Stick ’em up.

In which Tom Johnson, losing at cards, robs (and shoots) Jesse Foster to get his money back. 

Wilson Daily Times, 3 October 1930.


  • Tom Johnson

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 112 Reid Street, owned and valued at $1500, Tom Johnson, 41, and wife Ethel, 38, cosmetics agent.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Tom Johnson, 55, public service laborer; wife Ethel, 42; mother Lula, 68; and son Rogers McGill, 27, tobacco factory laborer. [The Johnsons lived in the same house they had occupied in 1930, but were paying $20/month in rent.]

Thomas Johnson died 25 December 1942 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 September 1895 in Terrell County, Georgia, to Orange Johnson and Lula [no maiden name given]; was married to Ethel Johnson; lived at 112 South Reid Street; and died of gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen.

  • Jesse Foster

On 20 January 1915, Jesse Foster, 23, of Fremont [Wayne County,] N.C., son of Jesse and Cora Foster, married Zalister Grice, 22, of Black Creek, daughter of Joe and Lillie Grice, in Wilson.

In 1917, Jesse Foster Jr. registered for the World War I draft in Fremont, Wayne County. Per his registration card, he was born 11 March 1892 near Stantonsburg, N.C.; was a farm worker on his father Jesse Foster’s farm; and married. He signed with an X.

The death of Lizzie Bullock.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 February 1936.

“Liz” was 81 year-old Lizzie Pitt Bullock, who may or may not have adored Sallie Egerton Blount, but surely did not love the Blounts as much as she loved her own children.


On 15 May 1877, Lizzie Pitt married Frank Bullock in Edgecombe County, North Carolina.

In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County:  Frank Bullock, 27; wife Lizzie, 23; and son Ruffin, 1.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brick setter Frank Bullock, 45; wife Lizzie, 41, cook; and children Ernest, 14, house servant, Hugh, 11, nurse, Malvina, 9, and Obed, 5.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lee Street, garden laborer Frank Bullock, 65; wife Lizzie, 60, cook; children Ernest, 25, odd jobs laborer; Hudy, 23, livery stable laborer; Petronia, 20, private nurse; and Obert, 16, drugstore servant. [By the way, the Bullocks were next-door neighbors to my great-grandparents, Michael and Rachel Barnes Taylor.]

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 410 Pine Street, widow Lizzie Bullock, 65, cook “McLean” [i.e., the family of Sallie Blount’s daughter Sallie Blount McLean]; daughter Gertrude, 25, cook; and son Obert, 24, cook in cafe. 

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 409 Pine Street, rented for $12/month, Lizzie Bullock, 70, widow; children Ernest, 43, house painter, Obert, 33, hotel cook, and Gertrude, 35, laundress; and lodgers Charlie Moye, 29, truck gardener, and Edward Williams, 53, farm laborer. 

Earnest Bullock died 16 May 1931 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 April 1886 in Edgecombe County to Frank Bullock and Lizzie Pitt; was the widower of Flora Bullock; lived at 409 Pine; and worked as a painter. Gertrude Bullock was informant.

Lizzie Bullock died 26 February 1936 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 81 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to Jack Pitt and Lucinda Pitt; was a widow; and lived at 409 Pine Street. Informant was Gertrude Bullock.

Gertrude Eddie died 14 November 1953 at her home at 409 North Pine Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 17 March 1897 in Wilson County to Frank Bullock and Lizzie Petts, and was married to John Eddie.

Thousands of tobacco factory workers laid off.

For much of the twentieth century, tobacco factories and stemmeries employed more African-American workers than any other industry in Wilson. The work was low-paid, mostly seasonal, and often performed by women.

In September 1939, shortly after the season began, Imperial Tobacco abruptly released hundreds of newly hired workers, sparking mass layoffs by other factories. The state employment office opened a temporary processing location at Reid Street Community Center, but officials warned that most workers had already maxed out their yearly unemployment eligibility. 

Wilson Daily Times, 13 September 1939.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

The colored painters meet.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 March 1936.

Who were “the colored painters of Wilson” during this period?

I’ve been able to identify James Ashley Whitfield, David Dupree, Butler E. Jones, Alexander Obery, and Samuel Swinney as painters active in the 1930s. (Commercial painter Ramon Martinez was in Wilson by 1940, but probably had not yet arrived in 1936.)

Barbershop ratings.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 August 1935.


The paper carried a ranking of 13 barber shops in Wilson, ten of which exclusively served white customers. The shops known to be African-American-owned were William Hines, Briggs Hotel (the location of Walter Hines‘ shop), Hargroves, Neal’s, and Sanitary, and perhaps. 

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

The obituary of William Pittman.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 August 1935.


On 22 December 1894, William Pittman, 36, of Wilson township, married Mollie Dew, 30, daughter of Easter Dew, in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister Jeremiah Scarborough performed the ceremony in the presence of Haywood Sessoms, Mary A. Sauls, and Victoria Moore.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Vance Street, William Pittman, 52, wagon shop laborer; wife Mollie, 42, laundress; son General, 27, odd jobs laborer; daughter Lena, 24, family cook; and adopted daughter Bettie, 10.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Carroll Street, William Pittman, 55, wagon factory laborer, and wife Mollie, 50.

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Pittman Wm (c; Mollie) h 120 Queen

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson: at 1202 Queen Street, owned and valued at $1000, William Pitman, 74, tobacco factory laborer; wife Molly, 63, laundress; and sons James, 10, and Joseph, 8.

William Pittman died 1 August 1935 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 73 years old; was born in Halifax County, N.C.; lived at 1202 Queen Street, Wilson; was married to Mollie Pittman; and worked as a laborer.

[Sidenote: Though the obituary states that Pittman was buried in Rountree Cemetery, he probably was actually buried in what we now call Vick Cemetery. He was not a member of Rountree Missionary Baptist church or, apparently, an Odd Fellow, and thus likely not buried in those cemeteries. “Rountree,” however, was the name by which the three conjoined graveyards were commonly known.] 

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.