Crime

A tobacco thief is caught.

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Wilson Daily Times, 21 August 1933.

  • Robert Artis — in the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Robert Artis, 46; wife Malindy, 31; children Adam, 17, James, 28, Edgar L., 13, Luciea, 13, Christirene, 12, Georgia, 10, and Noah, 9; step-sons Hesicar, 8, and Eugenia, 6; children Lizzie, 4, Richard, 2, and Minnie B., 9 months; and mother-in-law Henrietta [Artis?], age illegible.
  • Walter Leach

Richard C. Artis and father Robert E. Artis, circa 1950s. Photo courtesy of Melissa Mack.

They gave him a good switching.

Three African-American men were tried and convicted, but given only nominal punishment for whipping a white man whose common-law wife was a black woman.

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Baltimore Afro-American, 28 January 1921.

——

  • James Elons
  • Bill Artis
  • Edgar Artis
  • Melissa Wilkins

Numbers racket.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 March 1947.

  • Prince Aldridge — Prince Albert Aldridge. In the 1947-48 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Aldridge Prince (c; Annie) lab h 303 N Reid
  • Charlie Phillip — Probably, in the 1947-48 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Phillips Chas (c; Mable) h 503 Smith
  • James Nicholson — In the 1947-48 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Nicholson Jas (c) driver Safety Ca Co h 103 N Vick

Desperate gambling gang.

In 1909, Wilson police raided Samuel H. Vick‘s Orange Hotel to bust up a “gambling joint” ensconced in its upper floor. Two gamblers escaped through windows, but the police managed to round up seven, plus the operator.

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News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 11 June 1909.

  • Charles Evans, alias Charles Stover, alias “Dog Head”
  • Banks Blow
  • Arthur D. Keiser
  • Wallace Dixon
  • Walter Scott
  • “Kid” McKoy
  • Henry Battle — perhaps, in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Wiggins Street, railroad laborer Harry Battle, 50; wife Ezabell, 45, hotel servant; and sons Henry, 24, and Frank, 21, railroad laborer. Henry Battle died 31 December 1910 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he lived on Nash Street; was born 6 January 1888 in Edgecombe County to Harry Battle and Isabella Bullock; and worked as a railroad hand. Informant was Harry Brant.
  • Jim Thompson

Like most negroes, she was full of superstition.

In 1891, Rev. Owen L.W. Smith‘s sister, Millie Smith Sutton, shot and killed his wife Lucy Smith at point-blank range, believing that Lucy had poisoned her son.

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Wilson Advance, 9 July 1891.

On 5 November, the Advance reported that Smith had been found “mentally deranged” at the time she killed Smith and was committed to the insane asylum in Goldsboro.

The Wilson Mirror offered more on 11 November:

This tragedy had sequels.

Six years later, Sutton’s walking companion, Nettie Vick Jones, was stabbed to death on the street by her husband, A. Wilson Jones.

Ten years later, on 22 November 1901, the Times reported that Sutton had been released from the hospital and had returned to Wilson and, with Carrie Pettiford, had threatened the life of her brother’s newest wife, Adora Oden Smith. (In the 1900 census, Carrie was a boarder in the Smiths’ home.) Both were arrested.

A sacred space for truth-telling.

We traveled this weekend to Montgomery, Alabama, to visit Equal Justice Initiative’s recently opened National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Legacy Museum. The Memorial is “the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.”

“The memorial structure on the center of the site is constructed of over 800 corten steel monuments, one for each county in the United States where a racial terror lynching took place. The names of the lynching victims are engraved on the columns.”

I wandered beneath the monuments, which hang from the rafters like the broken bodies of the men and women whose deaths they commemorate, searching for Wilson County. I turned each corner with a rising sense of anxiety until there, among the final stelae:

However, “the memorial is more than a static monument. In the six-acre park surrounding the memorial is a field of identical monuments, waiting to be claimed and installed in the counties they represent. Over time, the national memorial will serve as a report on which parts of the country have confronted the truth of this terror and which have not.”

Wilson County, here is yours. Come get it.

For more about the Memorial and Museum, please click here and here. And until such time as you can make your way to Alabama, please consider a donation to support EJI’s work “to challenge poverty and racial injustice, advocate for equal treatment in the criminal justice system, and create hope for marginalized communities.”

“… and O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck, put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs you got to love them. The dark, dark liver — love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts. Hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”  

 Toni Morrison

Liquor bust.

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 August 1944.

  • Clarence Barnes
  • Mark Jenkins — on 17 October 1944, the Daily Times reported that Jenkins received one year’s probation for a liquor law violation.
  • Gus Armstrong — the same article reported that Armstrong was sentenced to a year and a day at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary for a liquor law violation.
  • Sam Moore — Moore also received a year and a day at Atlanta.