Handel’s Chorus performs in concert.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 March 1943.

Hartford E. Bess‘ Handel’s Chorus, comprised of teens and young adults, performed to standing-room-only crowds for decades. In 1943, its members included Clara B. Taylor, Pauline Farmer, Ernestine Floyd, Mattie Ford, Eunice McCall, Devera Jackson, Eunice Cooke, Dora Dickerson, Henrietta Hines, Matteele Floyd, Inez Dickerson, Deloris Haskins, Romaine Hagans, Doris Joyner, Herman Hines, Harding Thompson, Ambrose Towe, Thomas Dawson, John W. Jones, Arthur Brodie, and Rudolph Best. Unfortunately, the accompanying photograph is not available.

Former members return to chorus.

Wilson Daily Times, 27 August 1947.


During the summer, college students returned to sing with their former choristers in Hartford Bess‘ Handel’s Chorus.

  • Mary Gilchrist — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 707 Viola, Canon Gilchrist, 38; wife Ruth, 32; and children Dorothea, 15, Mary L., 12, Gene, 11, Bella M., 5, and Janey V., 2.
  • Katie Chestnut
  • Virginia Ward — probably, in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Preston Ward, 38, widower; sister Annie, 26; and children James P., 20, Alonza, 18, Johnny Lee, 17, Rosa, 14, Virginia, 12, Sylvester, 10, Ruby, 8, Doris, 6, and Golden, 2.
  • Ann Johnson

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Handel’s Chorus begins rehearsals.

Under the direction of Hartford E. Bess, Handel’s Chorus club presented holiday season concerts for several decades.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 October 1940.

Handel’s Chorus officers:

  • Louise Spivey, president
  • Aaron Purdie, vice-president
  • Arthur Brodie, treasurer
  • Ernestine Floyd, secretary


Regret for the death of Russell Owings.

Wilson Daily Times, 31 October 1938.

I missed the cues, and at first could find no record of an African-American Russell Owings living in Wilson. But that was because Owings was not Black. He was instead a “faithful and courageous friend of [their] interest.” Owings, freshly graduated from Atlantic Christian [now Barton] College, was a white man who — much in the spirit of Rev. R.A.G. Foster’s outreach — crossed the color line to teach voice lessons and direct a choral group at Saint John A.M.E. Zion. He died in a car accident in late October 1938.

Handel chorus and a cappella choir to perform.


Wilson Daily Times, 20 December 1940.