1950s

Rest in power, Fred Valentine.

My chosen family lost yet another patriarch in the closing days of 2022. Fred L. Valentine Sr. passed away in Washington, D.C., on December 26, surrounded by family. An outfielder for the Washington Senators and Baltimore Orioles, “Uncle Fred” spent a stand-out summer with the Wilson Tobs in 1958, where he met his future wife, Helena Smith, and demanded desegregation of the whites-only section of Fleming Stadium after the “colored section” collapsed under an overflow crowd of African-American fans.

The Valentines became close friends of my parents and, as I wrote here, their children were “play cousins” of my sister and me. I honor Fred Valentine’s memory, and send love to his beloved wife, daughters, son, and grandson.

Fred Valentine as a Tob. Photo detail courtesy of North Carolina Baseball Museum, Wilson.

Darden band performs at mass X-ray survey.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 November 1950.

“Hundreds of Wilson county residents yesterday turned out for the opening of the mass x-ray survey which will last until December 23. Part of the crown which attended the opening in front of the county court house can be seen in the top photo. The Charles L. Coon High school band also is shown in the above picture. Colored citizens staged their own opening program at Nash and Pender streets. The Darden High school band can be seen in the bottom photo getting the mass x-ray started in that section of town. …”

County schools, no. 19.2: Stantonsburg School.

This “Stantonsburg Negro School History,” found in Stantonsburg Historical Society’s A History of Stantonsburg Circa 1780 to 1980 (1981), offers a detailed account of Stantonsburg Colored School‘s early history. 

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“The first reference to schooling for the Negro children in Stantonsburg Township is found in the County School Board Minutes of September 1887. ‘The colored children living on lands of William Applewhite, William Barnes, Uriah Amerson, W.J. Batts, Edwin Barnes and Frank Barnes be assigned to District Number 29.’ The location of this school is unknown at this time.

“Books and charts used by both the Negro and White schools in 1893 were published by the American Book Company.

“Very little is known about the early Negro school except there was a school for colored children in Stantonsburg prior to 1913 proven by the fact that the county Board of Education appointed H.E. Thompson, J.C. Stanton and C.L. Coon, a committee in the latter year with power to act relative to moving the colored school.

“In December of 1916, the county Board of Education voted to appropriate $75.00 to remodel the colored school. It was located just outside the city limits on Highway #58, approximately one-fourth mile from the corner of Highway #58 and Saratoga Road, on the Johnnie Page corn mill site; now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Luther Holton.

“On March 3, 1919, the county School Board ‘agreed to sell to the colored Masonic Lodge of Stantonsburg the colored school house of that district for $900.00, provided that the colored people of said district raise $600.00 with which to erect a new colored school building.’ The county agreed to appropriate $250.00 for the new building. At the November 3rd meeting, the chairman and secretary were instructed to ‘make a deed for the Stantonsburg Colored School House and lot upon the payment of purchase money by Lodges of Masons and Knights of Gideon.’

“When the county board convened for the December 1st meeting, it was reported that the colored school house had burned since the last meeting and the following agreement was made:

“1. The Masonic and Gideon Lodges, colored of Stantonsburg, having paid $500.00 on the purchase of the colored school house it is ordered that $300.00 of the amount be returned to the two lodges.

“2. It was agreed that the county board will deed one-quarter acre of the colored school lot to these lodges for a site for a lodge building free of cost.

“After the fire in 1919, school was held in the St. Luke Free Will Baptist Church for the years 1920-1923.

“Land for the new school was acquired from R.M. Whitley. The building was completed in 1924 and is located on Macon Avenue. School was held in the four classrooms, wood framed building until it was closed down in 1951-52 and sold to Elijah Wood. The school was heated by wood and coal heaters.

“In 1951-52, the pupils were transferred to Speight’s School located between Stantonsburg and Saratoga, North Carolina.

“Very little is known about the very early teachers, except in 1916-17 we know that there were two teachers. Other records have been lost or misplaced.

“The following list of teachers and principals was found at the Wilson County Board of Education in Wilson. The earliest known teachers were: W.S. Ward, 1892-1896, District Number 29; E.L. Reide, 1894-1896; E.L. Reide and Clarissa Williams, 1898, District Number 10. [A list of teachers and principals from 1920s through 1952 follows; it will be the subject of another post.]”

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A few observations:

  • The boundaries of earliest rural school districts for African-American children were contiguous with large farms on which large numbers of Black families lived and worked as tenant farmers or farm laborers. This begs the question of where children who did not live on such farms went to school.
  • “Saratoga Road” is now NC Highway 222. I am unable to further pinpoint the location of this school from the info provided. (Does anyone recognize these landmarks: Johnnie Page’s corn mill or the Holton home?)
  • The paragraph about the land purchases involving the Masonic lodge and Knights of Gideon clarifies information set forth in a Rosenwald School report concerning Barnes School, which was located a few miles northwest of Stantonsburg, a bit north of present-day Speight Middle School. I have made notations on the post regarding that school.
  • Does anyone recall the name or location of the Prince Hall lodge in Stantonsburg?
  • The site most closely associated with this school was the Macon Street location purchased in 1924. 
  • I have not identified W.S. Ward, but E.L. Reide was Elijah L. Reid, the Wayne County-born veterinarian who practiced (and apparently taught) in Stantonsburg before relocating to Wilson. Clarissa Williams was also a Wayne County native and moved to Wilson to teach and, eventually, become principal of the Colored Graded School.

Sgt. Bekay Thompson is killed in action in Korea.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 September 1950.

In September 1950, two Wilson families received bad news about a son serving in the Korean Conflict. Hattie Thompson‘s son, young Bekay Thompson, was killed in action in South Korea.

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In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Main Street, widow Hattie Thompson, 37, servant; her children Hilda, 15, new worker, and B. Kay, 9; and lodger Ethel Edwards, 32, tobacco stemmer.

Hattie Thompson, 705 Cemetery Street, Wilson, applied for a military headstone for her son. 

A notation on Thompson’s application shows that he received a Purple Heart. Another, seemingly lightly erased, noted: “Remains not ret[urne]d as of 6-27-51.”

Bagging bucks near Cherry Point.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 November 1950.

Ben Hodges and Wiley Rountree were among a group of Wilson County men who traveled down to Craven County, North Carolina, to hunt deer in November 1950.

  • Ben Hodges — in the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: ice company engineer Ben Hodges, 47; wife Rogenia, 47; and daughters Alva Wilson, 22, and Thelma Bryant, 20.
  • Wiley Rountree — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: plasterer Wiley Rountree, 47; wife Mary, 46; and children Lula, 25, cook, Junius, 21, plasterer, Joseph, 17, Daisey, 23, private nurse, Doris, 13, Mary, 12, and Thelma, 8.

The obituary of Ernest Artis.

Wilson Daily Times, 25 November 1950.

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In the 1930 census of Bull Head township, Greene County: Ernest Artis, 50; wife Saddie, 37; and children Robert, 18, Lawyer, 17, Spencer, 15, Ernest, 9, William, 8, Metta, 19, and Sudie, 6.

In the 1940 census of Bull Head township, Greene County: widow Sadie Artis, 45, and children or grandchildren Robert, 25, Lawyer, 24, Spence, 23, Earnest, 19, and William, 1. 

Ernest Artis died 21 November 1950 at the Veterans Administration hospital in Kecoughtan, Virginia; lived at 700 Vance Street, Wilson; was born 20 October 1920 in Wilson to Ernest Artis and Sadie Thompson; was single; and worked as a laborer.

On 4 December 1950, Sadie Artis, 700 East Vance Street, applied for a military grave marker for her son Earnest Artis. Per the application, Artis was born 20 October 1920 in Greene County; was inducted on 28 October 1942 and discharged honorably on 26 October 1943; ranked private; and served in Company B, 134th Engineer Training Battalion, Corps of Engineers. He was buried in Artis cemetery near Stantonsburg, and the marker was to be shipped to the Wilson freight station from Proctor, Vermont. 

For more about Greene County’s Artis Town, see here. (The sign has been replaced, by the way.) For more about the Artis Town cemetery, where Ernest Artis was buried, see here.

Corp. Amos L. Batts, Army and Navy veteran, drowns.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 September 1950.

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In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Amos Batts, 29; wife Elizabeth, 29; and children Arlettie, 10, James, 8, Roosevelt, 7, and Amos Lee, 5.

In the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: widowed farmer Elizabeth Batts, 43; and children James H., 19, Roosevelt, 16, and Leander, 12.

In 1944, Amos Leander Batts registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 22 May 1926 in Black Creek, N.C.; lived at 1207 Queen Street; his contact was mother Elizabeth B. Batts, 1207 Queen Street; he was a student at Darden High School; and he worked after school for Paul Bissette, Bissette’s Drug Store. 

Corporal Batts’ body was eventually recovered and returned to Wilson for burial in Rest Haven Cemetery. On 19 February 1951, his mother applied for a military headstone for his grave.

The reverse of the application card reveals interesting details of Corporal Batts’ military service:

“Prior service: induction and active duty date 6 September 1944 honorably discharged 30January 1946. Re-enlisted 31 January 1946 active duty same date honorably discharged 2 December 1946. Enlisted Reserve Corps from 3 December 1946 to 19 December 1946; re-enlisted on 20 December 1946 discharged under honorable conditions 11 February 1949.”

Presumably, this was service in the U.S. Army. At the time of his death, Batts was enlisted in the U.S. Navy and working aboard USNS Gen. W.F. Hase, a Military Sealift Command vessel.

Friday night social.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 November 1950.

Bill Elliott supervised the Darden High School’s Teen Age Club, which held social events at Reid Street Community Center under the joint sponsorship of Darden’s Parent-Teacher Association and Wilson’s Department of Recreation and Parks.

Daily Times paperboys, no. 5.

  • Elmo Parker

Wilson Daily Times, 7 October 1950.

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: S.T. Parker, 39; wife Irene, 20; children Elma, 5, William, 3, and Fannie P., 1; sister Bertha, 34; nephew Jessie Lewis, 8, and Daisy Lee Parker, 4.

  • Frank Barnes

Wilson Daily Times, 6 October 1950.

  • Timothy Autry

Wilson Daily Times, 6 October 1950.

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 507 Hadley Street, plowman Henry L. Hill, 64; wife Rosa, 43, seamstress; daughter Mammie, 36, beautician; and grandchildren Delores, 16, Dorothy, 14, Timothy, 12, and Peggie J., 8.