C.H. Darden High School

They like football, and they have that old school spirit.

In the fall of 1944, Darden High School’s football team, finding no teachers available to fill the role, coached itself.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 October 1944.

(Note the reference to the team’s playing field. Darden had no formal football field, and the team had to spend its own money to rent Fleming Stadium for home games.)


The team:

  • Herman Hines — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1001 Vance Street, wagon factory laborer Wesley Hines, 35; wife Lucy, 30, a private nurse; and sons Herman, 13, and Charles, 10. Oddly, three before the article above was published, Herman Wesley Hines registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 7 October 1944 in Wilson; lived at 1001 East Vance; his contact was his father Wesley Edward Hines; had a burn scar on his left ankle; and worked as a section hand for the railroad. Was this in fact his father’s occupation? Hines and others were members of the Class of 1945. [Note: Herman Hines died 30 July 2014 in Reidsville, North Carolina. His obituary mentions his coaching stint at Darden.]
  • Bennie Hill
  • James Jones — In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 901 Stantonsburg Street, Wesley Jones, 51, fertilizer plant laborer; wife Martha, 52, tobacco factory laborer; and children Lucille, 22, teacher at Fremont School, Vernon, 20, Willie, 16, John, 14, James, 12, and Elroy, 10. On 26 December 1945, James Thomas Jones registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 23 December 1927 in Wilson; lived at 901 Stantonsburg Street; his contact was Wesley Jones; and he worked at Contentnea Guano Company, Wilson.
  • John Melton — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow T[illegible] Barnes, 72, washing; daughter Cora Melton, 42, widow and private cook; and grandchildren Lucy, 16, Virginia, 15, John, 14, W.T., 8, and Hilda, 7; and daughter Lillie Barnes, 40, “sick.” On 11 September 1944, John Melton registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 11 September 1926 in Wilson; lived at 1206 Washington Street; his contact was mother Cora Melton; and reworked at Imperial Tobacco Company, Wilson.
  • Lindbergh Wilson  — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Elizabeth Wilson, 55; daughter Marie, 29; lodgers Earnest Mack, 35, and Jessie McMillion, 34; and grandsons Lindberg, 12, and Rodney Wilson, 14. On 10 September 1945, Lindbergh Wilson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 9 September 1927 in Wilson County; he lived at 1013 Stantonsburg Street; his contact was Marie Wilson; and his “employer” was N.C. State [North Carolina College?], Durham.
  • Lester McNeil — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 107 South Carroll Street, railroad station porter Chester McNeal, 49; wife, Mary, 36, tobacco factory stemmer; daughter Ula, 20, and son Lester, 12; adopted daughter Elane Barnes, 20; and adopted son William McNeal, 1. On 28 September 1945, Lester McNeil registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 27 September 1927 in Wilson; he lived at 107 South Carroll; his contact was Chester McNeil; and his “employer” was Darden High School.
  • Charles Hines — Hines was the younger brother of Herman Hines, above. On 19 December 1957, Charles Edwin Hines married Anna Johnson Goode in Wilson.
  • Thomas Stokes — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1208 Atlanta Street, barber James Stokes, 35; wife Viola, 25; children Frank, 8, Dorthea, 4, Thomas, 2, and Julia, 18 months; and mother Julia, 64. On 24 July 1945, Thomas Watson Stokes registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 24 July 1927 in Wilson; he lived at 1206 Atlantic Street; his contact was Viola Stokes; he had a small scar on his forehead; and he was a self-employed painter.
  • Robert Speight — On 9 August 1944, Robert Elton Speight registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 9 August 1926 in Wilson County; he lived at 624 Viola Street; his contact was father Theodore Speight; and he was a student at Darden High School.
  • Ernest Halliday — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 612 East Suggs Street, Westley Holiday, 40; wife Rosa, 30; and children Earlise, 13, Edward, 11, Deborah, 9, Lula M., 6, Earnest, 4, and Joseph, 1. On 19 June 1944, Ernest Holliday registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 18 June 1926 in Wilson County; he lived at 512 East Spruce Street; his contact was Rosa Holliday; and he was unemployed.
  • Robert Jenkins — On 22 January 1945, Robert Allen Jenkins registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 21 January 1927 in Wilson; he lived at 611 Viola Street; his contact was mother Geneva Mercer; he had a scar on his right leg below his knee; and he was a student at Darden High School.

Dear ol’ Darden.

I’ve come to understand that the word “classmate” just hits different when you came up through all-black schools or attended an HBCU. (I did neither.) Here, my father and members of his beloved C.H. Darden High School Class of 1952. Of the men in this photo, he’s the last living; three of the women have gone on, too.

The Class of ‘52 was my village. Their children were my earliest friends. Darden High School’s last class graduated when I was not quite six, but I grew up steeped in its great legacy. Black Wide-Awake memorializes its earliest years and boosts its fading memory. “We sing a song of adoration, a song full of love and praise … Dear ol’ Darden High!”

(Also, that pennant. ✊🏾)

Photo in the collection of R.C. and B.A. Henderson.

Happy birthday, Karla!

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Today is my sister’s birthday. Here she is, aged about two and a half.

I love everything about this photo. The subject, the composition, the lighting. The pensive face, the little chin in the little hand. My entreaty to my mother. My unraveling braids. I don’t know who the photographer was, only that it was taken at a basketball game at C.H. Darden during what must have been its last season as a high school. And then the dam of segregation broke.

The National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament.

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Indianapolis Recorder, 20 April 1940.

Hampton Institute (now University) sponsored the first National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament in 1929. The tournament aimed to “furnish an opportunity for state champions, runners-up, and teams with unusual records to play in a National Tournament, and to decide the National Championship.” Wilson High School (later Charles H. Darden High) of Wilson was among the field of teams at the first tournament.

Sallie B. Howard remembers Principal Barnes.

Circa 1992, the C.H. Darden High School Alumni Association published a short memoir of the school’s long-time principal Edward Morrison Barnes (1905-2002). Sallie Baldwin Howard, an accomplished educator in her own right, penned this brief forward.

My Principal

I remember Mr. [Edward M.] Barnes as my principal of both Wilson Public High School and Charles H. Darden High. As incongruous as this may seem, nevertheless — it is true. E.g. In 1938, Wilson Public High School became Charles H. Darden High School and Mr. Barnes, of course — was already the principal.

Mr. Barnes was also the first high school teacher hired from Wilson. He was hired as a French and English teacher. After less than two years, Mr. [William H.A.] Howard the principal died and Mr. Barnes became the principal. Our class of 1938 would be the first class to ever graduate from a Wilson public school named for an African-American: Charles H. Darden High School.

Consequently, the year 1938 becomes a historical landmark for the Black community. Both, our Principal and our class — were thrust into history simply because we just happened to be in a specific place at a specific time. Nevertheless, we’re proud that Lady Luck was on our side!

Tat, Tat, Tat …

Next, I remember my principal because of his habit of lightly tapping a thin ruler against the wall when he wished to gain the attention of students who might be loitering about the halls during  the changing or classes.

This soft “tat, tat, tat” was all that was needed to send us hurrying on to wherever we were supposed to be. I don’t remember ever hearing him raise his voice in order to achieve quiet or get the attention of that All-Black student body.

I’ve had many occasions to reflect on this as a teacher in the New York Public School System. I’d observe both the principal and the teachers practically wear out their lungs in a vain effort to achieve hallway order. Their loud and strident method of trying to achieve quiet, only added to the terrible din of noise.

Quiet Discipline

My memory of Mr. Barnes’s unique method of controlling his student population made a lasting impression on me and it has stayed with me during my many years of working with children.It has made me realize that one of the greatest accomplishments a classroom teacher can achieve is to train his/her children to respond to quiet discipline!

Even today, in the Youth Enrichment Program where I serve as Education Coordinator, Quiet Discipline is insisted upon. And like that of my principal’s so long ago, it still works!

Somebody Noticed — Thank God!

I also remember an occasion when my principal had more confidence in my ability than I had in myself.

Right from the outset, I’d decided that I didn’t like French. Today, I realize that I simply did not want to give up that much of my leisure time in order to learn the vocabulary and verb-conjugations necessary to master a foreign language. Completely unwilling to do this, I simply decided to just try and “get by!” And, of course, my grades quickly reflected just that! But even with the filing grades, I don’t remember being particularly concerned. But somebody was — Thank God!

Consequently, when my principal spoke to me about my grade (78%) — I was shocked and wondered who had ratted on me! How else would he know? I remember telling him that I simply couldn’t learn French — to which he, thank God — paid not the slightest bit of attention. Instead, after chastising me rather severely — he simply pulled me out of my regular class, plopped me down in his office and began teaching me the fundamentals of French. Teaching, testing and grading away — for a while week! At the end of the that time, my grades had zoomed up to 100%! Only then was I permitted to return to my regular class and rejoin my friends.

Nevertheless, as traumatic as this experience had been to my ego, I’d begun to understand the procedure of learning a foreign language. And despite myself, I’d fallen in love with the process. Moreover, that experience got me hooked on foreign languages. Later on in life, I went on to study French, Spanish, Hebrew and Kiswahili!

Fond Memories

There are so many meaningful memories that flood my mind as I think back to those high school days. Such as: our principal himself, driving is in his car to the various tournaments in which we had to participate. Or like arranging for me to have a little library job in order for me to have some spending change — $6.00 per month etc!

During those Terrible Thirties, I used to wonder if my principal realized that the $6.00 was more than spending change for me — but was desperately needed in our house to help out with the bills! How I hoped that he didn’t know this! But once I was an adult and I myself a classroom teacher, I came to realize that there is very little about pupils that the principal and teachers don’t know!

Anyway, during those skimpy days of the Deep Depression, when both the teachers and principal had been obliged to struggle mightily to get to where they were, not only did they know, but what they did for us precisely because they did know. But most importantly for us students — they also REMEMBERED!

S.B. Howard, 1992.

Snaps, no. 69: Darden High prom, 1949.

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On 8 June 1999, the Wilson Daily Times published this photograph of Jacobia L. Bulluck and Marie Everett at Darden High School’s 1949 prom. Everett submitted the image.


  • Jacobia L. Bulluck — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 412 Viola, owned and valued at $2000; Charles Jones, 61, janitor at Vick School; wife Gertrude, 59, a tobacco factory stemmer; daughter Ruth Plater, 35, divorced, teacher; grandsons Torrey S., 12, and Charles S. Plater, 11; son-in-law Ruel Bullock, 35; daughter Louise, 30; grandsons Jacobia, 7, Robert, 6, Harold, 4, and Rudolph, 7 months; and granddaughter Barbara Jones, 6.
  • Marie Everett

High school renamed for C.H. Darden, who had “a fine spirit as a citizen.”

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 January 1938.

Three drown; three thousand attend funeral.

The day after graduation, Darden High School’s Class of 1942 road-tripped south to Kinston for a picnic at a lake. The day ended in tragedy when three young men drowned trying to save the life of a classmate.

Wilson Daily Times, 4 June 1942.

The Daily Times estimated that three thousand mourners jammed the “Wilson Community Center” [Reid Street Community Center] for joint services for Harvey Ford, Raymond Edwards, and Russell Clay


Wilson Daily Times, 8 June 1942.

  • Harvey Ford — Per his death certificate, Harvey Gray Ford died 4 June 1942 in Falling Creek township, Lenoir County, North Carolina, “drowned no boat involved.” He was born 8 January 1921 in Wilson, N.C., to Curtis Ford of Dillon, S.C., and Mamie Battle of Wayne County, N.C.; was a student; and was single. Mamie Ford, 910 East Green Street, was informant.
  • Raymond Edwards — Per his death certificate, Raymond Edwards died 4 June 1942 in Falling Creek township, Lenoir County, North Carolina, “drowned no boat involved.” He was born 15 November 1924 in Wilson, N.C., to McKenly Edwards of Greene County and Maggie Thomas of Wayne County, N.C.; was a student; and was single. Maggie Edwards, 609 South Railroad Street, was informant.
  • Russell Clay — Per his death certificate, Russell Clay died 4 June 1942 in Falling Creek township, Lenoir County, North Carolina, “drowned no boat involved.” He was born 8 April 1921 in Jarrett, Virginia, to Larry Clay of Wilson, and Hattie Grice of Wilson; was a student; and was single. He was buried in Newsome cemetery near Lucama. Hattie Clay, 902 Viola Street, was informant.
  • Parthenia Robinson — Anne Parthenia Robinson. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 202 Vick Street, barber Golden Robinson, 30; wife Bertie, 23; and children Parthenia, 5, Gold M., 3, and Glean, 1.
  • E.M. Barnes — Edward M. Barnes was principal of C.H. Darden High School.
  • Rev. F.M. Davis — Fred M. Davis was pastor of Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church.
  • Rev. A.D. Dunstan
  • Charles D. James
  • Eunice Cooke — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Hadley Street, railroad mail clerk Jerry L. Cook, 43; wife Clara, 39, teacher; children Henderson, 20, Edwin D., 18, Clara G., 14, Georgia E., 12, Annie, 8, Jerry L., 6, and Eunice D., 4; sister Georgia E. Wyche, 48, teacher; and nieces Kathaline Wyche, 7, and Reba Whittington, 19.
  • James Mincey — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: fertilizer plant laborer James Mincey, 39; wife Lucinda, 35; grandfather William Ran, 87, widower; and James Mincey Jr., 15.
  • Eleanor Reid — Eleanor P. Reid was principal of Sallie Barbour Elementary School.
  • Annie Cooke
  • M.D. Williams — Malcolm D. Williams was principal of Samuel Vick Elementary School.
  • Rev. W.A. Hillard — in 1942, William Alexander Hilliard registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 14 September 1904 in Greenville, Texas; was a minister in the A.M.E. Zion Church serving in Wilson; resided at 119 Pender Street; and his contact was Mrs. Veta Watson, 2449 Woodland Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Quincey Ford — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 409 Carroll Street, carpenter Curtis Ford, 52; sons Quincey, 20, and Harvey G., 19, tobacco factory laborers; wife Mayme, 48, teacher; son-in-law Liston Sellers, 22, tobacco factory laborer; daughter Leah, 22, and granddaughter Yvette, 2.
  • Leah Ford — Leah Ford Sellers‘ daughter Yevette Sellers died just three and a half years after her uncle Harvey.
  • Kennie and Maggie Edwards — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 609 South Railroad Street, William Edwards, 52, farm laborer; wife Lillie, 49; son McKinley, 28, wife Maggie, 25; and son Ramond, 6.
  • Hattie Clay — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 902 Viola, hospital cook Hattie Clay, 42, widow, and children Russell, 19, Buelah M., 15, and Arthur, 7; plus mother Mary Grice, 76, widow.
  • Beulah Clay
  • Arthur Clay

Langston Hughes speaks for Negro History Week.

Today marks the 118th anniversary of the birth of poet, playwright and social activist Langston Hughes. To my astonishment, shortly after he celebrated his birthday in 1949, Hughes came to Wilson to deliver a lecture in the auditorium of Darden High School. The event marked a celebration of National Negro History Week, and its proceeds went to support the Wilson Negro Library‘s bookmobile fund.

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Wilson Daily Times, 8 February 1949.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 February 1949.

Hat tip to Wilson County local historian Tammy Medlin for leading me to this story.