Both Darden High Schools graduated their last classes in 1970. Their buildings, however, remain in use. The newer section of Wilson’s Darden houses part of Samuel H. Vick Elementary. Opelika’s Darden is now home to Lee County Head Start Darden Center.
This photograph of Wilson Colored High School, later known as Darden High, was displayed in Philadelphia’s Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition of 1926. It was one of several dozen featured in an exhibit staged by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Division of Negro Education. The caption: Cost of Building $65,000.00 — Total Value Colored School Property $96,250.00 — Total Population of the City 14,000 — Total Colored Population of City 6,650.
From Sesquicentennial International Exposition Photographs, Division of Negro Education, Department of Public Instruction, North Carolina State Archives.
The six-room Williamson High School, the third high school for African-American children in Wilson County, opened in 1941 near Lucama in Springhill township. Long-closed, its roof and cinderblock exterior remain intact, but its interior is a moldering shambles.
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.
A label listing the students’ names has been augmented where possible with birth and death dates and parents’ names, below.
First row: Kester Congress Mitchell (1919-??, Kester R. and Martha Taylor Miller); William Aaron Best (1921-??, Aaron and Estell Best); Clarence Herman Best (1918-1994, Clarence and Best); Milton Jasper King (1920-??); Walter M. McMillon (1919-1994, Tommie and Willie McMillon); Herbert Vendrick Whitehead (1920-2007, Henry and VictoriaEnnis Whitehead); James F. Coley.
Third row: Katie Powell; Virginia Ann Mitchell Williams (1918-2002, George and Rose Lipscomb Mitchell); Sallie Baldwin Howard (1916, Marcellus Simms and Narcissa Baldwin); Mary Moore; Aurelia Janet Lucas Hagood (1920-1997, Henry and Mamie Battle Lucas; Mary Tena Melton (1920-1992, John and Cora Barnes Melton); Margaret Powell; Beulah Sutton Legrand (1915-1975, George and Henrietta Sutton); Lena Cherry Goodman (1920-1988, John and Mable Langley Cherry); Mary J. Barnes; Helen L. Potter; Estelle Ellis Coble Newsome (1919-1994, Oscar and Mamie Bynum Ellis); Cora Bynum Boney; Margaret Powell [one of these women is mislabeled; there was only one Margaret Powell in this class]; Nora Allen Jones Mitchell; Rosa Lee Hart (1920-1943, Grover and Mamie Taylor Hart); Addie Pearl Farmer Vailes (1917-??, John D. and Rosetta Simms Farmer).
Photograph courtesy of Darden Alumni Center, Wilson.
Another gem from Darden Alumni Center, here depicting the Wilson Colored High School glee club in 1937. A label listing the students’ and teachers’ names has been augmented where possible with birth and death dates and parents’ names, below. Many eastern North Carolina counties did not provide secondary education for African-American children in the 1930s. As a result, families who wanted schooling beyond the elementary grades chose to send their children to Wilson to board with local families and attend high school. Where discovered, the hometowns of such children are noted below.
Front row: Annie Elizabeth Cooke Farmer (1921-??, Jerry and Clara Godette Cooke); DeloresRobbins Coleman (1920-2003, James D. and Louise Davis Robbins); Edna Gray Taylor Desvigne (1921-2011, Roderick and Mary John Pender Taylor); Helen E. Reid Worsley (1921-1981, Willie C. and Mary Galley Reid); Lucy Gray Pittman Cunningham Parker (1922-2003, Aaron and Lucy Graham Pittman); unknown; Bessie Mae Joyner Redden (Eddie L. and Annie Joyner); Gracie White Terrell (1923-1994); Willia B. Jones Turner (1923, Wesley and Martha Taylor Jones); Lucy Dawson.
Third row: Leroy Foster (1917-??, Claude and Cora White Foster); Harvey Gray Ford (1921-1942, Curlis and Mamie Battle Ford); Cornelius Best; Eula Mae Horton Bryant (1912-1990, Louis and Minnie Horton); unknown; Montez Colesse Hooker Boatman (1922-1990, Gray F. and Bettie Caddell Hooker); Virginia Walden Wilson (Albert L. and Annie Moore Walden); Thomas H. Haskins (1919-1978, Robert and Gertrude Haskins); Primrose Carter (1914-1972, Morehead City, Carteret County, Willie E. and Henrietta Cooper Carter).
Fourth row: William Nelson Knight (1916-2011, James H. and Ada Green Knight); John Henry Mincey (1919-1982, Benjamin and Mattie Barnes Mincey);Charles Darden James (1914-1994, Randall R. and Elizabeth Darden James); James F. Coley (1921-??); Clarence Herman Best (1918-1994, Clarence B. and Geneva Smith Best); Weldon Williams; unknown; Clinton Rudolph Leacraft (1918-2007, Swansboro, Onslow County, Frank and Hagar Duncan Leacraft).
Fifth row: James Aaron Best; Marion Vernon Jones (1919-1975, Wesley and Martha Taylor Jones); unknown; Charles Elva Kittrell (1918-1990, Solomon and Lettie Roberts Kittrell); unknown; Elmond Henry McKeithen (1914-2003, Cumberland County, Henry and Sarah Robinson McKeithan).
Merchant-farmer Paul T. Williamson donated the land upon which the Wilson County School Board built a six-room high school to serve African-American students in southwestern Wilson County. Williamson High School opened in 1941.
Wilson Daily Times, 18 January 1960.
Wilson Daily Times, 28 December 1960.
In the 1880 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Elic Williamson, 44; wife Gracy, 29; and children John, 14, Lugen, 11, Joseph, 9, Jennie, 7, Mary, 6, Clem, 4, Sarah J., 2, and Pall, 1.
In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Alex Williamson, 63; wife Gracy, 50; children Genny Whitley, 26, and Sarah, 22, Paul, 21, Daniel, 19, Henietta, 15, Edna, 15, and Katie Williamson, 12; and grandchildren Nancy, 8, Della, 5, and Pearle Whitley, 4.
On 23 November 1904, Paul Williamson, 25, son of Alex and Grace Williamson of Springhill township, married Mary Hinnant, 23, daughter of Joe and Rhoda Hinnant of Spring Hill township. W.H. Horton of the Christian denomination performed the ceremony at Thom Hinnant‘s house in the presence of J.T. Hinnant, L.H. Horton and W.H. Shaw.
In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Wilson & Smithfield Branch Road, farmer Paul Williamson, 31; wife Mary, 28; and children Beatrice, 4, and James C., 3.
In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Old Clayton & Wilson Road, farmer Paul T. Williamson, 40; wife Mary, 38; and children Beatrice, 14, and James, 12.
In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Paul T. Williamson, 51; wife Mary, 48; daughter Beatrice, 24; son James C., 23; daughter-in-law Anna D., 22; grandson James W., 6 months; and boarder Ozie Allen, 35, a farm laborer.
In the 1940 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Paul Williamson, 61; wife Mary, 57; daughter Beatrice, 34; son James, 33, filling station operator; daughter-in-law Anna, 32; and grandchildren Jantice, 8, and Paul W., 6.
Paul Thomas Williamson died 27 December 1960 in Lucama, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 February 1879 in Wilson County to Alex Williamson and Grace Shaw; worked as a grocery store merchant; and was married to Mary Williamson.
Photo of Williamson courtesy of Wilson Daily Times.
Wilson Colored High School, later christened Charles H. Darden High School, was the first school in Wilson County — and the only, for another 15 years — offering high school instruction to African-American students. The building, which expanded in the 1940s and ’50s, stood on Carroll Street, facing the dead-end of Green, until the 1990s. The site is now occupied by Samuel H. Vick Elementary School. For more on Principal Irvin Saint Clair, see here. (Note that, per this article, none of Wilson’s African-American contractors or craftsmen were afforded the opportunity to help build the school.)
Photograph courtesy of Charles L. Coon, “Public Schools of Wilson County,” Wilson County Board of Education (1924).
Plan of Wilson Colored High School, 1930 Sanborn insurance map. The classroom wings were recent additions to the building.