normal school

Dr. A.S. Clark’s institute.

We did a little trip down to Cordele, Georgia, this weekend. Once there, I was a little hazy on the directions, but I spotted A.S. Clark Drive and knew we were good.

Augustus S. Clark was among the cohort of (mostly) young men who erupted from Wilson in the 1880s and ’90s,* determined to lead. Born in the final days of slavery, or just after, they drank in everything J.C. Price and Samuel H. Vick poured at Wilson Academy, went straight to university (often at Lincoln, their instructors’ alma mater), then set out, in Clark’s later words, to “… do what I can for the uplift of my people.”

Dr. Augustus S. Clark (1874-1959). (Photo courtesy of Frank T. Wilson, ed., “Living Witnesses: Black Presbyterians in Ministry II,” Journal of Presbyterian History, volume 53, number 3 (Fall 1985).)

For his part, in 1902 Clark founded, with his wife Annie, the Gillespie Normal School, later Gillespie-Selden Institute, in Cordele. In 1925, the institute added an hospital. (The closest Black medical facility was 142 miles away in Atlanta.) I’ve written of Gillespie-Selden here and finally went to see it.

Gillespie Institute Founded By Rev. and Mrs. Augustus Clark September 1, 1902 Served By Them Until October 1, 1941 Alumni 1942

The school complex forms the heart of Cordele’s Gillespie-Selden Historic District. Below, the school’s administration building, built in 1935.

The girls’ dormitory below, built in 1929, is the most imposing building in the neighborhood.

A rear addition has been largely torn down, and an open door grants access to the interior.

The building holds evidence of fairly recent use as a family resource and daycare center, as well as squatters. All things considered though, it is in pretty good condition.

This room runs the length of the back wall on the first floor.

At the front of the building, a series of small interconnected rooms flanks a central entry hall. I didn’t venture upstairs.

The cornerstone of the girls’ dormitory.

A marble plaque inlaid by the class of 1929.

The President’s House, also known as Dr. Clark’s house, which sits just to the west of the girls’ dormitory. The Clarks retired from active teaching and school leadership in 1941.

Below, Saint Paul Presbyterian, also founded by Rev. Clark. The tin-roofed section at right appears to be the original church, updated with brick.

Gillespie-Selden Institute, Class of 1947, in front of the girls’ dormitory. (Photo courtesy of St. Paul Gillespie-Selden Learning Center Facebook page.)

Gillespie-Selden Institute closed in 1956 when Cordele finally erected a high school for African-American students. Named in honor of A.S. Clark, the school eventually converted to an elementary school, but closed in 2014. The building is now under development as a non-profit biomedical institute.

For more about Gillespie-Selden Historic District, see the Gillespie-Selden Historic District National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, which contains this passage:

“Within the Gillespie-Selden Historic District, the outreach missionary role of Dr. Augustus S. Clark (1874-1959) and St. Paul Presbyterian Church is significant to the development of the neighborhood. Dr. Clark completed his theological training at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1897; he was sent by the Presbyterian National Board of Missions to Cordele in 1898 as a missionary to help the struggling Portis Memorial Presbyterian Church. During that same year, a loan was secured from the Board of the Church Erection Fund of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church for the construction of a new church building to be named St. Paul Presbyterian Church.

“In 1902, Dr. Clark and his wife, Anna, realized that there were less than adequate educational institutions for African-Americans to attend in Cordele as well as the entire southwest region of the state. Dr. Clark taught elementary-level and Sunday-school classes in the basement of St. Paul Presbyterian Church, but found he needed more space. … By 1904, enough money had been donated by white members of northern Presbyterian churches, especially the Gillespie family of Pittsburgh, that three buildings of the school complex were constructed. …”

See also, this 2009 design charrette prepared by University of Georgia’s Center for Community Design and Preservation and the 2103 Gillespie-Selden Historic District Design Guidelines.

Another memorial plaque, this one embedded in a brick pillar in front of the administration building.


* This cohort included A.S. Clark’s brothers John H., William H., and Thomas G. Clark, Samuel H. Vick, his brother William H. Vick, and cousin Frank O. Blount, brothers Daniel C. and James T. Suggs, Henry C. Lassiter, Braswell R. Winstead, and Charles H. Bynum, all Lincoln University graduates; the Suggses’ sister Serena Suggs MooreJoseph H. Ward; Ardella Kersey; Mahala Williamson Reid; sisters Ada G. Battle and Geneva Battle Faver; and J. Arthur Cotton.

Photos of G.S.I. taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2020.

A.D. Coward, member of the third year class.

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The catalogue for the 1911-12 school year at North Carolina State Colored Normal School at Fayetteville, later Fayetteville State University, listed one student from Wilson, A.D. Coward.

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Arthur D. Coward and his family were newly arrived in Wilson, where his father, the Rev. Bryant P. Coward, had assumed the pulpit at Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church.


In the 1900 census of Township 1, Craven County: farmer Bryan Coward, 36, wife Sarah, 33, son Arthur D., 8, and niece Malissa Jenkins, 13.

In the 1910 census of New Bern, Craven County, at 2 Green Street: pastor Bryan Coward, 45, wife Sarah, 43, son Arthur D., 18, and adopted daughter Malissa Jenkins, 22.

Arthur D. Coward died 21 July 1913 in Wilson of typhoid fever. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 October 1891 in Vanceboro, North Carolina, to B.P. Coward of Hookerton and S.A. Brown of Fountain Hill; lived at 122 Pender Street, Wilson; was attending school; and was buried in Vanceboro.

Catalogue digitized by North Carolina Digital History Center,


Higher learning.

A running list of African-Americans born (or reared) in Wilson County before 1900 who attended normal school, university or graduate school.

Barnes Bird, Agnes M. (1862-??), Saint Augustine’s.

Battle, Ada G. (1876-1951) — Livingstone; Scotia Seminary ’95.

Battle Wright, Chandler (1891-1952) — Scotia Seminary.

Battle, Charles Tecumseh (1888-??) — Brick Agr., Ind. & Normal ’10.

Battle Williston, Doane (1886-??) — Scotia Seminary.

Battle Faver, Geneva T. (1877-1967) — Livingstone.

Battle, James A. (1885-1923) — Leonard Medical ’09.

Blount, Frank Oscar (1860-??) — Lincoln B.A. ’84.

Bowser, Russell Linwood (1891-191) — Howard Dental ’17.

Bryant, William H. (1886-1947) — Saint Augustine’s; North Carolina A.&.T.  B.S. ’11; Leonard Medical; Meharry Medical ’15.

Bynum, Charles H. (1872-1938) — Lincoln B.A. ’90, Leonard Medical ’98.

Clark, Augustus S. (1874-1959) — Lincoln B.A. ’94; Lincoln M.A. ’97.

Clark, Flora R.M. (1898-1985) — Saint Augustine’s.

Clark, John Henry (1864-1949) — Lincoln; Howard Normal ’82.

Clark, Thomas G. (1876-??) — Lincoln B.A.; Howard Divinity ’05.

Clark, William H. (1873-??) — Lincoln B.A. ’93, M.A. ’96.

Cotton, James A. (1866-1922) — Livingstone B.A.; Leonard Medical; Harvey Medical ’97.

Darden Tennessee, Artelia (1889-1962) — Livingstone.

Darden, Arthur N. (1889-1948) — North Carolina A. & T., B. Agr. ’08.

Darden, Charles S. (1879-1954) — Howard Law ’05.

Darden, James B. (1882-1951) —

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New York Medical Journal, 29 July 1916.

Darden, John W. (1876-1949) — Livingstone B.A.; Leonard Medical.

Darden James Morgan, Lizzie (1886-1970) — Livingstone ’03; Tuskegee.

Darden, Walter Theodore (1896-1986) — Livingstone ’21; Howard Medical ’25.

Edwards, J.H. (??-??) — Howard Normal, circa ’90.

Forbes, J.H. (??-??) — Shaw, circa ’77.

Freeman, Daniel E. (1895-??) — Tuskegee.

Freeman, Julius F., Jr. (1887-1960) — Tuskegee ’11.

Freeman, Oliver Nestus (1881-1955) — Tuskegee.

Fullwider, Samuel (??-??) — Shaw, circa ’77.

Harris, Benjamin Amos (1894-1955) — Tuskegee.

Hines, William (1883-1981) — Biddle Normal ’08.

Kersey, Ardella (1854-??) — Shaw, circa ’77.

Lassiter, Henry C. (??-??)– Howard Normal; Lincoln ’95.

Powell, Wiley (1886-??) — North Carolina A.&T., B. Agr. ’08.

Skinner, John H. (1867-??) — Saint Augustine; State Normal, Fayetteville B.A. ’81; Tuskegee B.A. ’22.

Suggs, Daniel C. (1865-1930) — Lincoln; Saint Augustine’s B.A.’84; Saint Augustine’s M.A.; Morris Brown Ph.D.

Suggs, James T. (1876-1934) — Livingstone ’93; Lincoln B.A. ’97; Howard Medical ’03.

Suggs Moore, Serena (1863-1930) — Saint Augustine’s; Scotia Seminary; Saint Mary’s Academy.

Taylor, Russell B. (1881-1954) — Livingstone.

Vick, J. Oscar (1872-??) — Biddle.

h and o vick

Wilson Mirror, 19 October 1892.

Vick, Samuel H. (1863-1947) — Lincoln B.A. ’84.

Vick, William Henry (1870-??) — Lincoln B.A. ’94; Leonard Pharmaceutical ’97.

Ward, Joseph Henry (1870-1954) — Physio-Medical College of Indiana M.D.; Indiana University School of Medicine M.D.

Washington Vick, Annie M. (1872-1952) — Scotia Seminary.

Washington, Samuel (1867-1959) — Howard Normal, circa ’85.

Wells, Marie (1898-1997) — Saint Augustine’s.

Williamson Reid, Mahala (1864-ca. 1894) — Hampton, circa 1882.

Williamson, Turner G. — Lincoln ’95.



Howard Normal, 1889.

Henry C. Lassiter of Wilson was a member of the B Class in Howard University’s Normal School in 1889-90.

HC Lassiter

As the catalog below noted, Classes A and B were designed to bring students up to readiness to for entry into the Normal or Preparatory schools.

normal Dept

Howard University Catalog of Officers and Students from March 1889 to March 1890, U.S. School Catalogs, 1765-1935 [database on-line],

Students of Saint Augustine’s School, 1915-1920.


Founded in 1867 as Saint Augustine’s Normal School by Episcopal clergy to educate freed slaves, this historically black institution institution changed its name to Saint Augustine’s School in 1893 and then to Saint Augustine’s Junior College in 1919 when it began offering college-level coursework. It began offering coursework leading to a four-year degree in 1927 and changed its name to Saint Augustine’s College one year later. The first baccalaureate degrees were awarded in 1931.

The following pages featuring the names of Wilson students and alumni were culled from Saint Aug catalogues published between 1915 and 1920.


1915-16 catalog.

Flora Ruth Mingo Clark (1898-1985) was the daughter of John H. and Ida Crenshaw Clark. (The family resided at 706 East Nash Street, a house that was only recently demolished.) She married Wilton Maxwell Bethel on 18 June 1930 at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church in Wilson.

annualcatalogueo19151930_0065 1916 1

1916-17 catalog.

Dinah (or Diana) Ada Adams (1891-1950) was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Troup Adams of Brooks County, Georgia. She married Wilson native Columbus E. Artis on 4 July 1918 in Washington DC. They returned to Wilson and settled at 308 Pender Street. C.E. operated an undertaker business and a filling station. They later moved to 611 East Green Street.

annualcatalogueo19151930_0057 1916 2

1916-17 catalog.


1917-18 catalog.

Glennie Dora Hill (1906-1989) was the daughter of George and Mary Bynum Hill. They appear in the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County, with Glennie’s siblings Lena, Emma, George and Edwin. In the 1930 census, Glennie is listed in Cross Roads township, Wilson County with husband Nathan Donald and children Eugene, Frank L., Hubert L, Alma and Algie. Ten years later, the family is listed in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Glennie later was married to a Council.

annualcatalogueo19151930_0125 1917 1

1917-18 catalog.

Raleigh native William H. Phillips (1885-1957), son of Frank and Margaret Haywood Phillips, was Wilson’s first African-American dentist. His first wife was Jewel J. Phillips and his second, Rena Maynor Carter Phillips.

Phillips directory

Wilson city directory, 1922.

Phillips lived at 405 East Green Street and maintained an office at 525 East Nash.

annualcatalogueo19151930_0335 1920

1920-21 catalog.

Marie Wells (1898-1997) was the daughter of Mack and Cherry Wells. The family resided at 615 Viola Street. Marie worked as a teacher and married Joseph Lucas in 1934 in Wilson. (Flora Clark Bethel’s husband W.M. Bethel was a witness to the ceremony.) They had at least three children: Joseph (1936), John Dennis (1940) and Joseph Clifton (1942).

annualcatalogueo19151930_0337 1920 1

1920-21 catalog.

Viola P. Adkinson married Belton Parker in Wilson in 1925. They are listed in the city’s 1928 city directory at 224 Ashe Street. Belton worked as a chauffeur.

Catalog images via