Davis

Happy birthday to a son of East Wilson!

This photograph accompanied the very first Black Wide-Awake post on 5 October 2015. Today is Michael E. Myers‘ birthday. He, as you can see, is my lifelong friend, and has deep roots in East Wilson.

Here, we’re seated on my mother’s lap on the front steps of the East Green Street home of Michael’s great-grandparents, Rev. Fred M. Davis and Dinah Dunston Davis. Rev. Davis was a long-time pastor of Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist church. Michael’s maternal great-uncle Fred M. Davis Jr. was active in 1930s and ’40s voter registration efforts in Wilson. His great-aunt Addie Davis Butterfield was a teacher at Samuel H. Vick Elementary School, and her husband was dentist George K. Butterfield Sr. (Which, of course, makes Congressman G.K. Butterfield Jr. his cousin.) On his father’s side, Michael’s great-grandmother Grace Battle Black was a close pal of my great-great-aunt, nurse Henrietta Colvert. Grace Black’s sister Roberta Battle Johnson was one of the teachers who resigned from the Colored Graded School after the Mary Euell incident in April 1918. (My grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks was one of the children who withdrew from the school in the aftermath, and also grew up around the corner from the Davises.) Michael’s great-great-grandfather was Parker P. Battle, a noted blacksmith with Wainwright foundry.

Michael’s lovely mother Diana Davis Myers was my beloved second-grade teacher at B.O. Barnes Elementary. (I rode to school with her, and Michael and I watched cartoons together on early weekday mornings.) His father is William E. “Bill” Myers, respected educator, renowned musician, and the visionary behind the Freeman Round House and Museum. They were treasured members of my childhood village, and I hug them every chance I can.

Happy, happy birthday, Michael Earl. Wishing you love and laughter forever.

Scrapbook chronicles: the return.

I knew we were related somehow to the Sherrods, but I was in college before I figured out how. Of course, I then wanted to visit Josephine Artis Sherrod, who, it turned out, was both my great-great-grandmother’s half-sister and my great-great-grandfather’s niece. (Yes, it was complicated.) My father took me by the house on Viola Street one evening when I was home over the Christmas holidays. We knocked, the door opened, and I stared into baby-blue eyes set in a caramel-brown face. This was Solomon C. Sherrod Jr., who, though just a few years younger than my grandmother, was my great-grandfather’s first cousin. He ushered us into the front room, and I spent a delightful hour or so with Aunt Josephine.

I was in Wilson this past week. Before I left, I knocked on another door on Viola Street. Cousin Solomon’s youngest son answered, and I placed in his hands the scrapbook Rita Elsner found on a Maryland street three weeks ago. As promised, the Sherrod family’s legacy has returned home.

Here are more gems from Alliner Sherrod Davis Randall‘s scrapbook. If you can help me identify the men and women depicted, I’d be grateful.

Alliner and Henry Randall, probably not long after their marriage in 1946. They made their home in Durham, N.C.

Elmer Lee Sherrod (1929-2002), Josephine and Solomon Sherrod’s youngest son. On the reverse: “To Mr. & Mrs. Randall with Love, Elmer Sherrod, 1401 N. 18th St., Phila 21, Pa.”

Minnie Sherrod Parker (1916-1996). [Thank you, Barbara Williams Lewis!]

Studio portrait of unidentified young woman.

Alliner Randall (1908-1992) and dog.

Unidentified snapshot of older man and young girl. Is this Solomon Sherrod Sr. (ca.1880-1948)?

Betty Cooper Sherrod, who married Solomon Sherrod’s eldest son Earnest E. Sherrod. [Thank you, Bonita Sherrod!]

Scene at a graveside funeral service, possibly in the 1950s.

Solomon Sherrod Sr., probably 1940s. [Thank you, Bonita Sherrod!]

Scrapbook chronicles: Jessie Lee Davis.

Alliner Sherrod Davis Randall had a son Jessie, born in 1932, and a daughter Gaynelle, born in 1941. Jessie Lee Davis, my father’s childhood playmate, was 14 years old when he was struck and killed while riding on the handlebars of a bicycle.

Alliner Sherrod Davis and son Jessie Lee, circa 1933.

Jessie Lee Davis, perhaps about 13 years old.

Jessie L. Davis as a drummer in the Darden High School marching band, circa 1945. Jesse A. Henderson lounges beside him. For a photo take just moments before or after this image, see here.

Teenager killed in a car-bike accident.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 May 1946.

Fourteen year-old Jessie Lee Davis was seated on the handlebars of his friend Walter Rogers‘ bicycle when a car made a left turn in front of them. Rogers did not see the car and ran into it, killing Davis. The driver of the car, a 22 year-old white man named Vernest Ballance, was initially charged with manslaughter in Davis’ death, but the case was dismissed after a preliminary hearing.

  • Jessie Lee Davis

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Jesse Lee Davis was the son of Clinton Davis and Alliner Sherrod Davis Randall. His funeral was handled by his great-uncle, C.E. Artis.

  • Walter Rogers

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 705 East Green (one of several families in a rooming house), tobacco factory stemmer Thomas Rodgers, 37; wife Minorh, 33, housemaid; and children Ruth, 15, Joseph, 14, Otis G., 12, and Walter, 8.

Held for murder of neighbor.

The Rocky Mount Telegram‘s headline blares “WILSON NEGRO,” and the article identifies both the alleged shooter and his victim as black. However, the Wilson Daily Times‘ 28 January 1938 coverage of the incident reveals that both Charles Davis and Lawrence Lamm were, in fact, white.

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Rocky Mount (N.C.) Telegram, 28 January 1938.

Lamm’s death certificate, marriage license, and census records confirm that he was white. (The Daily Times‘ piece revealed that the bad blood between Davis and Lamm stretched back “since a day over a decade ago when Lamm is alleged to have bitten off Davis’ father’s ear in a quarrel.” On 8 September 1938, the Daily Times reported that the defendant, whose actual name, was Charles Smith, was found not guilty on a directed verdict as the evidence determined that he had acted in self-defense.)

Letters to Santa Claus.

In early December 1948, the Daily Times published letters to Santa from William B. “Billy” Davis Jr. and Diana Davis (now Myers), children of William B. and Hazel Ingram Myers.

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Wilson Daily Times, 4 December 1948.

The children wrote again a few days later with revised lists. (Only the request for a baby brother remained constant.)

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Wilson Daily Times, 16 December 1948.

Fred Davis buys a bicycle.

I, Fred M. Davis of Wilson, Wilson County State of North Carolina for value received hereby sell and mortgage unto Rouse Hazard & Co of Peoria, Ill. the following goods and chattels, to wit:

One #3 Overland safety bicycle with Morgan & Wright pneumatic tires provided that if the said Mortgagor shall pay the sum of Forty six and 66/100 dollars with interest [illegible] and collection charges according to the terms of Nine certain promissory notes  signed by said Mortgagor Payable to Rouse Hazard & Co on order as follows to wit:

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Sept 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Oct 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Nov 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Decr 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Jany 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Feby 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Mar 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due Apl 10th 1893 for $5.00

One note dated August 10th 1893, due May 10th 1893 for $6.66

Mortgage Book 35, page 24, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

The obituary of Cutt Davis.

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Wilson Daily Times, 15 August 1952.

In addition to running Baltimore Shoe Repair Shop, Cutt Davis was active in the numbers game.

Wilson Daily Times, 27 October 1939.

Cutt Davis died 9 August 1952 in Wilson. Per his death certificate: he was born 28 September 1888 in South Carolina to Berry Davis; worked as a shoemaker; resided at 803 East Nash Street; and was buried at Rest Haven. Informant was Thomas F. Davis of Washington, D.C.