Best

Wilson’s first African-American policemen.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 July 1950.

In 1950, Wilson hired its first two Black policemen, Rudolph Best and Lee Jackson Williams, to patrol east of the railroad tracks.

  • Lee Jackson “Hank” Williams

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 319 Hackney Street, a duplex rented at $12/month per unit, Frank Harris, 35, lumber mill laborer; wife Mamie, 33; son Frank Jr., 2; and nephew McKinley Barnes, 21, farm laborer, and niece-in-law Hagar, 16; and Sam Williams, 28, barber; wife Emma, 28; children Addie M., 9, James, 7, Billie, 3, and Sam Jr., 1; and roomer Earnest Corbitt, 32, oil mill laborer.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 511 East Green Street, rented for $12/hour, Sam Williams, 42, barber; wife Emma, 38; and children Addie, 19, James, 17, Billie, 13, Samuel Jr., 11, and Dazzarine, 9.

In 1944, Lee Jackson Williams registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 5 May 1926 in Wilson County; lived at 511 East Green Street; his nearest relative was Emma Williams; and he was “unemployed — going to school.”

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 505 East Green, barber Sam Williams, 50; wife Emma, 48; children Addie M., 28, James, 26, and Lee Williams, 23; and daughter Dazzarine Nicholson, 19, cashier, and her daughter Edrina, 1.

On 27 September 1954, Lee Jackson Williams, 28, of Wilson, son of Sam and Emma Crawford Williams, married Margaret Evangeline Speight, 25, of Wilson, daughter of Theodore and Marie Thomas Speight, at 510 East Green Street, Wilson. Presbyterian minister O.J. Hawkins performed the ceremony in the presence of Beatrice Neal, Emma Williams, and Sarah Bryant.

Lee Jackson Williams died 24 October 1997 in Wilson.

  • Rudolph Best

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 406 East Walnut, ice plant laborer Aaron Best, 31; wife Estell, 31; and children William A., 9, Audry L., 6, Rudolph V., 5, Vera M., 3, and Royce D., 1.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 406 Walnut, rented for $12/month, Aaron Best, 39; wife Estelle, 39; and children Rudolph, 14, Royce, 10, Harper and Gerald, 8, Eddie, 7, and Nannie Jean, 5.

In 1943, Rudolph Best registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 17 September 1925 in Wilson; his contact was Aaron Best; he lived at 1009 East Nash Street, Wilson; and he worked part-time at Briggs Hotel.

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1009 East Nash Street, Isaac Williams, 26, plaster helper; wife Delores D., 25, shaking tobacco at tobacco factory; and Larry L., 1; (upstairs) Rudolph Best, 24, plaster helper, and brothers Audrey L., 27, auto mechanic at repair shop, and Eddie E., 17; and (upstairs) Odessa B. Reid, 39, and mother Ietta R.M. Reid, 81, widow.

On 29 December 1954, Rudolph Best, 29, of Wilson, son of Aaron Best and Estelle Burden Best, married Ophelia Atkinson, 30, of Wilson, daughter of Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle Atkinson in Wilson.

Rudolph Best died 19 August 1974 in Durham, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 September 1925 to Aaron Best and Estelle Burton; was married to Ophelia Atkinson; lived at 1009 East Nash Street, Wilson; and had worked as a “policeman (22 years) Wilson Police Dept. Retired.)

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Wilson Daily Times, 15 March 1982.

The obituary of Bessie McNair Best.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 August 1949.

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In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 213 Ashe Street, renting for $8/month, tobacco factory laborer Virginia McNair, 40; daughter Bessie Ward, 24, a cook; and grandchildren Grace, 8, Mary N., 5, and Willie C., 7.

Bessie McNair Best died 29 July 1949 in Norfolk, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was born 23 August 1915 in Wilson, N.C., to William McCullum and Virginia Ward; was the widow of James Best; and was taken to Wilson for burial by C.E. Artis Funeral Home.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

The obituary of Nannie Best.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 June 1948.

For more about Nannie Best’s “cafe business” see here and here.

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In 1872, Aaron Best of Greene County opened an account with the Freedmen’s Bank branch in New Bern, North Carolina. Among his children, he listed a daughter Nancy. 

In the 1880 census of Moseley Hall, Lenoir County: laborer Aaron Best, 62, wife Eveline, 48, children Nancy, 18, Harriet, 12, Hopewell, 9, and Mariah, 4, and grandchildren Eugenia, 8, and Frances Joyner, 3.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: cook Nannie Best, 34, widow, and daughters Francis, 20, and Eliza, 16, and boarder Lula Garrett, 25. The latter three were house servants.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Nannie Best, 48, cook; her children Francis, 28, cook, Eliza, 24, public school teacher, and son Aaron, 9; and lodgers, Lula, 24, cook, and Nannie Best, 16, private nurse.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 330 South Spring Street: widowed Nannie Best, 61, her daughter Frank, 30, son Aaron, 21, daughter-in-law Estelle, 19, widowed brother Harper Best, 65, and a lodger, nurse Henrietta Colvert, 24.

In the 1930 Wilson city directory, cook Nannie Best, laundress Frankie Best and seamstress Eliza Best are listed as residents of 1009 East Nash Street.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Nan Best, 75, widow; daughter Frankie, 55; and grandsons William, 19, and Audrey, 15.

Frankye Best died 23 June 1941 at her home at 1009 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 58 years old; was born in Lenoir County, N.C., to Aaron Best and Nannie Best; was single; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Eliza Best was informant.

Nannie Best died 18 June 1948 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 June 1865 in Greene County to Aaron Best and Evelyn [last name unknown]; resided at 1009 East Green Street; and was buried in Rountree Cemetery. Aaron Best, 1009 East Nash Street, was informant.

William Aaron Best died 21 August 1949. Per his death certificate, he was born 21 September 1900 in Wilson County to Aaron and Nannie Best; was a widower; and worked as a laborer for Export Tobacco Company. Audrey Best, 1009 East Nash, was informant.

Zion Hall buys a lot.

Deed book 68, page 311, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. 

On 2 January 1905, Orren and Hancy Best sold Caesar Moses and James Watson, trustees of Zion Hall No. 5952, Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, a 48 by 48-foot lot at the rear of their property “near the corporate limits of the Town of Wilson.” Orren and Hancy Best lived at the heart of Grabneck, and Zion Hall was one of at least eight African-American Odd Fellows lodges active in Wilson County in the early 20th century.

The obituary of Eliza Ellis Best.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 September 1929.

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In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer James Ellis, 48; wife Zana, 38; and children (grandchildren?) Eliza, 14, James, 5 months, Cora, 13, Macord, 10, Oscar, 6, and Anna, 1.

Benjamin Best, 22, married Liza Ellis, 18, on 22 October 1874 at the residence of James Ellis in Wilson County. James Ellis, Gilford Ellis, and Aaron Ward were witnesses.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, farmer Benjamin Best, 26; wife Eliza, 23; and children Virginia, 4, Priscilla, 3, and Columbus, 1.

In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Benjamin Best, wife Eliza, and children Virgin N., Mildred, Junius, Sopremia, Benjamin, Corinthia, Remantha, Olian, and Clarence. Benjamin and Eliza reported having been married 25 years, and Eliza reported that 10 of the 12 children she had borne were living.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: widow Eliza Best, 53, with children Junius, 29, Rematha, 20, Allen, 18, and Clarence, 16, plus grandchildren Suprema, 5, and Martha A., 3.

On 24 January 1917, Clarence Best, 22, of Wilson township, son of Benjamin and Eliza Best, and Geneva Smith, 22, of Gardners township, daughter of Henry and Mahala Smith, were married in Gardners township by C.H. Hagans, a Primitive Baptist minister. Fred Woodard, John Barnes and Len Woodard witnessed.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, marble cutter Clarence Best, 26, wife Geneva, 26, and son Clarence H., 1, plus Eliza Best, 68, Martha Ann Best, 11, and Suprema Hooks, 11. Next door, Junius Best, 38, wagon factory assembly man, wife Mary A., 27, and children Mary Olivia, 2, and Colonius, 4 months.

Eliza Best died 1 September 1929 in Wilson of “injury of rt. leg; cut her leg on a piece of tin.” She resided at 1310 East Nash Street, Wilson, and was the widow of Benjamin Best. She was about 64 years old and had been born in Wilson County to Jim Ellis and Zannie Applewhite. She was buried in Rountree cemetery; Clarence Best was informant.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Studio shots, no. 175: Oscar and Viola Brown Best.

Viola Brown Best (1900-1963).

Oscar Best (1890-1976).

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In the 1900 census of Falling Creek township, Lenoir County, N.C.: farmer John W. Best, 33; wife Nancey, 29; and children Florence, 10, Oscar, 9, and Lithey, 7.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: lumber mill laborer John W. Best, 43; wife Nannie, 43, laundress; and children Oscar, 19, lumber mill laborer, and Litha, 17, servant.

On 14 August 1910, Oscar Best, 21, of Cross Roads township, son of John W. and Nan Best, married Daisy Barnes, 20, of Cross Roads, daughter of Joe Barnes. Missionary Baptist minister William Baker performed the ceremony in the present of Will Bullock, James Coleman and [Rosa] Hinnant.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Oscar Best, 29; wife Daisy, 25; and children Seretha, 9, Mildred, 8, Hattie, 6, James, 4, Virginia, 2, and Nannie, 2 months.

Daisy Best died 9 May 1922 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 32 years old; was born in Wilson County to Joseph Barnes and Lillie Strickland; was married to Oscar Best; and was a tenant farmer for Fred Washington. Informant was Nan Best.

On 29 December 1925, Oscar Best, 33, son of John W. and Nan Best, married Viola Brown, 23, daughter of Neal and Patsy Brown, in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister Wyatt Studiway performed the service in the presence of Samuel Austin, Lucius Studaway, and Nellie Thompson.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Harpers Road, farmer Oscar Best, 40; wife Viola, 28; and children Mildred, 17, Hattie, 14, Virginia, 12, James, 13, Andrew, 13, Mamie, 11, Jessie, 11, Oscar, 4, Corine, 3, and Joe Lizzie, 2.

In the 1940 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Oscar Best, 50; wife Viola, 40; and children Buddie, 20, Oscar, 14, Corina, 12, Joe E., 12, Dollie Mae, 11, John, 10, J.D., 9, Herbert Lee, 4, Horace, 6, and William, 1.

In 1940, Buddy Best registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born October 1919 in Laurinburg, N.C.; lived at Route 3, Wilson; his contact was father Oscar Best; and he worked for W. Herbert Ellis.

In 1943, Oscar Junior Best registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 15 August 1925 in Wilson County; lived at Route 3, Saratoga, Wilson County; and his contact and employer was Oscar Best.

Corine B. Woodard died 30 January 1953 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 12 October 1928 in Wilson County to Oscar Best; was a laborer; was married; and lived at 1211 Wainwright Avenue. Informant was Walter Woodard.

James Best died 7 September 1958 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 December 1919 in Wilson County to Oscar and Daisy Best; was married to Rosa Best; lived in Portsmouth, Virginia; and worked as a metalsmith helper.

Viola Best died 27 June 1963 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 May 1900 in Laurinburg, N.C. to Neal Brown and Patsy Pickett, was married to Oscar Best, and was a laborer.

Mildred Best Williams died 27 October 1967 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 February 1912 on Wilson County to Oscar Best and Nannie Best; lived at 206 South Reid Street; and was married to Alvester Williams.

Oscar Best died 25 July 1976 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 December 1887 to John Best and Nannie Sutton; was married; and worked as a farmer. J.D. Best was informant.

Hattie Best Jones died 19 May 1980 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 15 January 1915 in Nash County to Oscar Best and Dazie Best; was a widower; and loved at 1110 Queen Street.

Oscar Best Jr. died 6 August 1886 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 August 1925 to Oscar Best Sr. and Viola Brown; was married to Mildred Jones Best; and worked as a carpenter for a container corporation.

Buddy Best died 6 April 1991 in Goldsboro, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 October 1917 in Wilson to Oscar Best and Viola Brown.

Roland Best died 8 February 1993 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 30 March 1921 to Oscar Best and Viola Brown; was a widower; and worked as a heavy equipment operator.

Photos courtesy of Ancestry.com user Portia Black.