A cook is crushed by a circus trailer.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 October 1929.

In 1929, a circus cook died instantly after falling under the wheels of a large truck on South Goldsboro Street. Per the Daily Times‘ October 1 issue, circus officials identified him as Frank Whitley, but knew little else about him. 

By time his death certificate issued the following day, more information was available. The man’s name, instead, was Henry Thompson, and he was a native of Birmingham, Alabama. He was 25 years old, but his marital status was unknown. 

Per the news article, Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Circus paid undertaker C.H. Darden & Sons to bury Thompson in Wilson. Rest Haven had not yet been established; he was probably laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Vick Cemetery.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.


  1. Henry Thompson was someone’s son.

    Unfortunately, this unaccounting of a black person’s life was far too frequent.

    My grandfather’s ((Henry Green) death record is some where in the DC/MD. area. My grandmother was informed of his death by word of mouth that when he left Wilson around 1940 to go to DC to work on a dairy farm , he allegedly stepped off of a milk truck while delivering milk and was killed by a car. My family never got his remains.

    His daughter, my mom, still lives at age 94. She was around 13 when this happened to her dad.

    Lord have mercy on her memories.

    1. It breaks my heart to think of how many loved ones simply disappeared in that era of poor communication (and lack of will to communicate.) May your grandfather’s soul rest, and my condolences to your mother, even after all the years.

  2. This article made my mouth drop open! I was annoyed with the “alleged” aspect in the article… and the photographing & finger printing but turns out both were right! I wonder why the circus gave a false name or did Henry? I guess paying for the funeral was cheaper than paying his family.

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