class portrait

Mrs. Fitts’ class, part 1.

Taken circa 1931, this beautiful photograph of E. Courtney Fitts‘ class (likely first graders) at the Colored Graded School deserves a closer look. Mrs. Fitts stands in a fur-trimmed coat in front of the school’s double doors, just under the building’s street number — 705. The Colored Graded School was notoriously overcrowded, and all fifty children standing on the steps below her may well were in Mrs. Fitts’ class. 

I am only able to identify three of the children, but I honor them all in this five-part series.

Annie Marian Gay Hawkins Barnes (1925-1991).
Lucian Jacob Henderson Sr. (1926-2003).

 

First grade at Sam Vick.

The Wilson Daily Times printed this photo of Addie Davis Butterfield‘s 1945 first grade class at Samuel H. Vick Elementary. Mrs. Butterfield is top right, and the children include her nephew William Bayard Davis Jr. (front row in white shirt and tie), Rudolph Kersey Bullock (laughing beside Davis), Jessie Gertrude Baldwin Pouncey, Patricia Ann Tabron Bates, Alton Ray Kirk, Robert Eugene Dew, Earline Blount, Callie Joyce Bowens, Sarah Frances Greene, Reuben Hammonds, Luther Mincey and Raymond Bell. The caption attributes the photo to the collection of Diane Davis Myers, Butterfield’s niece.

Ninth graders.

This 1938 photograph of ninth grade students and their teacher also hangs in the back hall of Darden Alumni Center. Though it is unlabeled, the following list of members of the Class of 1942 may provide clues:

  • Jesse F. Barnes (son of Harry and Rena Jones Barnes)
  • Gladys Adell Best (1924-1969, daughter of Charlie and Addie Braswell Best)
  • Elaine Clark (1926-2004, daughter of William and Katie Elliott Clark)
  • Lovie Elizabeth Dancey Tabron (1921-2009, daughter of Johnnie C. and Penny Mills Dancey) 
  • Lois L. Debose (1924-1948, daughter of James and Lillie Hines Debose)
  • Raymond Edwards (1924-1942, son of McKinley and Maggie Thomas Edwards)
  • Xzymena Farmer
  • Harvey Gray Ford (1921-1942, son of Curtis and Mamie Battle Ford)
  • Maurice Branch Hayes (1925-2005, son of James and Lula Sutton Hayes)
  • Annie Jones
  • Noel Bunch Jones III (1923-??, son of Noel and Mattie Bunch Jones)
  • Hattie Marshall (1922-1989, daughter of Luke and Myrtie Taylor Marshall)
  • Virginia B. Melton (1924-1993)
  • Cora Lee Mewborn Purefoy (1925-??, daughter of Albert L. and Helen Hines Mewborn)
  • Lethia Mewborn
  • James Mincey Jr. (1924-??, son of James and Lucinda Mincey)
  • Jual Devetta Peacock Anderson (1925-1978, daughter of Levi H. and Eloise Reavis Peacock)
  • Lucy Gray Pittman Parker (1922-2003, daughter of Aaron and Lucy Graham Pittman)
  • Anne Parthenia Robinson Burrell (1925-1996, Goldwyn and Bertie Parks Robinson)
  • Retha Mae Robinson Jones (daughter of David and Katie Williams Robinson)
  • Otto Eugene Sanders Jr. (1925-1969, son of Otto and Annie Goins Sanders)
  • Estelle Stephens (1920-2007, daughter of James H. and Permilla Jackson Stephens)
  • Jessie Gray Swinson Barnes Steverson (1924-1996, daughter of Calvin and Alice Jones Swinson)
  • Elmer Thompson
  • Elnora Tillery (1922-1989, daughter of John H. and Geneva Barnes Tillery)
  • Christine Townsend Jackson (1922-2004, daughter of Andrew and Lula McCoy Townsend)
  • Mable Frances Whitehead Parks (1926-2000, daughter of John H. and Victoria Ennis Whitehead)
  • Annie Margaret Winley (1923-??, daughter of Charlie and Martha Barefoot Winley)
  • Mary Frances Winley Brown (1925-2000, daughter of Charlie and Martha Barefoot Winley)

[Update, 14 August 2017: Freshmen in ’38 would have graduated as seniors in the Class of 1941, not ’42. More importantly, Darden High School graduated students from the 11th grade until 1943-’44, when a twelfth year was added. Thus, the ninth graders in this photo would have been in the Class of ’40. Karole Turner Campbell immediately recognized her mother, Willia B. Jones Turner, ’40, on the first row, third from right, but also her cousin Jessie Gray Swinson Steverson, ’42, on the second row, third from left. The label, then, may not be strictly accurate. — LYH]

Second grade.

Darden High School graduated its last class in 1970. Within a few years, though, a robust alumni association formed to keep memories of Wilson’s black high school alive. Today, a middle school on Lipscomb Road carries Darden’s name. Across the street from its campus is a small brick building that houses the Darden Alumni Association’s offices. A banquet room, site of nearly weekly wedding receptions, birthday parties or repasts, occupies most of the space. Off that room, a back hall is lined with class photographs dating to the 1920s, depicting generations of the Wilson children who attended Darden, Sam Vick Elementary, and the Colored Graded School (later Sallie Barbour Elementary.)

The earliest pictures hanging in the hall are unlabeled, though recent visitors were able to identify a few of the children whose solemn faces peer out. Here are three.

The first is marked “Wilson Graded School, 1921-22 Second Grade.”

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The second is  “Graded School, 2nd Grade, 1934-35, Teacher — Miss Robinson.” In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 208 Pender Street, brickmason Clinton Best, 40; wife Minnie, 30; children Glenwood, 5, Gladis, 15, and James, 12; and lodgers Mary Reid, 21, and Martha Robinson, 25, a public school teachers.

The third carries no label, but boys seated at center hold a banner emblazoned “Second.” Though it is undated, tentative identification of four of the boys — all born in 1931 or 1932 — yields a date of about 1939. If so, the photo was taken just after Sam Vick School opened.

On the first row, third from left, a Freeman (possibly Daniel E.); third from right, a Brodie (either George or Henry); next to him, Jacobia L. Bullock; and, at the end of the row another Freeman (if not Dan, then Joseph Thomas.)

Class portrait, Stantonsburg Street School.

Classroom 001

Colored Graded or Stantonsburg Street School (later known as the Sallie Barbour School), circa 1933. Annie Marian Gay is second from left on the top row. First on the row below her is Lucian J. Henderson. The boy at far right on the third row from the bottom is a Diggs. The teacher is believed to be Elizabeth Courtney Plummer Fitts. Please contact me if you can positively identify any more of these children.