automobile accident

Coleman knocked off truck and killed.

James Walter Coleman was knocked off a truck running board and into the road, where he was fatally struck by another vehicle. In the darkness, neither Coleman’s family nor occupants of the other vehicle involved immediately understood what had happened. The terrible details came together during a coroner’s inquest. The Colemans’ truck had been badly overloaded, with furniture protruding out over the center line. With his family crammed inside the cab, Coleman was riding on the truck’s running board when an oncoming truck loaded with cabbage slammed into the furniture, pitching Coleman onto the ground and under the wheels of the cabbage truck or the vehicle just behind it.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 April 1930.

In the 1900 census of Bailey township, Nash County, N.C.: John Colman, 28; wife Fanny, 32; and children Adna, 4, Bessie, 4, and James W., 11 months.

In the 1910 census of Dry Wells township, Nash County: farmer John Coleman, 41; wife Fanny, 43; and children Adner, 15, Bessie, 13, James W., 11, Dessie, 9, William, 7, Theodore, 5, Sallie E., 3, and Lincey, 1 month.

In 1918, James Walter Coleman registered for the World War I draft in Nash County. Per his draft registration card, he was born 7 June 1899; lived at Route 1, Middlesex, Nash County; and worked as a farmer for John Coleman, Route 1, Middlesex.

In the 1920 census of Beulah township, Johnston County, N.C., James Coleman, 20, is listed as a fired man/farm laborer.

On 24 August 1921, James W. Coleman, 23, married Johnnie Ann Keys, 19, in Johnston County.

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Coleman, James W lab h 1206 Carolina St

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Coleman James W (c; Annie) cook h 1204 Carolina St

James Walter Coleman died 1 April 1928. His death certificate gives little hint of the horrific manner of his death.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.



Fatal auto crashes.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 December 1929.


  • Clarence Rogers — Rogers died 15 December 1929 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 24 years old; was born in Wake County, N.C., to James C. Rogers and Martha Perry; was married to Mary Rogers; worked as a common laborer; and was buried in Wake County. Millard Rogers, Wilson, was informant.

“Coronary Embolus auto accident. Not at R.R. crossing occurred at place of death”

  • Eddie Walker — in the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Eddie Walker, 20; wife Pecolia, 24; and daughter Dallas, 9 months; also farm laborer Augustus Mitchel, 29; wife Cora, 24; and children Earnest L., 6, and Farman, 2.
  • Agelene Rountree — per her death certificate, Arger Lee Rountree of 120 Manchester Street died 15 December 1929 in Wilson. She was born 8 April 1921 in Wilson County to Wiley Rountree and Mary Barnes and was a student.

“Run down by Automobile while crossing the street, killed almost instantly. Was dead when Doctor reached there.”

  • James Artis 

The average negro will drive a car exactly like he drives a horse.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 December 1916.

Though this whole opinion piece is cast in racialized terms, the writer (the Times editor? so nearly killed? if so, his writing is atrocious) slips and admits that bad driving cut across caste — “some white drivers will do the same thing.” 

Only in the second paragraph does he turn to the matter of correcting the previous day’s factual errors — Pearlie Hodges, not Cliff Williams, was driving the car that struck Mr. Oettinger’s car (only white people received the honorific Mr., Mrs. or Miss by the journalistic standards of the day), and Ernest Brown wasn’t there at all.

Fatal auto accident on the road to Wilson.

Wilson Daily Times, 20 November 1918.


While trying to pass a wagon on the road from Black Creek to Wilson (probably today’s Black Creek and Frank Price Church Roads), Johnnie Williams smashed his automobile into a telegraph pole, killing Washington Joyner and injuring Coot Robbins and Hiram Faulkner.

  • Johnnie Williams
  • Washington Joyner — George Washington Joyner.
  • Coot Robbins
  • Hiram Faulkner — probably, Hiram Faulkland.

Underwood brothers struck by a car.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 November 1917.

A drunk driver struck a light pole then careened into two boys standing near the intersection of Nash Street and Stantonsburg Road (now Pender Street) in Wilson. Though seriously injured, both recovered under the care of doctors at Wilson’s Black hospital.

  • Dr. Gilliam — Matthew S. Gilliam.
  • Dr. Hargrave — Frank S. Hargrave.
  • Herman and Eddie Underwood Jr. — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 663 Nash Street, farm operator Edd Underwood, 45; wife Ophelia, 29; and sons Edd Jr., 9, and Herman, 5.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

The death of Ben Summerlin.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 November 1932.

Ben Summerlin was 13 years old.

How that fact escaped the person who wrote this article, the person who described a boy as a “negro tenant farmer,” is inconceivable. Per his death certificate, Benjamin Summerlin was born 24 May 1919 in Wilson County to Benjamin Summerlin and Addaliza Rice. He died 5 November 1932. 


In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Benjamin Sumerlin, 24; wife Pearl, 22; and sons Harvey, 4, and Benjamin, 6 months.

In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Analiza Sumerlin, 52, farmer, widow, and children Emma L., 18, Martha J., 15, Harry L., 16, and Bengiman, 10, all farm laborers. [It appears that Ben Summerlin’s death certificate contains a reporting error. Benjamin Summerlin was his father, but his mother was named Pearl. Annaliza Rice Summerlin was his (and Harvey Summerlin’s) grandmother.]

Reid suffers a broken leg.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 August 1926.

Isaiah Reid, a cousin of Henry S.Elijah L. and J.D. Reid, spent nearly all of his life in northern Wayne County, N.C. However, several of his children, including John R. Reid, Oscar Reid, Ida Reid Sutton, Bessie Reid DIggs, and Wade J. Reid, moved to Wilson County as adults, and he seems to have joined them there in retirement. In 1926, he suffered a broken leg when struck by an automobile near the intersection of Nash and Stantonsburg [now Pender] Streets.


In the 1860 census of Davis district, Wayne County: farmer John Reed, 34; Zany, 27; Jesse, 10, Wm., 8, Isaiah, 7, Pernesa, 4, Nancy, 3, Henry, 1, and infant, 2 months.

In the 1870 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer John Reed, 50; wife Mozang, 40; and children Jessee, 19, William, 17, Pernecy, 16, Isaah, 15, Nancy, 13, Henry, 10, Samuel, 8, Rhoda, 6, Dempsey, 3, and John G., 1.

In the 1880 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer John Reed, 53; wife Mozannie, 52; and children William, 27, Isaiah, 26, Samy, 18, Dempsey, 13, Rhody, 14, Meszanie, 10, John G., 12, and Frank, 4.

On 24 December 1885, Isaiah Reid, 30, of Wayne County, son of John and Zania Reid of Wayne County, married Edy Evans, 20, of Wayne County, daughter of Harry and Lizzie Evans, in Pikeville township, Wayne County.

In the 1900 census of Pikeville township, Wilson County: farmer Isiah Reid, 47; wife Eidie, 34; and children John W., 17, Ida L., 15, Oscar, 8, Bessie J., 5, Waid J., 4, and Parthenie, 2.

On 27 October 1907, Isaiah Reid, 49, married Pernecie Best, in Nahunta township, Wayne County.

In the 1910 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Isaiah Reid, 54; wife Perneacy, 33; son Oscar, 18; daughter Bessie, 15; “husband son” Waidy, 14; “husband daughter” Pheany, 12; “husband son” Ernnie, 15; and “husband daughter” Mabell, 14. [Actually, the first four children were Isaiah Reid’s, and the last two were probably Pernecie’s.]

In the 1920 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: on Black Creek Road, farmer Isiah Reid, 65; wife Pernecy, 43; and children Mabel, Wade, and Almira, all 23 years old. 

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

The death of John Henry Evans.

The cause of death on John Henry Evans‘ death certificate is fairly laconic: “brain injury due to auto accident.”

Newspaper accounts detail a more complicated story. About eight o’clock on the evening of April 11, Evans and J.D. O’Neal, on whose land he lived, were driving wagons to fertilizer to O’Neal’s farm near Lamm’s School [today, near the intersection of Interstate 95 and U.S. 264.] The men stopped on the shoulder of the road to talk to O’Neal’s brother. Both wagons were lit with lanterns. Erwin Stewart of Durham smashed into other wagons in a Graham truck and flipped over in a ditch. According to witnesses, Stewart’s truck had only one headlight working and had drifted partly on the shoulder of the road. The wagons were demolished, one mule was badly injured, and John Henry Evans was first thought dead. He was rushed to the “colored hospital.” As his death certificate notes, Evans lingered for five days before succumbing to injuries to his head.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 April 1929.

For all the carelessness hinted at in the initial report, a month later, Stewart was acquitted of a manslaughter charge in Evans’ death.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 May 1929.