Biography

Dr. Phillips arrives.

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New York Age, 28 September 1916.

In the 1900 census of Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina: cook Frank Phillips, 47; wife Margarett, 45; and children Mary, 25, Jeanett, 21, Dealian, [illegible], Frank, [illegible], Willie, 8, Bessie, 15, and Susie, 6.

In 1917, William Haywood Phillips registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 23 December 1891 in Raleigh, North Carolina; lived at 530 1/2 Nash Street, Wilson; was single; and worked as a dentist.

On 30 November 1917, William H. Phillips, 25, married Jewell Jennifer, 18, in Washington, D.C.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 332 South Spring, widow Ella Battle, 52, and her children Grace [Glace], 27, teacher Roberta, 29, tobacco worker John, 25, and Olga Battle, 11, shared their home with boarders Georgia Burks, 25, a Georgia-born teacher, and chauffeur Theodore Speight, 17; and roomers William Phillips, 35, a dentist, and his wife Jewel, 23.

On 6 May 1930, William Haywood Phillips, 36, divorced, son of Frank and Margarett Haywood Phillips, married Rena Manor Carter, 34, widow, daughter of Robert and Mary D. Carter, in Norfolk, Virginia.

In the 1930 census of Tarboro, Edgecombe County: renting at 115 Andrew Street, dentist William H. Phillips, 37, and wife Rena C., 33.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Green Street, dentist William H. Phillips, 47, and wife Rena C., 45.

William Haywood Phillips died 26 October 1957 at his home at 405 Green Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 December 1892 in Raleigh; was married to Rena J. Phillips; and worked as a dentist.

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Caldwell, A.B., History of the American Negro and His Institutions, North Carolina Edition (1921).

Sidney S. Boatwright, “dean of local barbers.”

Wilson Daily Times, 19 January 1950.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 March 1977.

In the 1910 census of Legett, Marion County, South Carolina: laborer Joe Williams, 19; wife Dina, 39; and step-children Lillie, 17, Lida, 14, Sherwood, 9, and Mizoula Boatright, 7.

On 5 June 1917, Sid Boatwright registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 16 June 1896 in Mullins, South Carolina; lived on Green Street; worked for Mrs. J.C. Williams as a hotel porter; and supported his mother and sister.

In the 1920 Wilson city directory, Sidney Boatwright is listed as a factory hand residing at 123 Pender Street.

In the 1925 Wilson city directory, Sidney Boatwright is listed as a barber residing on May Street near the city limits.

In the 1928 Wilson city directory, Sidney Boatwright is listed as a barber for W.S. Hines residing at 1001 Lincoln Street.

In the 1930 Wilson city directory, Sidney Boatwright is listed as a barber for Walter S. Hines residing at 418 North Vick Street.

In 1942, Sidney Sherwood Boatwright registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 16 June 1900 in Mullins, South Carolina; resided at 722 East Green Street; worked as a barber at Walter Hines Barber Ship, 208 East Nash Street; and his nearest relative was Mrs. Sidney Sherwood Boatwright. He was described as 5’10 1/2″, 200 pounds.

Sidney Boatwright died 16 March 1977 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 June 1900 in South Carolina to Sherwood Boatwright and Dinah (last name unknown); worked as a barber; resided at 722 East Green; and was married to Johnnie Kornegy Boatwright.

 

Paul T. Williamson.

Paul Thomas Williamson (1879-1960).

Merchant-farmer Paul T. Williamson donated the land upon which the Wilson County School Board built a six-room high school to serve African-American students in southwestern Wilson County. Williamson High School, which opened in 1942, later became known as Springfield High School.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 January 1960.

Wilson Daily Times, 28 December 1960.

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In the 1880 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Elic Williamson, 44; wife Gracy, 29; and children John, 14, Lugen, 11, Joseph, 9, Jennie, 7, Mary, 6, Clem, 4, Sarah J., 2, and Pall, 1.

In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Alex Williamson, 63; wife Gracy, 50; children Genny Whitley, 26, and Sarah, 22, Paul, 21, Daniel, 19, Henietta, 15, Edna, 15, and Katie Williamson, 12; and grandchildren Nancy, 8, Della, 5, and Pearle Whitley, 4.

On 23 November 1904, Paul Williamson, 25, son of Alex and Grace Williamson of Springhill township, married Mary Hinnant, 23, daughter of Joe and Rhoda Hinnant of Spring Hill township. W.H. Horton of the Christian denomination performed the ceremony at Thom Hinnant‘s house in the presence of  J.T. Hinnant, L.H. Horton and W.H. Shaw.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Wilson & Smithfield Branch Road, farmer Paul Williamson, 31; wife Mary, 28; and children Beatrice, 4, and James C., 3.

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Old Clayton & Wilson Road, farmer Paul T. Williamson, 40; wife Mary, 38; and children Beatrice, 14, and James, 12.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Paul T. Williamson, 51; wife Mary, 48; daughter Beatrice, 24; son James C., 23; daughter-in-law Anna D., 22;  grandson James W., 6 months; and boarder Ozie Allen, 35, a farm laborer.

In the 1940 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Paul Williamson, 61; wife Mary, 57; daughter Beatrice, 34; son James, 33, filling station operator; daughter-in-law Anna, 32; and grandchildren Jantice, 8, and Paul W., 6.

Paul Thomas Williamson died 27 December 1960 in Lucama, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 February 1879 in Wilson County to Alex Williamson and Grace Shaw; worked as a grocery store merchant; and was married to Mary Williamson.

Photo of Williamson courtesy of Wilson Daily Times.

A short resume of E.M. Barnes’ life.

A SHORT RESUME OF MY LIFE

By Edward M. Barnes

I hasten to state that the use of this statement should be in the third person. To me, it is not important enough to be presented on my own.

I was born in Wilson, N.C. what seems to me now a short time ago – to poor, humble and devoted parents: Elizabeth and Lemon Barnes. Their educational background was minimal but they worked hard and were determined that their children would receive the best of life that was available to them at the time.

Times were difficult, to say the least, because it was the beginning of the “Great Depression.” For those parents born since the inauguration of President Roosevelt, it is hard to understand the meaning of “difficult times.”

The experience I had during my growing years were many. If time and space permitted my telling about them, I am sure you would get a good laugh out of some of them and you would feel sorry for me in many others. I am, however, so happy to have come this far and I have so much for which to thank God, my parents and a multitude of teachers and friends.

The Act That Mobilized a Community!

Much of my early education took place in the midst of turmoil that developed when the “white” superintendent of schools slapped a black teacher in the presence of our “black” principal. To say that all hell broke loose would be putting it mildly.

An Independent School Is Born

Our only public school was emptied of all the students and a private one was formed and operated for many years on the few pennies that parents were able to find to pay for teachers and others in the school’s operation. Standards of good education were necessarily diminished but, in spite of that, many of those students became leaders in activities of national importance.

The Independent School was housed in one of Mr. Sam Vick‘s houses on E. Vance St.

Miss Georgia Burke

Miss Georgia Burke was one of the teachers at the Graded School when the slapping incident happened. With her outstanding musical abilities, she became one of the chief fund raisers to keep the school operating.

She put on lavish concerts in the old Vick Globe Theater. She held two-day commencement exercises in warehouses in order to raise funds to keep the school operating for about 8 or 10 years. The school operated until well after the Wilson Colored High School was built in 1923.

Miss Burke went on to became a famous musical star on New York’s Broadway stage.

A “Poor Soul” Goes To College And Becomes A Principal

This poor soul, at the insistence of Rev. A.H. George, went to Livingstone College without ever having been accepted as a student nor even having made application.

Through sheer determination and with very little money, I was able to stay there eight years, graduating from both its high school and college. Upon graduation, in 1931, I came directly to the Wilson Colored High School which later became C.H. Darden High School.

At that time, the principal was having some difficulty with the people of the community. It seemed to stem from his refusal to hire high school teachers from Wilson. I came as teh first high school teacher from Wilson. I taught classes in French and English for one year and part of the second year. During my second year, the principal died in his office on the day we were to close for the Christmas holidays. After his death, the superintendent asked me to take over the supervision of the school until he could find a replacement. I waited 38 years until John W. Jones became the replacement in 1969 — upon my retirement!

During the first five years of my retirement, I served part-time in the office of the superintendent. Time will not permit me to tell of the many pleasant experiences that I had during my tenure as principal. There are many teachers, staff members and other workers who helped me; without them, I would have had no measure of success. Perhaps my greatest pleasure and indeed success — if I had any — came from the many students who were under my supervision. I see so many every day who tell me of the help that I gave them and of the role model that I represented to them. Believe me, those kinds of comments mean more to me than any other things that they could do or say. I must say, however, that pleasures and good times were not all of my experiences. My share of headaches and heartaches cannot be over-looked for there were many of them.

In addition to my school work, I also have a degree of pride in the community service that I undertook during my working years and after retirement.

It was my pleasure to work for 10 years on the Wilson County Library Board, serving during the time of the renovation of the public library. I value the appearance of my name on the corner stone of the new addition to that building.

Before becoming a member of the Wilson County Housing Authority, I served on a city appointed Commission that began the improvements of the blighted areas of our city. The Commission had the responsibility of cleaning up those areas. It took ten years and many legal and other problems to clear before the work on that project could be completed. After that time, I — along with some of the others who had worked on the Commission — were merged with the Wilson Housing Authority. During the ten years that I worked with this group, (serving two terms as chairman) many projects were completed, including Tasman Towers. I shall always be grateful to the Authority and to the City of Wilson for naming a project after me — The E.M. Barnes Manor. I hope that such action is not a prelude to my death.

I am very proud of the part that I played in the organization of our local unit of the Retired Teachers Association. Its history is more complete in its file. However, at the time we had no association in Wilson that was connected with the State organization. I was asked to head a group with a responsibility to organize one. I took that responsibility. I visited personally many persons, pleading for their membership. Some accepted; many refused. We were very fortunate to get Mrs Sallie Lanier to serve as the first president. Many of our first contacts ware still with us. It is delightful to know that our local association is nor one of the largest and most active in the state.

Over the years, I had the honor of serving on many committees and working with many groups. We worked with the group that organized a Community Human Relations Commission. For many years it made a Commendable contribution to our community. For some reasons, it has now lost its effectiveness.

I am proud, also, to have had a part in organizing our Men’s Civic Club, composed of a group of Black men with similar interests. It was never intended to be a representative of the City; we wanted a social group but with equal community interests. We may now be the only continuously operated organization in the city of Wilson. We have met at least once a month for 50 years.

There are many other community organizations with which I have served, but my promised brief statement does not permit me to mention them by name. I tried to perform well in them all.

I cannot close without mentioning at least two more, however, that are second to none. I joined and attended the Presbyterian church when I was a child — too young to go alone. I have always thought of myself as a Christian, but it was not until after my retirement that being a Christian means more than just words. It includes action and lots of it. I learned my church after my retirement. Before that, Darden High School was my only real interest. Since retirement I have learned much and done much to promote a viable church. For many years I have been closely connected with my church on the local, regional and national levels. Our national church was split over one hundred years ago over the existence of slavery.

We are now in the process of coming together again. I have had the honor of serving on the local and regional levels of two very important committees. We had the responsibility of doing the “leg work” on both. I am happy to state the configuration that was recommended by the committee that I chaired has been accepted by the total group and we are now in the process of operating as a new national church beginning January 1, 1989.

The second and final statement concerns my family. Odelle [Whitehead Barnes] and I have been married for 51 years. We are now trying to determine which of us should have the medal, but we will never agree on that question. I can only say that they have been for me, 51 happy years. Odelle, Carolyn [Barnes Kent] (our daughter) and the boys (grandchildren): Howard (Howie) and Edward (Eddie) — are my life.

I refuse to say more.                     Wilson, N.C. 1988

This memoir by Edward Morrison Barnes (1905-2002) appears to have been published by the C.H. Darden High School Alumni Association circa 1988. Photograph courtesy of 1950 edition of The Trojan, the yearbook of C.H. Darden High School.

Artist, lawyer, preacher.

On 15 September 1939, Cora L. Bennett, a writer employed by the Works Project Administration interviewed William Arthur Cooper for the Folklore Project. The transcript of the interview is housed at the Library of Congress. Here is an excerpt:

William A. Cooper, artist and preacher gives the story of his life as follows:

“My work has been my life. Whatever degree of success I have had has come about, I believe, as a result of my dogged determination to do something tangible for my race.

“I was born in the country near Hillsboro, N.C. As a small boy I worked on the farm. I worked in the tobacco fields, worming and stemming tobacco as well as in the cotton fields. For about four months in the winter I attended a Mission school in Hillsboro for negros. In summer time I worked as a janitor and some times as a cook or house boy.

“When I was about fourteen I began to support myself, and soon there after went to the Industrial Institute at High Point, N.C. as a work student. I worked on the school farm,
got up at five o’clock in the morning to milk the cows, plow and hoe cotton and corn, and anything else that needed to be done. While I was at this school I also took up brick laying along with my other studies.

“From High Point I went to the National Religious Training School at Durham, N.C. There I took the four year Theological Course. Still working my way through school, I received the Bachelor of Theology Degree from that institution.

“As soon as I had finished I went to Wilson, N.C. where I started out as an insurance man, and at the same time preaching at a small church on Sunday.

“I went from there to Burlington, N.C. where I was elected Principal of a high school. I also served as Principal of the high school at Graham, N.C. and taught at various other places. All this time I was studying law at night and passed the State Bar examination in 1922.

“I became interested in art for the first time a few years before this. I was in bed with a severe cold and while lying idle I thought I would try to do two pictures illustrating the Biblical quotation: ‘Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, but straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be who
find it.’ The members of my church were quite pleased with the pictures. Their pleasure encouraged me a great deal, and from that time on I began to paint other things. It was then I started painting the members of my race, anybody I could get 3 to sit— field hands, teachers, children, cooks or washerwomen. I had taken no formal lessons at the time but I kept right on trying to see what I might do.

“I have attempted to show the real negro through art. I believe that unless we have some record of the negro that is neither burlesqued with black face nor idealized with senmentality, the younger generation of negroes will be deprived of inspiration from their own race. …”

——

William Arthur Cooper (1895-1974), preacher, lawyer, and artist, painted the portraits of Negro field hands, domestic servants, children, religious and civic leaders and business executives. As a member of the North Carolina Interracial Commission, Cooper made a “good will” tour to colleges and universities in North Carolina where he exhibited his portraits and lectures on art and black culture.

Cooper’s papers, housed at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, include: “Biographical materials; correspondence, concerning portrait commisions, lectures on art, and exhibitions of his work; two account books containing expenditures; receipts; a journal, 1935, containing expenditures and notes concerning his “good will” tour; a report on the tour; Cooper’s publication Educating Through Fine Arts; his book A Portrayal of Negro Life, 1936, which contains reproductions of his portraits acompanied by his explanatory text, and documents related to the book including proposed plans, sales records, and a typescript of the book which contains portraits not included in the published version; price lists for Cooper’s paintings; exhibition catalogs, clippings, miscellany, and a book by Charles C. Dawson, ABCs of Great Negroes; and 36 photographs of Cooper, of his friends and church members, and his portrait paintings.”

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The Bathing Girl (1932).

Lafayette “Fate” Melton.

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On 3 December 1907, Mack Melton, 55, of Gardners township, son of Lenzy and Eliza Melton, married Sarah Wootten, 40, of Greene County, in Wilson County. Moses Dew applied for the marriage license, and he, Carrie Melton and Marry Thomas witnessed.

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Mack Melton, 60, wife Sarah, 45, and children Lafyette, 14, Lillie, 12, Gilber, 10, and Warren Melton, 8. Both Mack and Sarah reported that this was a second marriage for each. Sarah reported that seven of her nine children were living.

Fate Milton registered for the World War I draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he resided in Wilson County, was born in Pitt County on 21 December 1895, and worked a farmer.

On 29 December 1921, Fate Melton, 26, of Wilson County, son of Mack and Sarah Melton, married Annie Brooks, 21, of Wilson County, daughter of Grant and Sallie Brooks. Primitive Baptist minister Thomas Bunch officiated at the ceremony, and David Bynum, Leander Harriss and Leander Sauls were witnesses.

Fate Melton was appointed as an elder in the Union Primitive Baptist Association as a young man and served as pastor of at least four Wilson County churches, Oaky Grove, Friendship, Union Grove and Jerusalem Grove. He led Jerusalem Grove from 1924 until his death in 1961; the church is now helmed by a grandson.

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Fate Melton died 4 September 1961 at a Veterans Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was a farmer and Primitive Baptist minister; was born 21 December 1896 in Wilson County to Tony Sharp Melton and Sarah Ellis; and was a World War I veteran. Annie Brooks Melton was informant.

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Proceedings of the 58th Annual Session of the Union Primitive Baptist Association found at www.archive.org; military headstone application found at U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Many thanks to Anthony J. Edwards for permission to feature this photograph.

William Hines, making good.

In March 1913, the Indianapolis Recorder, a nationally focused African-American newspaper, ran a front-page feature on William Hines, a “native of [Wilson] and a forceful character for the intellectual, moral, spiritual, social and economic development of young North Carolinians.”

Citing Samuel H. Vick and Biddle University as Hines’ influences, the article detailed his entry into the real estate business after establishing a successful barber shop. In just five years, Hines had accumulated 11 houses and “a number of very desirable lots.”

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Indianapolis Recorder, 1 March 1913.

Hines’ real estate investments eventually made him one of the largest builder-owners of rental property in east Wilson. His barber shop operated for many decades, and his varied civic involvement included work as leader in the World War I Liberty Loan Campaign, charter investor in the Commercial Bank of Wilson, founding member of the Men’s Civic Clubboard of trustees of the Negro Library, board of directors of the Reid Street Community Center, and administrator of Mercy Hospital.

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William Hines, a little later in life.

William Hines was born 29 October 1883 in Edgecombe County and died 17 October 1981 in Wilson. He is buried in Rest Haven cemetery.

Photo of Hines courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985).

John M. and Annie D. Barnes.

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John M. and Annie D. Barnes. The building behind them appears to be Mercy Hospital. They lived next door at 500 East Green Street.

John Mack Barnes is one of a handful of African-Americans whose bio briefs were submitted for publication in History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985). “Father John Barnes was a real down to earth person. Never a hint of show off, or put on trying to impress you. Every one that knew him had to respect him.”

Per the article, John Barnes was born 26 December 1870 in Edgecombe County to Charles and Rebecca Barnes. (Benjamin Frank Barnes was one of his brothers.) He married Annie Darden and fathered four children, Leonard Elroy, Artelia, Thelma, and a boy who died early. Annie Darden Barnes taught at the Sallie Barbour School.

Barnes was a master builder, carpenter and brickmason whose finest works included Saint John A.M.E. Zion church and parsonage, Camillus L. Darden‘s stately Colonial Revival home on Pender Street, and the Tudor Revival Darden Funeral Home on Nash. He was devoted to Saint John and served as violin soloist, steward and trustee during his 69 years of membership. In his spare time, he raised Rhode Island Red and Plymouth Rock chickens at his home at 500 East Green Street.

When Annie Barnes died, Barnes built a brick and cement mausoleum for her remains. John M. Barnes died 27 April 1958 and was buried in an extension of the mausoleum built by his friend George Coppedge.

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Barnes mausoleum in Darden family plot, Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson, February 2017.

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In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charley Barnes, 50, wife Beckey, 36, and children John, 10, Frank, 6, Ann, 4, William C., 3, Thomas, 1, and Corah H., 1 month.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmhand Charley Barnes, 50; wife Rebecca, 57, washing; and children John, 26, drayman, William, 23, drayman, Annie, 17, cooking, Tom, 18, day laborer, and Corrah, 12, nursing.

On 22 December 1903, John M. Barnes, 33, son of Chas. and Rebecca Barnes of Wilson, married Annie Lee Darden, 24, daughter of Chas. and Dianah Darden of Wilson. Samuel H. Vick applied for the license, and Methodist Episcopal minister B.D. McIver performed the service in the presence of C.R. Cannon, Walter Hines, and O.L.W. Smith.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason John M. Barnes, 44, wife Annie L., 32, Leonard E., 5, Lee J. [Leo Artelia], 4, Selma [Thelma] F., 2, and John W., 3 months.

In the 1912 Hill’s city directory, John M. Barnes, bricklayer, is listed at 121 Pender Street (across from Saint John A.M.E. Zion.) In the 1922 and 1930 city directories, he is listed at 500 East Green. His occupation was given as plasterer in 1922.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 500 East Green, bricklayer John M. Barnes, 69, and wife Annie L., 61.

Annie Lee Barnes died 3 May 1943 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 1 February 1879 in Wilson to Charles Henry Darden of Greene County and Dianna Scarborough of Wilson County; was married to John M. Barnes; and taught at the Sallie Barbour School. John M. Barnes was informant.

John M. Barnes died 27 April 1958 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1870 in Wayne County to Charles and Rebecca Pope Barnes; worked as a brickmason; was married to Cora Sherrod Barnes [daughter of Jack and Cassie Sherrod]; and was buried at Rest Haven. Thelma B. Byers was informant.

Photo of John and Annie Barnes courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985); cemetery photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2017.

Benjamin Frank Barnes.

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Cornerstone, Mount Hebron Lodge.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charley Barnes, 50, wife Beckey, 36, and children John, 10, Frank, 6, Ann, 4, William C., 3, Thomas, 1, and Corah H., 1 month.

On 3 May 1899, Benjamin F. Barnes, 25, son of Charles and Rebecca Barnes of Wilson County, married Prudy Miller, 20, daughter of Prissy Miller, in Wilson. Rev. S.B. Hunter performed the ceremony at Saint John’s A.M. E. Zion in the presence of L.A. Moore, Charlotte Aycock and Annie V.C. Hunt.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: house mover Frank Barnes, 28, wife Prudence, 21, mother-in-law Priscillia Miller, 45, and her son John, 14.

On 14 September 1904, B.F. Barnes, 31, of Wilson County, son of Charles and Rebecca Barnes, married Nicey A. Harper, 30, daughter of John and Edna Harper of Greene County, in Snow Hill township, Greene County.

In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Benj. F. Barnes, bricklayer, is listed residing at 221 Pender Street.

In the 1910 census of Snow Hill, Greene County: in the household of John and Edna Harper, son-in-law Frank Barnes, 37, married twice, brickmason, and daughter Nicie A., 38.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 418 Green Street, brickmason Frank Barnes, and wife Nicey, 47.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason Frank Barnes, 68, wife Nicey, 69, and brother-in-law Will Harper, 62.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2016.