Wilson Daily Times, 10 February 1920.
In 1828, the North American Medical and Surgical Journal published an account of Stantonsburg doctor Josiah R. Horn’s treatment of an undiagnosed bone disease in an enslaved man’s leg. The man is unnamed, and his suffering is unspeakable, despite Dr. Horn’s best efforts. Ultimately, his leg was amputated at the thigh, and he recovered.
Indiana History Blog published Nicole Poletika’s detailed look at Dr. Joseph H. Ward‘s role in challenging segregation as the head of Tuskegee, Alabama’s Veterans Hospital No. 91 in the 1920s and ’30s.
Dr. Ward is on the front row, center (next to the nurse) in this 1933 photograph of Veterans Hospital staff. Photo courtesy of VA History Highlights, “First African American Hospital Director in VA History,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
[Sidenote: Dr. Ward was not born to “impoverished parents” per the article, though it is possible that he himself gave this gloss on his early life. Rather, his father was Napoleon Hagans, a prosperous freeborn farmer in nearby Wayne County, and his mother was Mittie Ward, a young freedwoman whose family moved into town after Emancipation from the plantation of Dr. David G.W. Ward near Stantonsburg.]
Hat tip to Zella Palmer for pointing me to this article. She is Dr. Ward’s great-granddaughter, and they are my cousins.
Again, for a town whose population did not hit 10,000 until 1920 (of which only half were black), Wilson produced an astounding number of African-American physicians in the last decades of the nineteenth century and first few of the twentieth century. To the ranks of Drs. Joseph Henry Ward, Charles Hudson Bynum, William Henry Bryant, John Wesley Darden, James Thomas Suggs, Walter Theodore Darden, James Alexander Battle, James Arthur Cotton, John Clemon Williamson and Rolland Tyson Winstead, add four grandsons of Della Hines Barnes — Drs. Boisey O. Barnes, William C. Hines, Walter D. Hines and Clifton R. Hines.
African-American physicians who practiced in Wilson prior to World War II, but were born elsewhere, included: George W. Williams, Frank Settle Hargrave, William Arthur Mitchner, Michael Edmund Dubissette, William H. Atkinson Jr., Thomas Clinton Tinsley, Matthew Stanley Gilliam Sr., and Joseph Franklin Cowan.
Native-born dentists from this period, none of whom practiced in Wilson, included Paul L. Jackson, Christopher L. Taylor and James D. Reid, while William H. Phillips, Lee C. Jones and George K. Butterfield Sr. settled in the community from elsewhere.
Simms’ Blue Book and National Negro Business & Professional Directory (1923).
Winston-Salem Journal, 7 June 1914.
Winston-Salem Journal, 7 June 1914.
Born near Lucama in 1876 to Alex and Gracie Shaw Williamson, John Clemons Williamson attended Slater Industrial (the precursor to Winston-Salem State University), then Leonard Medical School. He returned to Winston-Salem to practice medicine and founded a private sanitarium in 1914.
In the 1880 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Elic Williamson, 44; wife Gracy, 29; and children John, 14, Lugen, 11, Joseph, 9, Jennie, 7, Mary, 6, Clem, 4, Sarah J., 2, and Pall, 1.
In the 1900 census of Salem, Forsyth County, North Carolina, John C. Williamson, 24, is listed as a pupil at Slater Industrial and State Normal School.
On 14 January 1905, John C. Williamson, 28, of Winston-Salem, son of Alexander and Gracie Williamson of Wilson, married Callie S. Hairston, 22, of Winston-Salem, daughter of Robert and Catherine Hairston of Winston-Salem.
In the 1906 Winston-Salem, N.C., city directory: Williamson John C (Callie) tchr Slater Sch r[esidence] Columbian Hts
In the 1910 Winston-Salem, N.C., city directory: Williamson Callie S tchr Graded Schl [boards at] 605 Chestnut. Also, Williamson J C (Callie) student h 930 Ida Bell av, Columbian Heights
In 1918, John Clemon Williamson registered for the World War I draft in Winston-Salem. Per his registration card, he was born 19 May 1876; resided at 1326 East Bank Street; was a physician at 408 Church Street; and was married to Callie S. Williamson.
In the 1920 census of Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, North Carolina: Dr. J.C. Williamson, 43, physician; wife Callie S., 38; and daughter Plummer M., 7; niece Pearl Whitley, 22, office assistant to Dr. Williamson; and boarders John J. Green, 34, merchant; Rev. C.A. Nero, 38, of Nevis, West Indies, clergyman at Saint Stephens Episcopal Church; and nieces Liggitt Hairston, 15, of Saint Kitts, West Indies, and Catherine Hairston, 11.
The Twin City Daily Sentinel, 25 June 1920.
In the 1923 Winston-Salem, N.C., city directory: Williamson Jno C (Callie) pres Eureka Drug Co and Phys 800 N Ridge av h 1326 E Bank
John Clemon Williamson died 17 April 1927 in Winston-Salem. Per his death certificate, he was born 19 May 1876 in Wilson County to Alexander Williamson of Nash County and Grace Shaw of Wilson County, and he was a physician.
Undated and unattributed news clipping.
John C. Williamson left a straightforward will leaving all his property to his wife. Probate but anything but smooth though, as creditors disputed Callie Williamson’s handling of her husband’s estate and petitioned for her removal as executrix for mismanagement. The doctor’s $12000 estate was illusory, as his real property was encumbered by deeds of trust and his accounts receivable proved uncollectible. In 1929, Callie Williamson pulled up stakes and moved to Harlem with her daughter and infant granddaughter.
In the 1930 census of Manhattan, New York County, New York: at 196 Edgecombe Avenue, rented for $150/month, Callie Williamson, 48, widow; daughter Plummer, 17, domestic; and grandchild Jacqueline, 11 months, born in North Carolina; plus 13 roomers.
Callie Williamson died 27 May 1930 in Manhattan.
Signature from Williamson’s World War I draft registration card.
This weekend, with his granddaughter and great-grandchildren in attendance, the Indiana Historical Bureau, the American Legion, and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History will dedicate a historical marker commemorating the lifetime achievements of Wilson native Dr. Joseph H. Ward. Though I’ve blogged about him here and here and here and here, this seemed an appropriate time to feature yet another long newspaper article detailing Dr. Ward’s accomplishments.
“The appointment of Dr. [Joseph H.] Ward to this position marks a decided step forward for the race. In many respects this may be regarded as the highest office to which a Negro has ever been appointed, certainly the most responsible.”
Topeka Plaindealer, 25 July 1924.
Photos courtesy of L. Bates.
Greensboro Daily News, 8 February 1917.
Indianapolis Freeman, 22 July 1899.
A few notes:
Wilson Daily Times, 21 April 1938.
In late March or early April 1938, white newborn baby was found abandoned under a tree on Hines Street in Wilson, and died a short time later. The police quickly identified Mittie E. Lucas, reported as a 43 year-old widowed seamstress in the 1940 census of Wilson, as the child’s mother and Jesse Hamilton, also 43 and a married former policeman, as its father. Lucas and Mary Fuller, an African-American midwife, were charged with the baby’s homicide, and Hamilton was charged with abortion along with black physician William A. Mitchner. The four criminal cases were consolidated.
It is not difficult to imagine Mitchner’s terror. He testified that Lucas called on him on February 2 and, in 30 years of medical practice, he had never before examined a white woman. He denied attempting an abortion, asserting that he told Lucas he didn’t “do that kind of work and not to let anyone else do it.” He admitted referring Lucas to Dr. Clarence Dillard Jr., an African-American doctor in Goldsboro, but claimed he did not know whether Dillard were an abortionist, he just “wanted to get rid of them and stop them from coming to me.” [In fact, just four months later, newspapers would breathlessly cover a trial in which Dillard was accused of performing an abortion on a young white woman pregnant by her black boyfriend.] More than a dozen character witnesses stood for Mitchner, including “prominent negro undertaker” Camillus L. Darden and “prominent local druggist” Doane Herring, who was white.
On 26 April 1938, the Daily Times reported that Recorder McLean had dismissed charges against Mitchner, concluding that the other defendants’ actions after visiting Mitchner suggested that he “would do nothing for them.”
The charges against Lucas, Hamilton and Fuller dragged on. Lucas’ brother, U.R. Moore, posted her bond at the end of April, but Fuller and Hamilton remained in jail. After several court continuances, startling news broke on 8 February 1939 after the state rested its case. Witnesses testified that Hamilton admitted that he was the baby’s father; that Hamilton went to a Negro doctor for “medicine” and that the doctor had refused to do what was “intimated”; that Lucas had given the infant to Fuller to place with “some rich person or some hospital”; and that Fuller had placed the child under a tree and called a neighbor to the scene. However, the solicitor conceded that he could not establish if the baby had died of exposure [or, presumably, died of natural causes]. Thus, he could not establish homicide. (And as Lucas seemingly delivered a full-term child, nor could he show that Lucas had obtained an abortion.) With this failure, he proferred a nolle prosequi, i.e. dropped charges, against Lucas and suspended five-year sentences to Hamilton and Fuller if they pleaded no contest.
Perhaps, in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Mary Fuller, 56, laundress; daughter Mildred, 22; and boarder Texanna Whitley, 23, and her children Cleo, 7, and Charlie, 2.