Politics

Congratulations, Mayor Stevens!

Black Wide-Awake is focused on historical people, places and events, but:

Screen Shot 2019-11-06 at 8.32.10 AM.png

The whole of my politically conscious life, Wilson has had two mayors. Ralph El Ramey from 1979-1992, and Bruce Rose from 1992 to date. Last night, Carlton Stevens Jr., 44, having campaigned under the slogan “One Wilson,” defeated Rose to be elected the city’s first African American mayor.

The support of East Wilson’s residents, many of whom feel forgotten amidst efforts to rebrand and revitalize other parts of town, was critical to his victory. The work begins.

Poll holders and registrars, 1884.

Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 9.41.55 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 9.42.33 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 9.43.19 PM.png

Wilson Advance, 26 September 1884.

——

  • Tom Johnson — in the 1880 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County: teamster Thomas Johnson, 30; wife Milly, 25; and children Willie, 9, Ella, 8, and Daisey, 5.
  • Jolly Taylor — in the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Jolly Taylor, 60; wife Cherry, 38; son Richard, 18, farm laborer; and David Cotton, 18, farm laborer.
  • Jack Woodard — Jackson Woodard. In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Jack Woodard, 35; wife Fanny, 32; and children John, 12, Julia, 7, Cynthia, 6, Albert, 5, and Aaron, 2.
  • Woodard Williams
  • Randall Hinnant — in the 1880 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Randall Hinnant, 33, farmer; wife Angeline, 26; and children J. Thomas, 10, James H., 8, Lilly Ann, 6, Roscoe F., 4, and Hugh M., 7 months.
  • Ruffin Woodard — in the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Ruffin Woodard, 56; wife Lucy, 38; and children Zilpha, 19, John, 13, Polly, 12, Sallie, 2, and Oscar, 1.
  • Joe Cox — perhaps, in the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Joseph Cox, 33; wife Litha, 27; children Augustin, 6, Bunyan, 11, Iredell, 4, and Zella, 3; and farm laborer Esther Hinard, 54.
  • Ned Scarboro — in the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: laborer Ned Scarboro, 35; wife Bedie, 27; and children Rufus, 14, Leda, 11, Jennie, 8, Polly, 6, Martha, 3, and Penny, 1.
  • Preston Jenkins — probably, in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Preston Jenkins, 49; wife Patsy, 43; daughters Nancy, 22, and Lizzie, 18; and adopted son King Tom, 20.
  • Alfred Woodard — in the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Alfred Woodard, 50; wife Sarah, 45; children Florence, 28, Mary, 22, Howell, 18, Sarah E., 16, Zilly A., 17, Lundon, 13, Minnie, 12, Willie, 10, Josephine, 7, and Evvy, 4; and grandchildren Elizabeth, 7, Robt. B., 5, and John H. Bynum, 4.
  • J.I. Parker

Condolences on assassination of President McKinley.

Correspondence from and to Owen L.W. Smith, Consul General to Liberia, concerning the assassination of President William McKinley.

Screen Shot 2019-10-24 at 10.57.58 PM.png

Papers Related to the Foreign Relations of the United States with the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 3, 1901 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902).

Round 2: the search for Rountree’s lost gravestones.

Round 2 in the quest to locate the gravestones removed from Rountree Cemetery in 1995 included letters sent on October 2 and 3 to the City Manager, the City Clerk, the City Engineer, and PLT Construction, the company who cleared the property.

I received a response via email today from the City Clerk. It was disappointing. (Though I appreciate her prompt attention.) She attached copies of all “the information the City has in its records for Roundtree [sic] Cemetery,” which consists of passages in a handful of city council minutes between 1990 and 1995. The City, apparently, has not retained a copy of the survey or other record of grave locations at Rountree. Nor, it seems, was there any official discussion of the storage and/or disposal of the surviving gravestones in 1995 or any time since.

The most interesting (if not enlightening) discussions about the cemetery occurred in the minutes of 2 June and 25 July 1994.

On 2 June, in pertinent part:

“The mayor [Bruce Rose] called on the audience for anyone wishing to address Council, and recognized former mayor Ralph El Ramey, 904 West Lee Street. … Mr. El Ramey said $200,000 for the restoration of the Vick cemetery, and he was certainly in favor of getting it in first class shape, seemed to be an exorbitant amount of money; and he would like to make an offer that the City give him $100,000 and he would get it cleaned up.”

“Councilmember [Gwendolyn] Burton stated that Earl Bradbury was on the Cemetery Commission at the time when Council and he argued back and forth about the ownership of the Vick cemetery; and it was concurred at that time the City did in fact own the cemetery. She reminded Mr. El Ramey that he and she were serving on Council when the bids came in at $276,000 for the restoration of that cemetery; and that, at Council’s direction, staff sprayed herbicides to reduce potential restoration costs.”

“Mr. El Ramey asked whether convicted people with community service time could be used to clean up the cemetery.”

“Deputy City Manager [Charles W.] Pittman said $200,000 was an estimate based on a more recent proposal; that $168,000 was the low bid about three and one-half years ago; that it was a lot more involved than just going in and clearing eight acres of grass and covering it with grass; that the graves should be properly marked; that certain rights goes along with cemeteries; the City must ensure those rights are protected; and that bids received must be brought back to Council for action.”

“Councilmember [C. Jerry] Williams said some of the cost for the restoration of the Vick cemetery involved work without the use of heavy equipment which might disturb the graves, and making sure headstones and markings are placed/replaced in their correct locations. He noted the actual cutting of trees and mowing of grass is only part of the entire process, and it was hard to find people who are interested in taking the project.”

“Councilmember [Avant P.] Coleman questioned when the Vick Cemetery was acquired by the City. The City Manager indicated it was in the early 1900s. Councilmember Coleman should be committed to fulfilling its obligations to all cemeteries; Council should consider what it would have cost if it had been maintained since its acquisition; that a lot of money was saved by forgetting the City owned it; and the City should be concerned about it and proud of all its cemeteries.”

On 25 July:

Vick Cemetery Restoration. Councilmember [Steven A.] Stancil said he would like to restore the cemetery, but that Council allow staff to look at it and only use $50,000 this year by using the unemployed for manual labor the first year.”

“Councilmember Coleman stated Council should not limit the staff to $50,000; that it would have cost the City a lot more money if the City had acknowledged the fact that it owned the cemetery and had maintained it all these years; and that it was a disgrace to not have restored it sooner.”

“Deputy City Manager Pittman stressed the importance of the work that needed to be done; that a responsible person or persons be employed to locate and properly mark the graves; that staff had no intentions of spending any more money than necessary to properly restore the cemetery; that it would be difficult to find someone willing to volunteer to do the work; and that, because of the scope of the work involved, it was necessary to request and receive bids before the City could give Council a cost figure. He said the $200,000 appropriated in the budget was an estimated based on bids received several years ago, which was in the vicinity of $190,000 to $200,000.”

And finally, on 3 November 1994, City Council awarded the job to PLT Construction:

“Councilmember [Robert L.] Thaxton moved that the bid be awarded to PLT Construction Company, low bidder meeting specifications, for the total project cost of $139,750. He stated that a lot of people do not know what is going on with the Vick Cemetery; that this is an old cemetery which was deeded to the city many years ago; and that plans are underway to improve this cemetery so that it can be maintained in the future. Motion was seconded by Councilmember Burton.”

“The City Manager said $200,000 was budgeted for this project; that he was pleased to see bids come in under the budgeted amount; that the next low bid was $48,750 higher than PLT’s; and that city staff is satisfied the contractor will do what is required to bring the Vick Cemetery up to par.”

“Councilmember [James M.] Johnson said that he had a problem with relatives letting their families’ graves being left in as shoddy a condition as they are now; that he was in favor of getting the Vick Cemetery improved, but, morally, he was going to vote against it, as a message to those family members who had loved ones buried there.”

“Councilmember Burton stated several family members did come before City Council and begged and pleaded for 15 years or more that the city restore and maintain the cemetery; that a man tried to maintain it by himself but could not continue to do so; and that the city was asked repeatedly to do something about its condition.”

“The mayor called for a vote on the motion to award the bid to PLT Construction Company for the restoration of the S.H. Vick Cemetery. Councilmembers Burton, [Willie J.] Pitt, Thaxton and Williams voted aye. Councilmembers Johnson and Stancil voted nay. The motion carried by a vote of four to two.”

And that, pretty much, was it.

I await, with low expectations, responses from the City Manager and City Engineer. In the meantime, it’s on to phase 3, in which I contact elected city officials in office during and since the 1990s concerning their recollections of the storage and/or disposal of the cemetery’s headstones.

Eating the hog is the thing uppermost in their minds.

In 1924, Samuel H. Vick, far removed from political activity, clapped back at a Greensboro, North Carolina, newspaper’s op-ed piece about African-Americans and the state Republican Party.

Screen Shot 2019-09-08 at 7.52.53 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-08 at 7.53.18 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-08 at 7.53.34 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-08 at 7.53.45 PM.png

Wilson Daily Times, 23 September 1924.

Editor Daily Times:

In regard to the editorial appearing [on] the Negro and the Republican party in this state, we wish to state that the “Hog Combine” has no desire to carry North Carolina for the Republican party.

Eating the hog is the thing uppermost in their minds, and they eat so much until they have nightmares.

Control of national Republican patronage is their sole ambition.

The party who wrote the editorial in the Greensboro Daily News is evidently a member of the “Hog Combine.”

If this is not true it is rather strange that he should dictate the policy of the Republican party in North Carolina in regard to the Negro.

The Negro has been politically asleep for the past twenty years, but he is arousing now and will be heard from.

We have no desires or ambitions politically, but we have an interest in our people politically as well as otherwise.

This explains our activity in the matter if the little part we have taken in such things can be called by that name.

Since we were mentioned personally in the editorial, we wish to make this statement: If I have incurred “a legacy of everlasting race rancor and hatred by a temporary (ten years) tenure of a Wilson Post Office” it has never been shown or demonstrated by the people of Wilson. They were my friends then and have shown their friendship ever since. Whatever I may have or possess is due largely to their friendship which this editor calls race rancor and hatred.

In regard to being invited into the party we wish to say that the Anglo-African does not have to be invited into the Republican party. He has no doubt been too loyal. It was the Anglo-Saxon who was invited into the ranks of the party. He came in and took possession and shut the door on the Anglo-African, but the original Republicans are coming back in spite of the “Hog Combine,” believing what is good for the white man is good for the negro with equal intelligence.

Respectfully, S.H. VICK

In my humble estimation you stand pre-eminently above them all.

In 1936, Wilson-born pharmacist William Henry Vick wrote a letter to Kansas Governor Alf Landon, predicting that he would win the Republican nomination for president. Vick wished “to be the first Negro of New Jersey as Landon booster.” Vick’s prescience notwithstanding, Landon lost badly to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Screen Shot 2019-08-11 at 5.51.51 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-08-11 at 5.52.16 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-08-11 at 5.52.25 PM.png

The Montclair Times, 28 July 1936.

O’Hara will harangue.

Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 7.31.08 PM.png

Wilson Advance, 17 October 1884.

In a re-election bid, James Edward O’Hara defeated Wilson’s own Frederick A. Woodard for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. During his first term, O’Hara nominated Daniel C. Suggs to West Point and appointed Daniel Vick to a mail carrier position.

James E. O’Hara (1844-1905).

A little paint does not help a situation like that.

Richard A.G. Foster made the most of his brief time as pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church, as chronicled here and here. In the letter to the editor below, he called to task Wilson County Commissioners for failing to heed the pleas of African-American residents for adequate schooling, including serious repairs for the Stantonsburg Street School (also known as Sallie Barbour School).

201811250912427289.jpg

Wilson Daily Times, 3 August 1938.

Recommended reading, no. 3.

My well-worn copy.

May I recommend Charles W. McKinney’s excellent Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina? Published in 2010, this fine-grained and meticulous monograph examines the many grassroots groups — including farmers, businessmen, union organizers, working class women — who worked together and separately to drag Wilson County into and through the civil rights movement.