Reid Street Community Center

Halloween festivities at the Center.

Wilson Daily Times, 4 November 1940.


Three hundred children showed up for a Halloween party at Reid Street Community Center in 1940. Instructors presented “an interesting program of contests, stunts, and games” and awarded prizes in various competitions.


  • Deborah Swindell — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Deborah Swindell, 40, beautician in own shop; daughter Deborah, 16; and lodger Noble Wade, 38, cook in railroad shop, born in Georgia. 
  • Virginia Melton — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1206 Washington Street, T[illegible] Barnes, 72, washing, widow; daughter Cora Melton, 42, private cook, widow; grandchildren Lucy, 16, Virginia, 15, and John, 14, all farming green tobacco, W.T., 8, and Hilda, 7; and daughter Lillie Barnes, 40. 
  • Prof. M.D. Williams — Malcolm D. Williams, principal of Vick Elementary School.
  • Frances Eliza Williams
  • Thomas Freeman — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1114 Washington Street, owned and valued at $3000, brick mason Julius Freeman, 52; wife Pattie, 40; and children Julius L., 20, Doris, 19, Robert and Richard, 18, John, 16, Charles, 14, Eunice, 12, Mary, 11, Ruby, 10, Tom, 9, Dan, 8, Lillian, 6, and Henry, 2.
  • John Farmer
  • Paul Bryant
  • Silas Bryant
  • Office Clark — Offie Clark. In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1300 Washington Street, William Clark, 47, mechanical helper in guano factory; wife Katie E., 47; and children Offie E., 18, Addie E., 15, and William T., 12; and grandson Milton Grady, 2.
  • Virginia Williams
  • Hilda Gray Young
  • Dan Freeman — brother of Thomas Freeman, above.
  • Irvin Sutton
  • Dillon Bell — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1309 East Nash, auto body company blacksmith Charlie Bell, 58, born in West Virginia; wife Nina, 31, cook; and children Dillon, 14, and Benson, 10.

Friday night social.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 November 1950.

Bill Elliott supervised the Darden High School’s Teen Age Club, which held social events at Reid Street Community Center under the joint sponsorship of Darden’s Parent-Teacher Association and Wilson’s Department of Recreation and Parks.

Buddy Johnson and his Orchestra at the Community Center.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 September 1943.

South Carolina-born Buddy Johnson was a jump blues pianist whose orchestra began touring the South in the early 1940s. Reid Street Community Center was a popular venue on the chitlin circuit.

Reid Street Center gets a pool.

Wilson Daily Times, 28 April 1944.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 June 1944.

Five years after it opened, Reid Street Community Center got its first pool.

[Sidenote: Though the dimensions are not entirely clear — was it 60 feet by 40 feet? was it somewhere between 40 and 60 feet in length? — this definitely not the pool I learned to swim in 25-30 years later. That pool’s depth ranged from three feet to five feet to ten feet, with both low and high diving boards at the deep end.]

Clippings courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Boxing team formed at Reid Street Center.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 March 1939.

Soon after Reid Street Community Center opened, Saint John A.M.E. Zion minister Richard A.G. Foster organized a Boys Club at the church. Club members received boxing training at the Center and helped repair toys to be distributed the next Christmas.

  • Charlie Farris — businessman Charles Patrick Farris (1907-1958), son of Joseph and Rosa Selim Farris.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Town turns down request for recreation funding.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 September 1937.

The path to building Reid Street Community Center was a rocky one. As reported in September 1937, African-American community leaders, headed by William Hines, appeared repeatedly before Wilson’s Board of Aldermen (the precursor to City Council) seeking help.  To match federal funds, the group requested $7500 to add to another $7500 they hoped to receive from the county. When the county declined to approve the funds, the group returned to the city to ask for the $7500 outright to build a scaled-down building. “The request was voted down by the Aldermen last night on the grounds that the appropriation the town had made was contingent on the county’s appropriation and that there seemed to be some doubt anyway whether the town even could appropriate the money.”

The Center was finally funded in the spring of 1938 and opened at the end of the year.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.