At the entrance to my parents’ neighborhoods, signs for these candidates — George K. Butterfield for United States Congress, Milton F. “Toby” Fitch for North Carolina Senate, Jean Farmer Butterfield for North Carolina House of Representatives, and Calvin L. Woodard for Sheriff. I was struck by the deep roots that all have in Wilson County.
G.K. Butterfield’s earliest Davis ancestor, Judith Davis, arrived in the town of Wilson in 1855, and his grandfather Fred M. Davis Sr. led Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church for decades.
Toby Fitch’s maternal Dunstan ancestors were free people of color in antebellum Wilson County and his Whitteds and Beckwiths arrived before the turn of the 20th century.
“Farmer” is a classic Wilson name, and Jean Farmer Butterfield’s father Floyd Willie Farmer was a force in the effort to get Wilson County to build rural high schools for African-Americans in the 1940s.
Calvin L. Woodard is descended on his mother’s side from Benjamin and Violet Barnes, were well into middle age and newly freed from slavery when they registered their long marriage in Wilson County in 1866.
“By 1939, [George K.] Butterfield and others began advocating for the creation of a more effective organization to fight for the ballot in addition to the NAACP. Joined by doctors J.F. Cowan, I.A. Shade, and D.C. Yancey, funeral home director C.L. Darden, barber shop owner William Hines and others, Butterfield helped create the Men’s Civic Club in the fall of 1939. At the second meeting the men selected their officers. Dr. B.O. Barnes was selected as president; C.L. Spellman, vice-president; M.D. Williams, secretary and C.L Darden treasurer. … The group’s primary objective was to ‘study and support all proposals that we consider beneficial to the Negroes of Wilson.’ Though interested in the benefit of the entire community, the Club specifically concerned itself with ‘the problems and needs (civic, educational and recreational) of the Negroes of greater Wilson — city and county.'”
This photograph was published in the 2 July 1976 edition of the Wilson Daily Times. Though undated, it most likely was taken at an early meeting of the Men’s Civic Club and certainly before the end of 1941, when two of the men depicted passed away.
“Prisoners escaping from Wilson Jail. The Re-pop-li-can sheriff and deputy of Wilson eat peanuts while the prisoners escape.”
News & Observer (Raleigh), 21 October 1898.
In the months leading up to the cataclysmic election of 1898, the News & Observer almost daily published political cartoons drawn by Wayne County native Norman Jennett. Former Wilson resident Josephus Daniels had purchased the paper in 1894 and immediately converted it into the organ of the white supremacist Democratic party. In collaboration with Daniels, whom history records as “progressive,” Jennett created a series of panels ridiculing Republican and Populist political figures and featuring stereotypical caricatures of their African-American allies. Riding in the wake of terrorist Red Shirts, the Democrats swept elections, sparking a wave of fury that would ignite the Wilmington Riots and effectively disenfranchise most African-Americans for decades to come.
W.J. “Jack” Cherry, a Populist, was the incumbent sheriff of Wilson County; W.D.P. Sharpe was running against him on the Democratic ticket. (I have not been able to identify the deputy.) Days before the election, the Wilson Advance ran this doggerel:
Gray Newsome — In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Gray Newsome died 3 September 1930 in Pine Level township, Johnston County. His death certificate notes that he was born about 1853 in Wilson County to Willie and Nancy Jenkins Newsome of Wilson County.
Honorable Geo. H. White — United States Congressman. See here and here.