Coaching legend Henderson dies at 87.

By Paul Durham, Wilson Times.

“Rederick Caswell Henderson, the Wilson native who built a basketball powerhouse at Rocky Mount Senior High, died Friday at the age of 87.

“Reggie Henderson, as he was known, was a 1952 graduate of Darden High in Wilson and a U.S. Air Force veteran. He played basketball at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, where he met the love of his life, Beverly Ann Allen. [Actually, they met in Wildwood, New Jersey.]

“Aside from his time in the Air Force and in college, Henderson lived in Wilson his entire life while coaching at the main out-of-town rival school. Like his neighbor and friend Harvey Reid Jr., the coach at Douglass, Elm City and Fike high schools in compiling the most wins in NCHSAA history, Henderson built his own legend at Rocky Mount Senior High. He led the Gryphons to NCHSAA 4-A championships in 1978 and 1982 and his 1981 team lost by three points in the state 4-A final. The star of the 1978 Gryphons was Buck Williams, who was one of the top recruits in the nation as a senior. Williams played at Maryland before starting his long NBA career as the league’s Rookie of the Year in 1982.

“Henderson’s first coaching and teaching job was at Spaulding High in Spring Hope before spending time at both Wilson and Parker junior highs in Rocky Mount, where he coached future North Carolina legend and 1979 NBA Rookie of the Year Phil Ford.

“Henderson stepped away from coaching in 1983 to spend more time with his family. The Hendersons’ oldest daughter, Lisa, was in college at the University of North Carolina and Henderson said he realized that he had missed out on some of her high school years and didn’t want to do the same for youngest daughter, Karla.

“He returned to coaching in 1988 but retired for good after the 1992-93 school year.

“As much as Henderson was known for his successful basketball teams and star players, the quiet, yet intense, coach was better known for setting high standards off the court for his players and creating a family environment.

“‘Coach was a father to a lot of us,’ former point guard Reggie Barrett said in a 2018 interview with the Times. ‘For those who might not have had a father in the home, he was a father. You could go to him to talk about personal stuff. … If you didn’t have lunch money, he would help you out.’

“Henderson was the recipient of many coaching honors during his illustrious career but one of the biggest came last November when he was inducted into the Twin County Hall of Fame. He was the first inductee in 17 years of the hall’s existence who was not a native of Nash or Edgecombe counties.”

Rest in peace, Rederick C. Henderson.

I know East Wilson because my father knew East Wilson. He was born in a house on Elba Street, was raised on Queen and Reid Streets, and was educated at Samuel H. Vick Elementary and Charles H. Darden High School. He played basketball at the Community Center, spent whole Saturdays watching movies at the Ritz Theatre, and knocked on the back door of Hines Barbershop to get spending money from his father. Long before Black Wide-Awake, my father introduced me to so many of the people and places that have made their way into this blog’s 4000 posts. Even as his final illness progressed, he loved to ride through the streets of East Wilson, pointing and narrating, peeling back layers of time to expose the pentimenti of our shared birthplace.

My father transitioned Friday night, surrounded by the four women who loved him most — his wife of 61 years, his two daughters, and his granddaughter. We are heartbroken, but blessed that we could comfort and care for him as he has done for us always. I honor his life and legacy here. Rest in power, Daddy.

Up the road.

This passage appeared in the recent article I posted about Lawyer Sanders and his 35 children. By happenstance, shortly before I saw the column, my mother mentioned learning when she first came to Wilson in the early 1960s that, in local usage, to go “up the road” meant to migrate North. Thus, for reasons we cannot know, shortly after giving birth to a child that did not survive, Dora Clark Sanders joined the Great Migration, leaving her husband and remaining children in Wilson. She did not return.

Lawyer Sanders has 35 children.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 May 1940.

Lawyer Sanders married Dora Clark in 1904 and Beatrice Ruffin in 1914. Readily available records reveal only 17 of Lawyer Sanders’ purported 35 children: Gilly, Rosetta, Lillie, Earnest, an unnamed girl, Maggie, Daisy Ella, Lorena, Mavis, Odessa, Lawyer Jr., David, Bertha, Dorothea, Mary Lee, Theodore Roosevelt, and Mae. 


On 18 May 1904, Lawyer Sanders, 20, of Saratoga, son of M.A. Williams, married Dora Clark, 18, of Saratoga, daughter of Dora Clark, at Eason Brothers Store in Saratoga.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on Plank Road, Lawyer Sanders, 22; wife Dora, 22; and children Gilly, 2, and Rosa, 1.

An unnamed three month-old female child died 23 October 1913 on Railroad Street in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born August 1913 to Lawyer Sanders and Dora Clark.

On 11 June 1914, Lawyer Sanders, 25, of Gardners township, married Beatrice Ruffin, 15, daughter of Ransom Ruffin, at the residence of Ransom Ruffin. Primitive Baptist minister Jonah Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of Ransom Ruffin, Charles Bynum, and James Braswell.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Lawyer Sanders, 33; wife Beatrice, 20; and children Rosetta, 16, A. Lillie, 11, G. Earnest, 8, Maggie, 4, E. Daisy, 3, and Lorena, 1.

In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Lawyer Sanders, 43; wife Maggie, 30; and children Maggie R., 14, Dazella M., 14, Lorena, 11, Mavis E., 9, Odessa, 7, Lawyer J., 5, David A., 3, and Bertha L., 1.

Rosetta Sanders died 11 July 1933 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 28 years old; was born in Wilson County, N.C., to Lawyer Sanders and Dora Clarke; and worked in farming.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 708 Railroad Street, rented at $6/month; WPA laborer Lawyer Sanders, 51; wife Beatrice, 41; children Maggie, 23, farm laborer, Essie Mae, 19, cook, Odessa, 18, cook, Lawyer Jr., 15, farmhand; David A.J., 13; Bertha Lee, 11, Dorothea, 9, Mary Lee, 7, Roosevelt, 5, and Mae E., 2; and granddaughter Eldewards, 2.

The Sawyers’ “shack” back on Daniel Hill was on a short stretch of dirt road called West Railroad Street, which ran alongside the Norfolk-Southern railroad between Park Avenue and Daniel Street. (And is not to be confused with the Railroad Street that borders the Atlantic Coast Line railroad downtown.) West Railroad no longer exists, and a roofing supply business and a large empty lot stand in its place. Detail, 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson. 

In 1942, Lawyer J.R. Sanders registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he lived at 621 West Railroad Street, Wilson; was born 5 January 1924 in Wilson; and his contact was Beatrice Sanders.

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Norfolk-Southern Railroad Street, Lawyer Sanders Sr., 61, ditching for water line-street department for city; wife Beatrice R., 51, private service work; children Theodore, 16, Eloise, 12, and Mary Lee, 17; and grandchildren Velma L., 1, and Willie L., 1. 

Eloise Sanders Johnson died 18 July 1953 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 17 June 1937 in Wilson to Lawyer Sanders and Beatrice Ruffins and was married to Clarence Johnson.

Lawyer Sanders died 30 January 1959 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 9 May 1888 in Wilson County to Bill and Martha Ann Sanders; was married to Beatrice Sanders; worked as a laborer; and lived at 214 Graham Street, Wilson.

Wilson Daily Times, 31 January 1959.

David Sanders died 22 January 1968 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, she was born 25 March 1927 to Lawyer Sanders and Beatrice Ruffin; was married to Doretha Sanders; and lived at 104 Tacoma Street, Wilson.

Maggie Sanders Clark died 17 January 1968 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 15 May 1915 in Wilson to Lawyer Sanders and Beatrice Ruffin; was married to Sam Clark; was a tobacco factory laborer; and lived at 212 West Walnut Street, Wilson.

Beatrice Sanders Ricks died 14 October 1970 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 8 February 1911 in Wilson County to Ransom Ruffin and Maggie Pender; was a widow; was a tobacco factory laborer; and lived at 614 Manchester Street, Wilson. Informant was Doretha Mitchell, 906 Hadley Extension.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 October 1970.

The Lawyer Sanders family joined with the J.D. Taylor family in 1980 to hold a family reunion at Brown’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church. 

Wilson Daily Times, 2 August 1980.

Ernest Sanders Sr. died 8 July 1987 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 13 March 1910 in Wilson to Lawyer Sanders and Beatrice Ruffin; lived at 516 Forrest Street, Wilson; and worked as a construction helper.

Daisy Sanders Rice [Rhice] died 18 August 1991 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 16 April 1916 in Wilson to Lawyer Sanders and Beatrice Ruffin; was married to Richard Rice; and lived at 1002 Macon Street.

A call for help from Istanbul.

We first met entertainer Isaiah Prophet Thorne via passport applications, here. In 1941, Thorne wrote the Daily Times, asking for help locating his family.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 June 1942.

Isaiah Thorne’s family appears in the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Preston Thorne, 23; wife Julia, 22; William, 3, James, 1, Charity, 5 months, and Alice, 10; and John Bullock, 18.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, farmer Preston Thorne, 37; wife Edney, 36; and children William, 13, Eugene, 11, Hattie, 6, and Annie, 4.

On 12 March 1890, Hattie Thorne, 17, daughter of Preston and Edney Thorne, married Willis Grissom, 21, son of Willis and Carry Grissom, in Wilson.

Isaiah Thorne’s sister, Hattie Grissom Henry, died 21 November 1930 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in Wilson County to Preston Thorn of Edgecombe County and Eddie Adams of Greene County; lived at 203 Vick Street; was a widow; and worked in nursing. Lydia Grissom was informant.

I have not found anything else about Thorne’s family, including anything about his father and brothers in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Studio shots, no. 194: the Battle siblings?

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous submitted this family portrait. The four women’s dark dress suggests a family in mourning.

Who were they? The only clue we have is a pencilled notation on the reverse: “Chandler/Battle.” I thought immediately of Nicholas R. Battle, who was born in Wilson County about 1862 to Charles and Leah Hargrove Battle and migrated to Chandler, Oklahoma, about 1900. His sister Ada G. Battle briefly lived in Chandler as well, and Nicholas and Ada had a sister, Chandler Battle Wright.

Could this be a portrait of Charles and Leah Battle’s children — most of them, anyway — taken around the time of Charles Battle’s death in 1910? (Leah Battle died in 1898.) Their known children were Nicholas R. (1863), with Lewis (1862), appear to have been Charles’ children by an earlier relationship; Susan (1869); Ada G. (1875); Geneva Battle Faver (1878); Virgil T. Battle (1880); Chandler (1883); CaledoniaDoane” Battle Williston (1887); and Charles T. Battle (1888). Lewis, Susan, and Virgil appear to have died young. The six remaining children included four girls and two boys, which is consistent with the photo. 

In 1910, the living children would have been Nicholas, 48; Ada, 35; Geneva, 32, Chandler, 27; Doane, 23; and Charles T., 22. The daughters’ ages are consistent with the woman depicted. The man at bottom left appears to be Charles T. Battle, the younger of the two sons, and closely resembles his son, Dr. C.T. Battle Jr. The man at bottom right looks younger than 48 years old, but that age is not out of the range of possibility, and this is likely Nicholas Battle.

If anyone can identify the family depicted here more accurately, I’d love to hear from you.

The life of William S. Hagans.

Back in February, I sat down (virtually) with Tyler Mink, Historic Interpreter at Wayne County, North Carolina’s Governor Charles B. Aycock Birthplace State Historic Site, to talk about William S. Hagans, an Aycock contemporary. William S. Hagans was not a Wilson County native, but his mother Apsilla Ward Hagans was, and he grew up on a farm on Aycock Swamp just below the Wayne-Wilson county line. I have published here a series of transcripts of testimony about a land dispute that directly involved Hagans and pulled in as witnesses several men with Wilson County links.

William S. Hagans, his brother Henry E. Hagans, and their father Napoleon Hagans were contemporaries of Daniel Vick, William H. Vick, and Samuel H. Vick and other African-American Wilsonians in late nineteenth-century Republican politics, and I share this video to illuminate the world in which they all lived.

Rachel Lassiter provides for her daughter.

Deed Book 1, page 657. Wilson County Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

This Indenture made this the 27th day of decr 1860 one thousand eight hundred & sixty between Rachel Lassiter of the county of Wilson & State of North Carolina of the first part & Matthew Lassiter of the county & state aforesaid of second part witnessed: That the said party of the first part for & in consideration of the sum of ten Dollars to her in hand paid by the said Matthew Lassiter for the [illegible] & [illegible] the trust, hereinafter mentioned at & before the sealing & delivery hereof the receipt whereof he does hereby acknowledge have given, granted, bargained & sold & by these presents doth grant, bargain sell & convey unto the said Matthew Lassiter his heirs & assigns forever all my personal property including her whole estate say 3 head of Cattle one bed & furniture household & Kitchen furniture & about eighty dollars in bonds or notes to have & to hold unto the said Matthew Lassiter his heirs & assigns & for the following & none other that is to say for the sole & separate use of my child Zelphia Lassiter & any other heirs I may hereafter have & the issues & profits thereof shall be for their use & benefit. In testimony whereof I hereunto set my hand & seal this 27th day of Dcr 1860    Rachel X Lassiter  Matthew X Lassiter


In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County: Hardy Laster, 73, wife Beady, 54, and children Mathew, 26, Silas, 26, Green, 25, Hardy, 21, and Rachel, 20; all described as mulatto. Hardy reported owning $650 of real property.

In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Green Lassiter, 36; [his wife] Mary, 24; [and his siblings] Matthew, 37; and Rachel Lassiter, 30. [Where was Zilpha?]

On 29 December 1860, Rachael Lassiter married Daniell [actually, David] Read in Wilson County.

This marriage surely precipitated the transfer of Rachel Lassiter’s assets to her brother Matthew Lassiter three days prior. David Reid was a widower with children. When Rachel Lassiter married, her personal property would in effect become her husband’s property. In order to preserve her assets for her own daughter’s benefit, Rachel Lassiter sold everything she had to Matthew Lassiter in trust for Zelphia Lassiter. 

In the 1870 census of Otter Creek township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: farm laborer David Reid, 58; wife Rachel, 40; and children Gustin E., 18, Nancy A., 16, and Zylpha, 17.

I have not found anything further about Rachel Lassiter Reid or Zelphia Lassiter, alias Reid, but note that David Reid’s 1910 estate papers do not list either of them.

[Update, 16 March 2022: Bernard Patterson, a descendant of Rachel Lassiter’s sister Penelope Lassiter Woodard, immediately went looking for Zilphia Lassiter and found this: on 23 March 1876, Amandiburt Mills, 30, married Sylphy Lassiter, 22, in No. 9 township, Edgecombe County. 

With that information, I found: in the 1880 census of Roxabel township, Bertie County, N.C.: Mandaburt Mills, 35; wife Zilpha A., 25; and son Thadius, 12; plus servant Francis Clark, 18.

in the Death Register of Greensville County, Virginia: Zilphia Mills died 15 March 1892 of dropsy She was reported as 25 years of age; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Rachel Lussiter; and was married to M.B. Mills. In the 1900 census of Belfield township, Greensville County: Mandyburt Mills, 53, widower, farmer.] 

Wilson County, North Carolina County Marriages 1762-1979,

Hardy Lassiter’s estate sale.

Hardy Lassiter died in Wilson County in the spring of 1853. On 16 August 1855, as the settlement of his estate wound down, administrator William L. Farmer sold off Lassiter’s personal property to two of his children Rachel Lassiter and Green Lassiter. The sale account offers a singular look at a free Black man’s most intimate effects — his clothing.

The sale netted $17.44 for one lot of old clothes; twelve other old clothes; five pairs of pants; a lot of clothes; two coats; a lot of stockings; four handkerchiefs; an overcoat; five more coats; a cravat; two brushes; a knife and razor; a razor strop; two hats; one pair of shoes; one umbrella(?); a satchel; one “pocket & pas”; a watch; and a stick.

Hardy Lassiter, North Carolina, U.S. Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998,