnings in order to shade their front porches. …”

“I also remember Mr. Hines as one of the donors of cash awards to students who excelled in various subjects at Darden High. Money was hard to come by in those days, and I for one worked hard to capture one of these cash prizes.”

“About 1942, I was a patient at Mercy Hospital on E. Green St. It was said that Mr. Hines was one of the persons who secured the funds from the Duke Endowment for the operations of this hospital. He was the Administrator at the time I was a patient. Practically every morning he would come into the war and say a little something to the patients.”

” … my high school days were filled with priceless memories: the parties, the basketball games held in heatless warehouses (I don’t remember feeling cold!); the football games played in the snow and slush in back of Darden High (I don’t remember feeling cold!); the Junior-Senior proms held on the 3rd floor of the old Vick casino (walk up!); the many concerts and dramas given by our school etc. …”

“Mr. Hines was one of the founders of the Men’s Civic Club. And it was this distinguished group of men who finally succeeded in getting a recreational facility for our community. Today, this facility is known as the Reid Street Center. Now the Black Community had a brand new place in which to house their various activities. How well I remember the Big Bands that played in our new facility. …”

William and Ethel Cornwell Hines in photo reproduced from booklet.

2 comments

  1. What a treasure to find that these publications exist! I hope we, your faithful readers, will be fortunate enough to read some excerpts from others in the future. Priceless!

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