Four months after the United States entered World War I, Wilson-born attorney Charles S. Darden (then living in Los Angeles, California) wrote Secretary of War Lindley Garrison on behalf of African-American men who had tried to enlist in the military’s “Aviation Department.” “I was informed, some time ago,” he wrote, “through the News Papers, that applications from young colored men would be acceptable to the government …, and I am now unable to understand where the local Recruiting Officers of of [sic] that Department get their instructions to the contrary.”
Signal Corps Captain Thomas H. McConnell responded quickly and succinctly: “At the present time no colored aero squadrons are being formed and applications from colored men for this branch of the service cannot be considered for that reason.”
United States War Department. Letter from Secretary of War to Charles S. Darden, August 11, 1917. W.E.B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.
Thanks to Patricia Freeman to bringing this letter to my attention!
In February and March 1938, trustee D.M. Hill ran a notice of sale of real estate for five large parcels of land that carpenter-contractor Mansfield H. Wilson owned on Pender, Church, and Smith Streets. Wilson had defaulted on loans taken out in 1926.
The first lot was 116 North Pender Street, which Wilson had purchased from E.F. Nadal and wife in 1906.
The second lot bordered O.L.W. Smith; Wilson had bought it from D.C. Suggs and wife in 1906. The one-third acre lot contained houses numbered 521, 523, and 525 Church Street.
The third lot had been cobbled together from several purchases made between 1907 and 1924 and included 121 and 123 North Pender and 529, 531, 533, and 535 Smith Street.
O.L.W. Smith and wife sold Wilson the fifth lot, 201 North Pender, in 1920.
Wilson Daily Times, 14 March 1938.
Virginia-born Mansfield Wilson arrived in Wilson before 1908, but was far away before the trustee called in his debt. By 1934, he was well enough established in California to register to vote in Los Angeles.
In April 1935, however, Mansfield H. Wilson died at the Richmond, Virginia, home of his son Samuel H. Wilson. Three years later, during the depths of the Great Depression, Wilson’s creditors called in their loans and forced the sales of his properties.
In this detail from the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, asterisks mark nine of Mansfield H. Wilson’s properties.
In the 1880 census of Powellton township, Brunswick County, Virginia: farmer Henry Lewis, 33; wife Matilda, 38; and children Edward, 10, Catharine, 6, Louisa, 4, and John H., 6 months; plus step-children Mansfield, 21, and Mary Wilson, 17.
On 10 September 1890, Mansfield H. Wilson, 30, born in Brunswick County, Virginia, to William and Matilda Wilson, married Maggie J. Richards, 24, born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in Richmond, Virginia.
In the 1900 census of Tarboro township, Edgecombe County, North Carolina: carpenter Mansfield Wilson, 39; wife Maggie, 32; children Gertrude, 6, Samuel, 3, and Mansfield, 1; and sister-in-law Lucy Richards, 30, dressmaker.
In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C, city directory: Wilson Mansfield H (c) carp h 126 Pender
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Mansfield H. Wilson, 49; wife Maggie, 43; son Samuel, 15; sister-in-law Lucy Richard, 45; and servants John M. Madderson, 14, and William Dew, 21.
In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C, city directory: Wilson Mansfield H (c) carp h 126 Pender
Maggie J. Wilson died 30 June 1914 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 29 February 1865 in Virginia to Henry Richards and Annie R. Crozier; and was buried in Tarboro, N.C. M.H. Wilson was informant.
In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C, city directory: Wilson Mansfield H (c) carp contr h 126 Pender
In 1918, Samuel H. Wilson registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 5 September 1897 in Edgecombe County, N.C.; his father was born in Brunswick County, Virginia; he lived at 126 Pender Street; and worked for Mansfield Wilson, who was his nearest relative.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 126 Pender Street, Virginia-born house contractor Mansfield H. Wilson, 60; son Samuel H., 20; and sister-in-law Lucy Richards, 40.
In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C, city directory: Wilson Mansfield H (c) carp contr h 126 Pender
In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C, city directory: Wilson Mansfield H (c) carp h 123 Pender
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 123 Pender Street, owned and valued at $2000, Virginia-born carpenter Mansfield Wilson, 50, widower; son Samual, 30, insurance company agent; daughter-in-law Sarah, 24, public school teacher; granddaughter Audrey, 3; and sister-in-law Lucey Richard, 50.
Mansfield Harrison Wilson died 25 April 1935 in Richmond, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was about 70 years old; was born in Brunswick County, Virginia, to Henry Wilson and Harriett [maiden name unknown]; was a carpenter; lived at 1271 East 33rd Street, Los Angeles, California; and was buried in East End Cemetery, Richmond. Samuel H. Wilson was the informant.
Samuel Henry Wilson, 41, born in Wilson, son of Mansfield Wilson and Maggie Richards, married Janie Thomas Williams, 32, born in Richmond, Virginia, daughter of Roland Williams and Eliza Ricks, on 18 November 1938 in Richmond, Virginia.
Mary Matthewson Meachem died 22 February 1948 in Tarboro, Edgecombe County. Per her death certificate, she was born 12 July 1876 in Brunswick County, Virginia, to Mansfield Wilson and Mildia Dunn; was the widow of A.B. Meachem; and was buried in Community Cemetery, Princeville, North Carolina. William Matthewson, Norfolk, Virginia, was informant.
Two of Walter S. and Sarah Dortch Hines‘ children migrated to Los Angeles, California, where they joined the city’s emerging mid-century Black high society. Elizabeth “Scottie” Hines Eason and her Texas-born husband Newell Eason were educators. Eason grew up in Los Angeles and attended UCLA and, after several years teaching at Shaw University in Raleigh, took his family back to California just after World War II. Scottie Eason’s brother Walter D. Hines and his wife Cadence Baker Hines, who met in Michigan, arrived in the late 1940s. Their friend, lawyer Walter Gordon, left a trove of photographs that captured the era, including this one:
On couch, left to right: Kenneth Levy, Honore Levy, Newell Eason, Scottie Hines Eason, Dr. Arthur Mitchell, Gloria Mitchell. Seated: Clara Gordon, unidentified girl, Cadence Hines, and Dr. Walter D. Hines.
The Shaw University Bulletin, July-August Edition, 1937.
Page 13 of the nomination form contains this arresting statement: “Until recently the case of Benjamin Jones and Fanny Guatier, Plaintiffs v. Berlin Realty Company, a corporation, Defendant, has been an obscure footnote to history. But observers are now not just rediscovering the case itself, but also reminding us that the legal arguments against racial covenants used by Plaintiffs’ attorney Charles S. Darden in this case — and adopted by the Los Angeles Superior Court judge in ruling favorably for the Plaintiffs — preceded and foresaw what became the notable winning argument of later precedent-setting “Sugar Hill” case that took place in Los Angeles in 1945.” That case, involving actors Hattie McDaniel and Louise Beavers‘ fight against racially restrictive covenants, is credited with being the first to cite the 14th Amendment as justification for overturning such covenants. That recognition, however, more properly belongs to Jones and Gautier — and the arguing attorney, Wilson’s own Charles S. Darden — which has been overlooked because it did not rise to California’s Court of Appeals. Read more about Darden’s innovative arguments below.
Though the Great Migration to California most often drew seekers from states like Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas, Wilson County natives also joined the tide that increased the African-American population of that state exponentially.
Perhaps the first nationally known Wilson native to take up residence in California arrived not in the Great Migration, but as a result of the National Football League draft. The Los Angeles Rams drafted Saint Augustine’s College defensive end Isaac T. Lassiter in 1962, and he later spent five seasons with the Oakland Raiders, playing in the 1967 Super Bowl. Lassiter was born in 1940 in Wilson to Dempsey and Mary Jane Bynum Lassiter and graduated from C.H. Darden High School.
Hat tip to Bernard Patterson for the football card image.
Walter D. Hines, son of Walter S. and Sarah Dortch Hines, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1930 and a medical degree from the same in institution in 1933. Above, his senior portrait as it appears in the university’s 1930 yearbook. Below, the 1933 yearbook.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Walter Hines, 30; wife Sarah, 29; children Elizabeth, 2, and Walter D., 8 months; and boarder Inez Moore, 31, a school teacher.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Walter Hines, 40, wife Sara, 37, Elizabeth, 11, Walter Jr., 10, and Carl, 5.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Walter Hines, 50, wife Sarah, 48, and children Elizabeth, 21, Walter, 20, Carl W., 16, and Clifton R., 7.
In the 1931 edition of Polk’s Ann Arbor, Michigan, Directory: Hines Walter D student 1003 E Huron
In the 1933 edition of Polk’s Ann Arbor, Michigan, Directory: Hines Walter D student 1005 Catherine
On 2 January 1938, the Pittsburgh Courier carried this announcement of the marriage between Walter D. Hines and Cadence Lee Baker, formerly of Chicago, and her ascension into the haute mode of Detroit’s black elite:
The Hineses had been married for some time, however, as they appear in the 1936 Durham, N.C., city directory; Walter working as a physician and Cadence as a stenographer for North Carolina Mutual.
In 1940, Walter Dortsch Hines registered for the World War II draft in Detroit, Michigan. Per his registration card, he was born 17 July 1909 in Wilson, North Carolina; he resided at 7068 Michigan [Avenue], Detroit; he was a self-employed physician at the above address; his next-of-kin was mother Sarah Elizabeth Hines, 617 East Greene, Wilson; he was 5’10’, 154 lbs., with blue eyes and brown hair; he had a dark complexion; and he had a scar on the dorsal aspect of his left hand.
On 27 April 1946, the Pittsburgh Courier printed a photo (so dark as to be useless) of the Detroit Hineses visit to Los Angeles, where Elizabeth Hines Eason and her husband Newell lived. Sarah Dortch Hines crossed the country from Wilson to join her children. Within two years, Walter and Cadence Hines had relocated to California.
Per the 1960 California Board of Medical Examiners Directory, Hines was licensed to practice in California in 1948 and maintained an office at 4830 Avalon Boulevard, Los Angeles.
Dr. Walter D. Hines died 6 February 1996 in Los Angeles.
In 2011, a Palm Springs, California, news reporter interviewed Wilson native Jesse D. Pender Sr., then 96, about his World War II service, his early work for a brothel keeper, and his years cooking for a president.
The Desert Sun, 4 December 2011.
In the 1920 census of Goldsboro township, Wayne County: farmer Joseph Pender, 49; wife Ella L., 42; amd children Edward D., 14, Maggie, 9, Ernest, 12, Alonzo, 7, Jesse, 4, Georgiana, 3, and Josephine, 1.
On 29 December 1937, Jesse Pender, 23, of Wilson County, son of Joe and Ella Pender of Wilson County married Erma Dean Hines, 18, daughter of Louis and Martha Hines of Wilson County, in Nashville, Nash County.
In 1940, Jesse David Powell registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Note his employer.
Betty Powell and Mallie Paul, Depression-era Wilson’s most notorious white madams, ran neighboring brothels on Jones and South Streets. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County, Georgia native Bettie Powell, 46, is listed without occupation, and her three lodgers, all white women in their early 20s, were occupied as “companion-private home.”
Betty Powell made out her will in March 1945. After disposing of bonds, bank accounts, real property and jewelry, she bequeathed “all the residue of my estate to Jesse Pender and all of the girls including my maids, that may be residing with me at my death, to share and share alike.” She died just over a year later.
Wilson Daily Times, 7 May 1946.
Pender’s workplace before Betty Powell hired him to drive. Advertisement, Facts About Wilson North Carolina, Wilson Chamber of Commerce (1934).
Pender at age 102. Photo courtesy of “A Flowery Tribute in Palm Springs as Warplanes Fly in Formation in Memorial Day Salute,” The Desert Sun, 29 May 2017.
Thanks to my frequent collaborator S.M. Stevens (and her grandmother Willia Jones Turner) for forwarding this clipping. North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
These men, who registered for the World War II draft across California, reported that they were born in Wilson, North Carolina.
In the 1940 census of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California: at 300 East 51st Street, renting an apartment for $30/month, Wyman H. Burney, 43, born in Kansas, bartender at steam railroad bar, and Oscar DeBell, 37, born in North Carolina, janitor at a motion picture studio. DeBell reported that he had lived in New York City five years before.
Samuel Clinton Dupree
In the 1940 census of Oakland, Alameda County, California: Lee Morgan, 51, waiter for shipping company, born in North Carolina. He reported that he had lived in Seattle, Washington, five years prior.