Entertainment

Glee.

Another gem from Darden Alumni Center, here depicting the Wilson Colored High School glee club in 1937. A label listing the students’ and teachers’ names has been augmented where possible with birth and death dates and parents’ names, below. Many eastern North Carolina counties did not provide secondary education for African-American children in the 1930s. As a result, families who wanted schooling beyond the elementary grades chose to send their children to Wilson to board with local families and attend high school. Where discovered, the hometowns of such children are noted below.

Front row: Annie Elizabeth Cooke Farmer (1921-??, Jerry and Clara Godette Cooke); Delores Robbins Coleman (1920-2003, James D. and Louise Davis Robbins); Edna Gray Taylor Desvigne (1921-2011, Roderick and Mary John Pender Taylor); Helen E. Reid Worsley (1921-1981, Willie C. and Mary Galley Reid); Lucy Gray Pittman Cunningham Parker (1922-2003, Aaron and Lucy Graham Pittman); unknown; Bessie Mae Joyner Redden (Eddie L. and Annie Joyner); Gracie White Terrell (1923-1994); Willia B. Jones Turner (1923, Wesley and Martha Taylor Jones); Lucy Dawson.

Second row: Spencer J. Satchell; Aurelia Janet Lucas Hagood (1920-1997, Henry and Mamie Battle Lucas); Helen Crutchfield Lewis (1924-1993, Willie and Novella Bryant Crutchfield), Doris Louise Crooms Caldwell Robinson (1920-1992, Lloyd and Maggie Jones Crooms); Bernice Gerald; Annie Frances Crawford (1921-??, Clarence and Maggie Barnes Crawford); Retha M. Best; Millicent Monroe; Naomi Lee Dawson Clark (1920-1978, Clarence and Elizabeth Thomas Dawson); Rosemary Plummer Fitts Funderburg (1923-2000, Howard and Elizabeth Plummer Fitts); Hattie L. Dixon; Evelyn Knight (1921-??, James H. and Ada Green Knight); Alice McCoy (1915-1983, Russell and Ometa Smith McCoy); Juanita Pope Morrisey.

Third row: Leroy Foster (1917-??, Claude and Cora White Foster); Harvey Gray Ford (1921-1942, Curlis and Mamie Battle Ford); Cornelius Best; Eula Mae Horton Bryant (1912-1990, Louis and Minnie Horton); unknown; Montez Colesse Hooker Boatman (1922-1990, Gray F. and Bettie Caddell Hooker);  Virginia Walden Wilson (Albert L. and Annie Moore Walden); Thomas H. Haskins (1919-1978, Robert and Gertrude Haskins); Primrose Carter (1914-1972, Morehead City, Carteret County, Willie E. and Henrietta Cooper Carter).

Fourth row: William Nelson Knight (1916-2011, James H. and Ada Green Knight); John Henry Mincey (1919-1982, Benjamin and Mattie Barnes Mincey); Charles Darden James (1914-1994, Randall R. and Elizabeth Darden James); James F. Coley (1921-??); Clarence Herman Best (1918-1994, Clarence B. and Geneva Smith Best); Weldon Williams; unknown; Clinton Rudolph Leacraft (1918-2007, Swansboro, Onslow County, Frank and Hagar Duncan Leacraft).

Fifth row: James Aaron Best; Marion Vernon Jones (1919-1975, Wesley and Martha Taylor Jones); unknown; Charles Elva Kittrell (1918-1990, Solomon and Lettie Roberts Kittrell); unknown; Elmond Henry McKeithen (1914-2003, Cumberland County, Henry and Sarah Robinson McKeithan).

Four-part harmony.

The Gospel Four, circa 1940.

Like The Soul Stirrers, the Gospel Four were a quartet with five members. Founded in the Lucama area, the Gospel Four achieved local fame fed by their weekly radio show during the 1940s. Shown above, they were Jim Lawrence Jones, his brother Paul H. Jones, brothers Robert Powell and Russell Powell, and Eddie Finch, who was married to the Jones brothers’ sister Ida Mae.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 February 1947.

  • Jim Lawrence, Paul and Ida Mae Jones — Jim Lawrence Jones (1917-1976), Paul Henderson Jones, and Ida Mae Jones were children of Thomas and Mary Ida Bagley Jones.
  • Robert Powell — Robert (1908-1956) and David Russell Powell (1911-1990) were sons of David B. and Sarah Boykin Powell.
  • Eddie Finch — Nash County native Edward Finch (1909-1978), son of William and Mattie Finch, married Ida Mae Jones (1912-1986) in Johnston County, North Carolina, on 10 January 1931.

Photograph courtesy of Edith Jones Garnett. Thank you!

Hangouts and hospitals.

In 1991, front desk clerk turned newspaper man Roy G. Taylor (1918-1995) self-published a memoir of his years working in Wilson. Though tinged with the casual racism of the time, My City, My Home offers fascinating glimpses of Wilson in the World War II era.

Here are excerpts:

“And Negroes congregated en masse on Barnes Street in the block in which P.L. Woodard Company is located. It wasn’t that they had to gather there, for they had the privilege of meeting at any place in town, just as did the whites. They liked that area, and too, it was in close proximity to several hot dog joints and other eating places. Few white people were seen in that block on Saturday, and few Negroes were seen on Nash Street. It was a matter of the two races choosing to be with their own kind.” p. 44. [Editorial note: This is revisionism of the worst stripe. Wilson in the 1940s was as rigidly segregated by law as any other Southern town. — LYH]

“In the mid-1940s there were three hospitals in Wilson — the Woodard-Herring, the Carolina General, and Mercy. … Mercy Hospital was for the citizens of color. And it didn’t boast many, if any, doctors in those days. Doctors from both hospitals treated Negroes and performed surgery on them, but the surgeons went to Mercy and took their own nurses, did the operations and left the patients in the care of black nurses and attendants.

“If there was an emergency at either hospital and surgery was required, it was performed  at the hospital, and the patient kept there until they came out of the anesthetic. Then they were transported back to Mercy Hospital.

“Mercy Hospital was established in 1913 and had a 40-bed capacity.” pp. 45-46.

——

[Sidenote: P.L. Woodard Company, founded as an agricultural supply store in 1898, is the oldest established business still operating in Wilson. It’s in the 100 block of Barnes Street between Goldsboro and Tarboro Streets.]

Recommended reading, no. 2.

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A project of North Carolina Arts Council and local partners, African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina (2013) is a 218-page insider’s guide to the music traditions of an eight-county region. Drawn largely from interviews with living musicians and interspersed with vivid photographs and up-close vignettes, the book devotes thirty pages to Wilson County’s rich musical history, both sacred and secular.  Highlights include the role of Reid Street Community Center (and tobacco warehouses) as music venues, shape note singing and hymn lining, and influential music teachers. The book suggests travel routes for each section and includes a 17-track CD of eastern North Carolina recordings.

The negro girl-preacher.

Remarkable.

The negro girl-preacher, Cleretto Nora Avery, who has created so much interest in the city, left Monday. The crowds she attracted to her discourses were large — many white people attending Friday afternoon she preached to a large congregation in the white Methodist church here, and her sermon on that occasion elicited many favorable comments. She is a mulatto, claiming to be only eleven years old, yet can read fluently and speaks to her large audiences with no hesitation. Her father was a preacher and she claims that his mantle of inspiration has fallen upon her.

Wilson Times, 30 July 1897.

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Cleveland Gazette, 20 March 1897.

The best people buy the best pianos.

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In the very long “partial list of Ivers & Pond purchasers”:

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Charlotte Daily Observer, 15 August 1909.

  • A.J.C. Moore — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: retail grocer Andrew Moore, 51, wife Robetta, 39, and children Evyln, 17, Omia, 16, and Willie, 1. Moore also worked as a teacher.
  • Clarissa Williams