Civic Life

Hagans reports on the Republican delegation.

Farmer & Mechanic (Raleigh, N.C.), 2 September 1902. 

It’s not entirely clear, but this report seems to claim that Jack Sharp, a former Wilson County resident, boarded a train to unseat the county’s representatives on their way to the state Republican convention and to appoint a new set. William S. Hagans, the Wayne County native who provided the report, was African-American, and my guess is that the original delegates contained Black members.

Wilson’s first African-American policemen.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 July 1950.

In 1950, Wilson hired its first two Black policemen, Rudolph Best and Lee Jackson Williams, to patrol east of the railroad tracks.

  • Lee Jackson “Hank” Williams

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 319 Hackney Street, a duplex rented at $12/month per unit, Frank Harris, 35, lumber mill laborer; wife Mamie, 33; son Frank Jr., 2; and nephew McKinley Barnes, 21, farm laborer, and niece-in-law Hagar, 16; and Sam Williams, 28, barber; wife Emma, 28; children Addie M., 9, James, 7, Billie, 3, and Sam Jr., 1; and roomer Earnest Corbitt, 32, oil mill laborer.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 511 East Green Street, rented for $12/hour, Sam Williams, 42, barber; wife Emma, 38; and children Addie, 19, James, 17, Billie, 13, Samuel Jr., 11, and Dazzarine, 9.

In 1944, Lee Jackson Williams registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 5 May 1926 in Wilson County; lived at 511 East Green Street; his nearest relative was Emma Williams; and he was “unemployed — going to school.”

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 505 East Green, barber Sam Williams, 50; wife Emma, 48; children Addie M., 28, James, 26, and Lee Williams, 23; and daughter Dazzarine Nicholson, 19, cashier, and her daughter Edrina, 1.

On 27 September 1954, Lee Jackson Williams, 28, of Wilson, son of Sam and Emma Crawford Williams, married Margaret Evangeline Speight, 25, of Wilson, daughter of Theodore and Marie Thomas Speight, at 510 East Green Street, Wilson. Presbyterian minister O.J. Hawkins performed the ceremony in the presence of Beatrice Neal, Emma Williams, and Sarah Bryant.

Lee Jackson Williams died 24 October 1997 in Wilson.

  • Rudolph Best

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 406 East Walnut, ice plant laborer Aaron Best, 31; wife Estell, 31; and children William A., 9, Audry L., 6, Rudolph V., 5, Vera M., 3, and Royce D., 1.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 406 Walnut, rented for $12/month, Aaron Best, 39; wife Estelle, 39; and children Rudolph, 14, Royce, 10, Harper and Gerald, 8, Eddie, 7, and Nannie Jean, 5.

In 1943, Rudolph Best registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 17 September 1925 in Wilson; his contact was Aaron Best; he lived at 1009 East Nash Street, Wilson; and he worked part-time at Briggs Hotel.

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1009 East Nash Street, Isaac Williams, 26, plaster helper; wife Delores D., 25, shaking tobacco at tobacco factory; and Larry L., 1; (upstairs) Rudolph Best, 24, plaster helper, and brothers Audrey L., 27, auto mechanic at repair shop, and Eddie E., 17; and (upstairs) Odessa B. Reid, 39, and mother Ietta R.M. Reid, 81, widow.

On 29 December 1954, Rudolph Best, 29, of Wilson, son of Aaron Best and Estelle Burden Best, married Ophelia Atkinson, 30, of Wilson, daughter of Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle Atkinson in Wilson.

Rudolph Best died 19 August 1974 in Durham, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 September 1925 to Aaron Best and Estelle Burton; was married to Ophelia Atkinson; lived at 1009 East Nash Street, Wilson; and had worked as a “policeman (22 years) Wilson Police Dept. Retired.)

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Wilson Daily Times, 15 March 1982.

African lecturer speaks to two audiences in Wilson.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 September 1916.

Accolades notwithstanding, I have not been able to find anything else about Dr. C.E. Chechzzli or determine more precisely where he was from. After the Scramble for Africa, five European colonizers — Britain, Italy, France, Belgium, and Germany — controlled parts of eastern Africa now comprising Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda, and Burundi.  However, “East Africa,” in English-speaking countries, traditionally has been understood as the territory now comprising Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

You’re invited: “Overcoming Barriers to Voting: Past to Present.”

Join us September 8 at Wilson County Public Library’s Main Branch for my talk about Dr. George K. Butterfield Sr.’s historic election to Wilson’s Board of Alderman in the 1950s. The lecture is part of a series of events leading up to National Voter Registration Day on 20 September 2022. 

Ministers Alliance expresses regrets.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 August 1932.

Benjamin F. Jordan of First Missionary Baptist Church submitted to the paper a tribute to tobacconist R.P. Watson on behalf of the Negro Ministerial Alliance of Wilson. Watson had been a benefactor of Mercy Hospital.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

W.H. Barnes is called for jury duty.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 August 1935.

In 1935, William H. Barnes‘ selection for jury duty made the news after county commissioners determined that “negroes were to be included in the jury lists of the County.” 

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In the 1880 census of Sauls Crossroads, Wayne County: farmer Samuel Barnes, 37; wife Jane, 34; and children Robert, 14, Frances, 11, Ora, 9, Bettey, 6, William, 2, and Annie, 1.

In the 1910 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: widower William H. Barnes, 33, farmer.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer W.H. Barnes, 52; wife Minnie, 46; and children Dida, 23, Johnie, 21, and Willie V., 19.

In the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer W.H. Barnes, 62; wife Minnie, 54; children Dottie, 35, Verona, 30, and Jane, 10; and grandson John Lee, 3.

William H. Barnes died 10 November 1944 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 October 1877 in Wayne County to Samuel Barnes of Wayne County and Jane [maiden name unknown] of Georgia; was the widower of Minnie Barnes; was engaged in farming; and was buried at Turner Swamp, Wayne County. Dedie Barnes Reid was informant.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Dew attends Boys State.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 June 1948.

Billy Dew attended the “colored encampment” of Boys State in 1948.

Here’s William Lyman Dew‘s senior portrait in the 1949 edition of Darden High School’s Trojan yearbook.

William Dew was born 28 October 1931 in Wilson to Irma I. Dew and Edwin Cooke. He joined the United States Air Force in 1951 and, when he married Martha Lucretia Reid of Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1957, was working as an assistant air traffic controller with the Civil Aeronautics Administration at Stapleton Air Field, Denver, Colorado. Dew died in Denver in 1987 and is buried in Rest Haven Cemetery, Wilson.

United States Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, http://www.ancestry.com; Pittsburgh Courier, 3 August 1957, page 15; clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.