in memoriam

In memory of William L. Hill.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 May 1987.

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In the 1920 census of Township #9, Craven County, N.C.: on Central Highway between Jaspar and Benscoton Creek, Hugh L. Hill, 34; wife Malissie, 32; and children Mamie, 8, Katie, 6, Evolena, 4, and William, 2.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 132 Manchester Street, sawmill laborer Henry L. Hill, 44, widower, and children Mamie E., 18, Everlyne, 15, Katie B., 17, William, 12, Jessie M., 9, Emaniel, 7, Benjman, 5, and Myrtina, 3.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Henry Hill, 54, tobacco factory laborer; wife Rosa, 32, tobacco factory laborer; daughter Mamie Autry, 28, widow, tobacco factory laborer; children William Hill, 22, oil mill hand, Jessie, 19, tobacco factory laborer, Emanuel, 17, Benjamin, 14, and Mertina, 12; and grandchildren Deloris, 6, Dorthy, 4, and Timothy Autry, 2. 

In 1940, William Lovett Hill registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 15 October 1917 in New Bern, N.C.; lived at 1013 East Atlantic Street, Wilson; his contact was father Henry Lovett Hill; and he worked for Southern Oil Company.

Rest in peace, Roderick Taylor Jr.

My uncle, my father’s half-brother, passed away yesterday at the age of 92. Roderick Taylor Jr., a retired teacher, was well-known for his encouragement and mentorship of generations of students, who called him “Chief,” and his tireless community activism.



A classroom at the Colored Graded School (later Sallie Barbour School), circa 1935. Roderick Taylor Jr. is at center in a dark sweater.

Everyone else called him “Bud.”

Roderick Taylor Jr. was born in April 1928 in Wilson, North Carolina, the youngest of Roderick Taylor Sr. and Mary John Pender Taylor‘s three children. He graduated from C.H. Darden High School in 1947 and graduated from Johnson C. Smith University.


Part of the freshman class at Johnson C. Smith University in 1949. Bud Taylor is kneeling in the front row. Catherine A. Gibson stands over his shoulder in a black peacoat.

J.C. Smith’s Spanish Club, 1949.

Roderick Taylor Jr. and Catherine Augusta Gibson were married 20 June 1954 in Brunswick, Georgia.

Pittsburgh Courier, 10 July 1954.
Wilson Daily Times, 28 December 1998.
Roderick Taylor on his Faison Street porch, 2017.

Top photo in collection of Lisa Y. Henderson (colorized via MyHeritage.com; The Bull (1949), yearbook of Johnson C. Smith University; bottom photo by Lisa Y. Henderson.

In memory of William H. Coleman.

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Wilson Daily Times, 17 April 2009.

In the 1910 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Henry Coleman, 38, farmer; wife Mary J., 28; and children Stella, 13, Willie, 8, Josiah, 7, William, 5, Mattie J., 4, and Sallie, 2.

In the 1920 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: on Old Wilson and Raleigh Road, farmer Henry Coleman, 50; wife Mary Jane, 40; and children Stella, 22, Willie, 19, Joesire, 17, William H., 16, Mattie J., 13, Sallie, 12, Bell, 10, Stephen, 8, Wiley, 7, and Eva, 1.

On   27 February 1929, William Henry Coleman, 24, of Old Fields township, son of Henry Coleman and Mary Joyner, married Cornelia Jones, 24, of Old Fields, daughter of George and Martha Jones, in the presence of W.M. Morris of Wilson, and Dave Powell and George Jones of Sims.

In the 1930 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer William H. Coleman, 25, and wife Conelia, 25.

William Henry Coleman registered for the World War II draft in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 15 December 1904 in Wilson County; his contact was father Henry Coleman; he lived at R.F.D. 2, Wilson; and he worked for WD. Boyette.

Cornelia Coleman died 19 June 1975 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 March 1905 to George Jones and Martha Jones; was married to William H. Coleman; was engaged in farming; and was buried in Coleman Memorial Cemetery.

In memory of Benjamin Ellis.

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Wilson Daily Times, 7 June 1995.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Joana Ellis, 27; wife Ciller, 23; and children Mattie, 2, and Benjamin, 1.

In the 1910 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, Jonah Ellis, 42; wife Precilla, 38; and children Mattie, 11, Benjamin, 9, Dora, 8, Jonah, 6, James, 5, and Caroline, 3.

In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg & Wilson Road, farmer Jonnie Ellis, 56; wife Prisilla, 46; and children Mattie, 21, Benjamin, 20, Jonnie Jr., 17, Dora, 18, James, 14, Carolin, 13, and Mary, 5.

On 6 January 1923, Benjamin Ellis, 22, of Stantonsburg, son of John and Priscilla Ellis, married Lizzie Simms, 20, of Black Creek, daughter of Reddick and Bettie Simms. Free Will Baptist minister B.F. Lofton performed the ceremony at Red Simms’ house in the presence of Ruffin Roe of Black Creek and Lonzie Bynum and George Woodard of Lucama.

In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Benjamin Ellis, 29; wife Lizzie, 26; and children Pauline, 6, Benjamin F., 4, Sylvester, 2, and Ruth, 10 months.

In the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Benjamon Ellis, 42; wife Lizzie S., 37; and children Pauline, 16, Benjamon F., 14, Sylvester, 12, Ruth, 10, Moses, 8, Jessie Lee, 6, Jonah, 4, and Lizzie, 1.

In 1942, Benjamin Ellis registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 31 July 1899 in Wilson County; lived in Black Creek township on the M.L. Smith farm; and worked for M.L. Smith.

Benjamin Ellis died 7 June 1976 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 November 1899 to Jonah Ellis and Priscilla Woodard; was a farmer; and was married to Lizzie Simms Ellis.

In memoriam: Dr. Johnny Lee Greene.

When I woke up in the middle of the night Monday and read that Dr. J. Lee Greene had died, my heart broke a little. I don’t even know how to explain what this man did for my little provincial teen-aged mind. His lecture topics ranged from Toni Morrison to Richard Ellison to Eldzier Cortor to Hughie Lee-Smith and were jewels not just for the anointing he put on works of literature and art, but for the solid-gold aphorisms he dished in between.

During the years in which we lost touch after I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, both Dr. Greene and I discovered a ministry in the preservation of local African-American history and heritage. He offered early and much-valued encouragement of my mission with Black Wide-Awake, and today I made a donation in his honor and memory to Rutherford County’s African American Heritage Museum, which he founded in 2012.

Rest in peace, Lee Greene.