When Saint Alphonsus closed in 1968, the diocese rented its Carroll Street building to the African-American collective Concerned Parents of Wilson, which opened a kindergarten in the space. I graduated in Kiddie Kollege of Knowledge’s second class, and our graduation continued the ornate legacy of Saint Alphonsus.
I’m at right, marching out with my Bachelor of Rhymes degree.
Neither the school’s precise location or its establishing body are known. It was graded school, however, and students who wished to go beyond eighth grade had to leave Wilson to attend high school. Many attended the preparatory divisions of colleges like Biddle University, Livingstone College, Shaw University, Howard University, or, quite popularly, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.
Wilson Academy seems to have closed around the time Wilson established a public graded school in the early 1890s.
Twenty-five year-old Samuel H. Vick had been teacher and principal at the Colored Graded School since shortly after his graduation from Lincoln University. A year after this graduation, he was appointed by President William H. Harrison to his first stint as Wilson postmaster, a highly sought-after political patronage position. Vick hired his old friend Braswell R. Winstead, with whom he had attended high school and college and taught at the Graded School, as assistant postmaster. Teacher A. Wilson Jones was married to Vick’s sister Nettie Vick Jones — and murdered her in 1897. Annie Washington was about 18 years old when this article was published. She and Samuel Vick married almost exactly four years later.
The program for the graduation exercises of Darden High School’s Class of 1944 was reprinted in a Wilson Daily Times supplement “Darden Alumni: Sustaining the Vision,” 28 February 2007. Until 1943, Darden had offered only eleven grades. The Class of ’44 thus was a first.
I was astonished to realize that this article memorializes the first commencement exercises at the Independent School — here called by its full and official name, the Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute. As chronicled here and here and here, a coalition of African-American parents and religious and civic leaders founded the Independent School (also known as the Industrial School) in the wake of an assault on a black teacher by the white school superintendent.
I have not been able to identify Judge William Harrison of Chicago, who delivered to the new school’s graduates a remarkably unprogressive message that seemingly flew in the face of the stand for civil rights the community had resolutely made just a year earlier. The Times reporter made no mention of the school’s genesis, preferring to focus at length on Harrison’s message of admiration for the white man’s guidance and fine example.
Lester Mitchell — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Street, Annie Mitchell, 70, her children Sallie, 46, Eddie, 44, Albert, 42, Eva, 36, and Floyd, 34, plus niece Sevreane, 18, and nephew Lester, 15.
Willard Crawford — probably, Daniel Willard Crawford who died 16 October 1964 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 January 1900 in Wilson County to Daniel Crawford and Annie Whitted; was never married; and worked as a carpenter. Walter H. Whitted was informant.
In 1928, Wilson Colored High School was led by principal William H.A. Howard and teachers F. Meredith (math), J.E. Amos (home economics), J.F. Anderson (science), C.F. Hunt (English), and B.M. Davis (history and French).
Jennie Moring Parker Kerbo, prophet (1909-2006, daughter of Charles and Maggie Hedgepeth Parker)
Herman Bess, valedictorian (possibly, son of William and Ada Best)
Naomi Scott Edwards (1910-??, daughter of Charles and Susie Ann Jones Edwards)
As was their principal, the Colored High School’s teachers seem to have been short-term Wilson residents:
F. Meredith — in the 1928 Wilson city directory, duplicate entries (though the names differ slightly): Wm. J.F. Meredith, school teacher, 624 East Green; James Meredith, school teacher, Wilson High School, 624 East Green. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Edwin W. Fisher, 56, district manager insurance company; wife Daisey V., 52; daughter Susie A., 21; and lodgers James F. Anderson, 26, Indiana-born school teacher, and William Meredith, 25, Tennessee-born school teacher.
J.E. Amos — in the 1928 Wilson city directory, Jane E. Amos, teacher, Wilson High School, 111 Pender. In the 1930 city directory, Jane E. Amos, teacher, Wilson High School, 919 Atlantic. However, in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 919 East Nash, brickmason James Russell, 42; wife Julia, 42; and daughter Annie, 7, plus lodger James E. Amos, 41, South Carolina-born school teacher. This is surely Jane E. Amos.
J.T. Anderson — see James F. Anderson at F. Meredith, above.
B.M. Davis — in the 1928 Wilson City directory, Bessie M. Davis, teacher, Wilson High School, 908 East Nash. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 913 East Green Street, teachers Ruth A. Brown, 23, of Nevada; Annie Wilson, 25, of North Carolina; Lucile Wynn, 22, of Virginia; and Bessie Davis, 28, of Washington, D.C.
C.F. Hunt — in the 1928 Wilson City directory, Cornelia F. Hunt, teacher, Wilson High School, 1009 East Nash. In the 1930 city directory, Cornelia F. Hunt, teacher, Wilson High School, 910 East Green. This is likely the Cornelia Frances Hunt born in 1907 in Granville County, North Carolina.
Photograph courtesy of Darden Alumni Center, Wilson.
First row: Elizabeth C. Edwards (1929-??, daughter of Rosa L. Edwards); Lenore McCoy; Annie Doris Battle; Merline Hussey Brooks; Trumiller Beatrice Wimberly; Henrietta Hines McIntosh (1927-??, daughter of Charlie and Eva Hines); Doris Vivian Smith; Pauline Lorine Coley Ellis (1928-??, daughter of Alonzo and Pauline McQueen Coley); Christine Margaret Snow.
Second row: James Douglass George (1926-??, son of Walter D. and Eunice George); Helen Grey Woodard Travis (1931-1999, John and Emilie Woodard); Doris Simms; Jean Orlmiller Gilchrist (daughter of Cannon and Ruth Norfleet Gilchrist); Mamie Ruth Ellis (1930-??, Oscar and Mamie Bynum Ellis); Daisy Hilda Winstead Hinnant Brooks (1928-1979, daughter of Sam and Mattie Pope Winstead); Mary Magdalene Knight Lathan (1930-2012), daughter of Johnnie and Gertrude Thomas Knight); Grace Emily Hodges Dunlap (1930-2008, daughter of Nathaniel and Bessie Sutton Hodges); Mary Frances Diggs Hargis (1930-1971, daughter of Edgar and Mary Grant Diggs); Agnes Marie Hoskins (1929-??, daughter of Lonnie and Gertrude Simms Hoskins); Ozie Lee Pender Hobbs (1928-2010, daughter of Albert and Mary Pender); Winford Lee Morgan (1931-2000, son of James and Addie Fisher Morgan).
Third row: Charles Seville Plater (1929, son of Simon T. and Ruth Jones Plater); Commillus Woodard (1928-1994, son of James and Geneva Powell Woodard); Charles Edward Hines (1929-??, son of Wesley and Lucy Ellis Hines); Freddy Blue (1927-??, son of Joe and Lula McNeal Blue); Willie Jones; James Melvin Barnes; William Taft Williams Jr.; Annie Miller Stokes (1930-??, daughter of James and Viola Reese Stokes).
Fourth row: Edwin Dawson; Wade Nicholas Lassiter (1928-??, son of Jesse C. and Lessie Dew Lassiter); Edward Kerphew Harris (1930-2007, son of Benjamin and Pauline Artis Harris); James HenrySpivey (1930-??, son of Henry and Mary Clarks Spivey); Beatrice Wendella McNeil Hines (1928-2007, daughter of Matthew and Ola Belle Jiggette McNeil); Jesse Adam Henderson (1929-2003, son of Hattie M. Henderson Ricks and Roderick Taylor Sr.); Ralph Cornell Gay (1928-1992, son of Albert and Annie Bell Jacobs Gay); James Nicholson Jr.; Leotis Reid (1926-2011, son of Oscar and Nora Artis Reid); Richard Lee Barnes; Walter Harold Canady; Nathaniel Webster Mewborn.
Darden High School’s Class of 1948 was the first to produce a yearbook. Here’s the senior section: