Rest in power, Fred Valentine.

My chosen family lost yet another patriarch in the closing days of 2022. Fred L. Valentine Sr. passed away in Washington, D.C., on December 26, surrounded by family. An outfielder for the Washington Senators and Baltimore Orioles, “Uncle Fred” spent a stand-out summer with the Wilson Tobs in 1958, where he met his future wife, Helena Smith, and demanded desegregation of the whites-only section of Fleming Stadium after the “colored section” collapsed under an overflow crowd of African-American fans.

The Valentines became close friends of my parents and, as I wrote here, their children were “play cousins” of my sister and me. I honor Fred Valentine’s memory, and send love to his beloved wife, daughters, son, and grandson.

Fred Valentine as a Tob. Photo detail courtesy of North Carolina Baseball Museum, Wilson.

The Stantonsburg Hawks.

Wilson was not the only county town to field an African-American semi-pro baseball team. From 1945 into the late 1970s, the Stantonsburg Hawks successfully traveled neighboring counties for play.

John Lee Woodard (1917-1995) was the team founder, and players throughout its history included his son Willie Woodard, Ernest Hall and son Ernest D. Hall, Frederick Brown, Johnnie Streeter, Roy Lee Pender, Marvin R. Artis, George Artis, Tommy Rogers, Nathaniel Green Jr., William Sutton, Henry Revelle, Carter Knight, Raymond Mackey, Marvin Sessoms, Levy Daniel Jr., Melvin Hodges, Cleveland Leach, Joseph Green, Julius Green, Theodore Ward, Douglas Artis, Melvin Artis Jr., George Atkinson, and Ronnie Diggs.

I am trying to identify the Hawks’ earliest players, teammates of John L. Woodard. Do you know of anyone who played baseball with them in the 1940s?

I recognize three men in this photo — Ernest D. Hall seated at front left; Willie Lee Woodard (son of John L. Woodard, front row with glove on ground); and George Artis, second in second row. Who do you see?

[Update: Marvin Sessoms is in the middle of the front row; Johnnie Streeter is at far right in that row; and Ernest Hall Jr. (father of Ernest D. Hall) is standing third from left.]

Thanks to Tiyatti Speight for bringing this team to my attention and for the copy of this wonderful photo. Thanks as well to all the people of Stantonsburg who helped identify the players!

Homestead Grays play the New York Black Yankees in Wilson.

On 4 August 1942, the Daily Times printed two short pieces on the extraordinary match-up at Wilson’s Municipal (now Fleming) Stadium — the Homestead Grays vs. the New York Black Yankees!

Grays’ catcher and power hitter Josh Gibson in an undated photograph. AP.

Wilson Daily Times, 4 August 1942.

Buck Leonard at bat, 1945. He and Gibson were known as the Thunder Twins. Now regarded as among the best ever to play the game, neither played Major League baseball. Photo courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame. 

The Homestead Grays in 1942, the year they visited Wilson. Getty Images.

Black Yankees Leslie “Chin” Green and Jimmy Ford, 1942. Detail, Getty Images.

The newly formed Wilson Dodgers.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 January 1948.

The Wilson Dodgers made their debut in 1948, opening against the Rocky Mount Black Swans.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 March 1948.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 May 1949.

The description “newly formed” more than a year later suggests they did not play a full season in ’48.


  • Douglas Simms, manager and pitcher — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 308 East Street, Frances Simms, 49, widow; children Geneva, 23, Margaret, 17, Retha, 18, “runs store — retail gro.,” Douglas, 19, “cleans tourist home,” Raymond, 26, and Eva, 20; and grandson Ralph, 2. Douglas Simms registered for the World War II draft in 1940. Per his draft card, he was born 1 January 1918 in Wilson; lived at 308 North East Street; his contact was mother Frances Simms; and he worked for Imperial Tobacco Company, Barnes Street. Douglas Simms died 30 November 1967 in Wilson.
  • Alfonza Watson, first baseman — possibly, Alfonza Watson born in 1930 in Wilson to Willis Watson and Mamie Atkinson Watson.
  • Robert Ellis, second baseman (“at the keystone sack”)
  • Crevan Moses, shortstop — on 10 June 1948, Lathrop Crevound Moses, 17, of Wilson, son of Eugene Moses and Annie Mae Tate Moses, married Annie Elizabeth Ruffin, 17, of FarmVille, N.C., daughter of Roosevelt Ruffin and Senora Hardy Ruffin, in Wilson.
  • Wimp Morgan, third baseman (“a hot corner man”)
  • Jim Haines, captain and catcher
  • Amos Ellis, outfielder — perhaps: Amos Staley Ellis registered for the draft in 1946. Per his registration card, he was born 7 September 1926 in Edgecombe County; lived at 624 Darden’s Alley; his contact was Rosa Ellis of the same address; and he worked for Jim Blount.
  • Major Hinnant, outfielder — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 908 East Vance, Mary Hinnant, 54, widow; children Robert, 21, Thomas, 19, Jessie, 17, Bennie, 16, Eveline, 14, Major, 11, and Dannie, 33; and grandchildren Festus, 16, Blossie, 12, Martha, 11, James T., 8, Clarence, 7, Samuel, 5, Mary R., 1, and George, 6 months. Major Hinnant registered for draft in 1945. Per his registration card, he was born 6 September 1927 in Wilson County; lived at 908 East Vance; his contact was mother Mary Hinnant; and he was unemployed.
  • Robert King, outfielder
  • Willie Lee Hines, outfielder (“other outer gardeners”) — Willie Lee Hines registered for the World War II draft in 1942. Per his registration card, he was born 10 October 1924 in Wilson County; lived at 206 Ashe Street; his contact was mother Daisy Hines; and he worked as “laborer on defense job contract” at Glider Base, Edenton, N.C.
  • William Johnson, batter (“twirler”)
  • Chester Jones, batter
  • Thomas Dickerson, batter