On 12 January 1912, John C. Dancy spoke to an appreciative crowd at Saint John A.M.E. Zion, then joined Non-Formal Reading Club for a reception at the home of Charles H. and Dinah Scarborough Darden. After a big oyster supper, a series of local speakers — almost like a Toastmasters club — regaled the Non-Formals on diverse topics, including politics, economics, and literature. Most intriguing perhaps: Dr. William A. Mitchner‘s remarks on “The Negro’s Christianity as evidenced by His Business Dealings” and (not a doctor) Arthur N. Darden‘s comments on “The Negro’s Waning Credulity.”
Tarboro native John Campbell Dancy was a politician, journalist, and educator in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. For many years he was editor-in-chief of African Methodist Episcopal Zion church newspapers Star of Zion and Zion Quarterly. He served briefly as collector of customs in Wilmington, North Carolina, but was forced to leave the city in the Wilmington Massacre of 1898. Dancy moved to Washington, D.C., and served as the city’s Recorder of Deeds from 1901 to 1910. Dancy died in 1920; D.C. Suggs was an honorary pallbearer at his funeral.
Johnston County native William A. Mitchner practiced medicine in Wilson from about 1908 until his death in 1941. At the end of his career, he practiced from this small brick office at 528 East Nash Street.
In late March or early April 1938, white newborn baby was found abandoned under a tree on Hines Street in Wilson, and died a short time later. The police quickly identified Mittie E. Lucas, reported as a 43 year-old widowed seamstress in the 1940 census of Wilson, as the child’s mother and Jesse Hamilton, also 43 and a married former policeman, as its father. Lucas and Mary Fuller, an African-American midwife, were charged with the baby’s homicide, and Hamilton was charged with abortion along with black physician William A. Mitchner. The four criminal cases were consolidated.
It is not difficult to imagine Mitchner’s terror. He testified that Lucas called on him on February 2 and, in 30 years of medical practice, he had never before examined a white woman. He denied attempting an abortion, asserting that he told Lucas he didn’t “do that kind of work and not to let anyone else do it.” He admitted referring Lucas to Dr. Clarence Dillard Jr., an African-American doctor in Goldsboro, but claimed he did not know whether Dillard were an abortionist, he just “wanted to get rid of them and stop them from coming to me.” [In fact, just four months later, newspapers would breathlessly cover a trial in which Dillard was accused of performing an abortion on a young white woman pregnant by her black boyfriend.] More than a dozen character witnesses stood for Mitchner, including “prominent negro undertaker” Camillus L. Darden and “prominent local druggist” Doane Herring, who was white.
On 26 April 1938, the Daily Times reported that Recorder McLean had dismissed charges against Mitchner, concluding that the other defendants’ actions after visiting Mitchner suggested that he “would do nothing for them.”
The charges against Lucas, Hamilton and Fuller dragged on. Lucas’ brother, U.R. Moore, posted her bond at the end of April, but Fuller and Hamilton remained in jail. After several court continuances, startling news broke on 8 February 1939 after the state rested its case. Witnesses testified that Hamilton admitted that he was the baby’s father; that Hamilton went to a Negro doctor for “medicine” and that the doctor had refused to do what was “intimated”; that Lucas had given the infant to Fuller to place with “some rich person or some hospital”; and that Fuller had placed the child under a tree and called a neighbor to the scene. However, the solicitor conceded that he could not establish if the baby had died of exposure [or, presumably, died of natural causes]. Thus, he could not establish homicide. (And as Lucas seemingly delivered a full-term child, nor could he show that Lucas had obtained an abortion.) With this failure, he proferred a nolle prosequi, i.e. dropped charges, against Lucas and suspended five-year sentences to Hamilton and Fuller if they pleaded no contest.
Perhaps, in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Mary Fuller, 56, laundress; daughter Mildred, 22; and boarder Texanna Whitley, 23, and her children Cleo, 7, and Charlie, 2.
Alexander Crockett died 22 February 1920 in Wilson. He left no will.
Crockett was unmarried, and his sister Georgia Crockett Aiken filed for letters of administration on the estate. She and their brother James Crockett were the sole heirs, and she estimated Alex’ estate value at $400.00. Aiken and E.D. Barnes posted bond.
Dr. William A. Mitchner filed a claim for $65 against Crockett’s estate, presumably for services rendered during his treatment for tuberculosis.
In the 1880 census of Little Washington, Goldsboro, Wayne County, North Carolina: William Crockett, 35, drayman; wife Rachel, 41, seamstress; and children James, 11, Alex, 9, Georgianna, 8, and Robert, 1.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 123 Pender Street, Georgia Akin, 45, widow, livery stable manager; brother Alexander Crockett, 47, stable salesman; and roomers John Norfleet, 30, and Mose Parker, 32, both laborers. [Georgia’s husband John H. Aiken had been a partner with Crockett in Crockett & Aiken, a livery, transfer and house-moving outfit.]
Alexander Crockett died 22 February 1920 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 9 August 1875 in Wayne County to William Crockett of Chester, South Carolina, and Rachel Hill of North Carolina; was a self-employed livery and transfer operator; and was single. Informant was Georgia Aiken.
North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
A.B. Caldwell, ed., History of the American Negro and His Institutions, North Carolina Edition (1921).
Dr. William A. Mitchnerapparently moved to Wilson very shortly after graduating Leonard Medical School. In June 1910, he married Mattie Louise Maultsby, daughter of Daniel L. and Smithey C. Maultsby (who seem to have been natives of Pitt County.) Camillus L. Darden applied for the license on their behalf, and they were married at Saint John A.M.E. Zion church.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County, at 534 E. Nash Street: Wm. A Mitchner, 40, son Wm. M., 8, mother Lucy, 60, and nephew Hubert Mitchner, 23, a barber.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County, at 604 E. Green Street: Dr. W. A. Mitchner, 53, born Johnston County; wife Marie, 40, born Wake County; and mother Lucy Mitchner, 80, born in Johnston County.
Will Jenkins, in fact, survived his wounds. In 1917, he registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. He noted that he was born in 1893 in Edgecombe County, that he was married and lived at 672 Viola Street, and that he was a lumber yard laborer.