Medicine

First Lieutenant Ruth C. Speight Russell, Tuskegee Army Nurse.

In the spring of 1942, seventeen African-American registered nurses reported to the station hospital at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama to provide care for the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Ruth C. Speight, born in Wilson County, reared in Greene County, and educated at Saint Agnes Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, was among them.

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Undated issue of Pittsburgh Courier, probably early 1942.

This bio of Ruth C. Speight appears in the website of the Tuskegee Army Nurses Project:

Captioned “Nurses Abbie Voorhies (Ross), Ruth Speight, Della Rainey (in cockpit) and Mencie Trotter during their flight orientation, a special part of their important duties at Tuskegee Army Air Field. U.S. Air Force Museum,” this photograph appears in Charlie and Ann Cooper’s Tuskegee’s Heroes (1996).

Pittsburgh Courier, 8 July 1944.

Ruth Speight Russell died 14 December 2016 in Albany, New York, at the age of 98. This simple obituary gives no hint of her extraordinary life.

 

The last will and testament of Zebulon M. Johnson.

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On 19 November 1905, Zebulon Johnson, 33, son of Jere and Minnie Johnson, all of Northampton County, married Armittie Powell, 25, daughter of Isaac and Georgia Powell, at Jerusalem Church, Rich Square township, Northampton County, North Carolina.

In the 1910 census of Rich Square, Northampton County: Armittie Johnson, 28, and her children Elvalene, 3, and Allene, 1 1/2, are listed in the household of her mother Georgianna Powell, 61. Armittie is described as married, but her husband Zebulon is not found.

In 1918, Zebulon Myer Johnson registered for the World War I draft in Nash County. Per his heart registration card, he resided at R.F.D. 3, Rocky Mount; was born 17 September 1872; was employed as a chiropodist and farmer; and his nearest relative was wife Mittie Johnson. [Where did Johnson receive his medical training? Was he actually a physician?]

On 1 December 1926, Zebulon Johnson, 48, of Wilson, married Roberta Battle, 38, of Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of Mamie Lucas, Ella Allen and Henry Lucas.

In 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1008 East Nash Street, chiropodist Zebulon M. Johnson, 56, and wife Roberta, 37.

On 13 July 1934, Zebulon Myer Johnson died in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 61 years old; born in Bertie County to Jerry and Winnie Johnson; was married to Robetta Johnson; and worked as a chiropodist. He was buried in Rich Square, North Carolina.

As noted in the document above, Johnson’s will entered probate ten days after his death. As required, for several months, his executrix ran an ad in the local newspaper, notifying claimants and debtors of their obligations.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 August 1934.

There was a response — likely, unexpected. Armittie Powell Johnson, who lived in Rocky Mount, stepped forward to file a claim. By the brief notation handwritten in the will book, above, it appears that she asserted that she, and not Roberta, was Zebulon Johnson’s legal widow. I have no further information on the outcome of this challenge, but it is clear that Roberta Johnson remained in the house she had been bequeathed in the will.

Roberta Battle Johnson died 28 July 1958 at Mercy Hospital. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 October 1889 in Wilson to Parker Battle and Ella (last name unknown); was widowed; resided at 1108 East Nash; and worked as business manager for Mercy. Informant was Grace Battle Black, 1108 East Nash Street.

[Sidenote: Zebulon Myer Johnson was the grandfather of noted Nash County educator and activist Kanawha Zebulon “K.Z.” Chavis (1930-1986), whose mother was Arlin Johnson Chavis.]

Fine tea and program.

Pittsburgh Courier, 8 January 1949.

Leonard Medical School students.

James Arthur Cotton appears in Leonard Medical School‘s 1888-’89 catalog with a notation that he done his collegiate studies at Saint Augustine’s College. (Perhaps he did not finish, as the Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929 lists him as a 1897 graduate of Chicago’s Harvey Medical College.

Lincoln University graduate Charles Hudson Bynum appears in the 1892-’93 Leonard Medical School catalog.

Dr. T.C. Tinsley.

Five years ago, I was forwarded an email from a researcher looking for information about Dr. Thomas C. Tinsley for a book on African-American physicians who served during World War I. Dr. Tinsley, he said, had lived and worked in Wilson in the 1920s. I had never heard of him.

Doug Buckley and Joanne Fisher published African-American Doctors of World War I: The Lives of 104 Volunteers in 2015. Today, I stumbled across a reference to Dr. Tinsley in a Wilson record — the first I’ve seen. On 5 April 1926, at his office at 525 East Nash Street, he signed the death certificate of Caroline Brown, who had died the day before.

Dr. Thomas Clinton Tinsley was born in Henderson, Vance County, North Carolina in 1887. He received a bachelor’s degree from Shaw University. In 1910, he graduated from University of West Tennessee College of Medicine and Surgery. a defunct black medical school founded in 1900, and shortly after set up practice in Asheville, North Carolina.

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Asheville Gazette-News, 20 July 1912.

Tinsley quickly moved on, however, and on 13 November 1913, Scotland Neck’s The Commonwealth published a welcome to Dr. Tinsley and his wife, Lois Hoffman Tinsley.

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By 1917, however, Tinsley had returned to Henderson and from there volunteered for military service. He was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Army Medical Reserve Corps; trained at Fort Des Moines, Iowa; and served in France. Tinsley was awarded the Croix de Guerre and was honorably discharged in 1919.

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“Ridgewood, N.J.,” New York Age, 22 June 1918.

In 1920, Tinsley briefly took a position in Mexico with Atlantic Refining Company. When he returned to the U.S. the next year, he established a practice in Durham, North Carolina, where he became a charter member and officer of the Durham alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

By 1925, Tinsley was in Wilson. On April 25, the Pittsburgh Courier reported that Dr. T.C. Tinsley of Wilson delivered a lecture on “Sinuses and Focal Infection as Effecting Dentists and Physicians” at the Old North State Dental Association convention in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The peripatetic Tinsley had moved on by 1930, however.

The photo accompanying Dr. Tinsley’s 1920 passport application. He had taken a job in Mexico.

Dr. Thomas C. Tinsley died in 1954 in Tuskegee, Alabama. He was buried in Henderson, North Carolina.

U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line], http://www.Ancestry.com.

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).