Clarence Best

The graveyard artistry of Clarence Best, pt. 2.

I’ve written here of Clarence B. Best, the marble cutter whose custom gravestones can be found in cemeteries across Wilson County and beyond. Here’s more.


  • Sylvia Boykin, died 1939. Rocky Branch United Church of Christ, near Kenly, Wilson County. SLEEP IN PEACE. Unusual dark pink granite marker.
  • Mrs. Polly B. Deans, died 1962. Rocky Branch United Church of Christ. Best’s basic rectangular layout, though addition of husband Ernest Deans‘ name is unusual.
  • Henrietta Stevens, died 1959. ¬†Rocky Branch United Church of Christ. SHE WAS THE SUNSHINE OF OUR HOME. Heart shape executed in concrete.
  • Willie Coleman, died 1964. Or 1967. Jones Hill Baptist Church cemetery, near Sims, Wilson County. I have not been able to find a death certificate to settle the question of his death date. [Based on the number accepted and installed, I assume Best deeply discounted the stones upon which he made indelible engraving errors.]
  • Henry Winstead II, died 1966. William Chapel Baptist Church cemetery, near Elm City, Wilson County. Rough-cut marker with “II” squeezed in as an afterthought.
  • Roscoe and Mary J. Ford, died 1965 and 1954. William Chapel. Best apparently obtained much of his stone from reject piles, probably belonging to larger outfits like Wilson Marble & Mantel. This marker is¬†clearly a single headstone split into his and hers. It is also a repurposed stone. As shown in the detail below, the lower two-thirds of the faces of the markers were ground clean. The ends of the machine-cut lines were erased, and scratches left by the abrasive can be seen below the letters.
  • Theodore R. Lenzy, died 1969. William Chapel. Seldom seen format highlighting the decedent’s surname.
  • Cleo and Thomas Davis, died 1974 and 1986. Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson. Their marriage date is a nice touch. Thomas’ info added by machine.
  • Viola S. McCray, died 2007. Rest Haven. This is mystifying. Best carved McCray’s name and birthdate when he carved those of her husband on the other half of this marker. McCray died more than 40 years after Best stopped carving (and 30 years after his death.) Who, then hand-engraved her death date in Best’s style?


Detail of the Ford grave marker.

All photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, November 2016.