I will not ask for much this year, because you can’t afford it.

At the dawn of the Great Depression, these children wrote letters to Santa Claus making modest requests for themselves and asking Saint Nick to remember their parents, siblings and teachers.

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Wilson Daily Times, 13 December 1930.

I hope my white friends will remember me.

I do not know the context of this puzzling letter Rev. Jeremiah Scarborough wrote to the editor of Wilson Times.

Wilson Times, 15 September 1899.

Twenty years later, Scarborough was still preaching the gospel of accommodationism.

Wilson Times, 2 June 1919.


Scarborough is elusive in records, too. He appears in the 1877 edition of Shaw University’s catalog as a Wake Forest native and graduate of its Normal School division. He is also listed in Claude Trotter’s History of the Wake Baptist Association, Its Auxiliaries and Churches, 1866-1966 (1876) as a pastor in 1878 at Wake County’s Friendship Chapel, near Wake Forest.

Pioneer passes.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 January 1942.


In the 1870 census of Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina: Chaney Crenshaw, 40, and daughters Jinnie, 15, Ida, 7, and Ella, 6.

In the 1880 census of Raleigh township, Wake County: at Saint Augustine School, Jinnie, 19. Ida, 18, and Ella Crenshaw, 14.

In the 1887 Raleigh, N.C., city directory: Crenshaw Ida (col) houseservant at 522 Fayetteville, r outside

On 28 March 1888, John H. Clark, 24, of Wilson County, son of Harry and Flora Clark of Beaufort County, North Carolina, married Ida R. Crenshaw, 21, of Wake County, daughter of John and Chaney Crenshaw. Robert B. Sutton, Doctor of Divinity, Presbyter of the Protestant Episcopalian Church, performed the ceremony at the Chapel of Saint Augustine Normal School, Raleigh.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: school teacher John H. Clark, 36; wife Ida R., 34; and children Chaney V., 8, and Flora R., 2.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Street, letter carrier John H. Clark, 46; wife Ida, 46, school teacher; and daughter Floyd [sic], 12.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 635 Manchester Street, mail carrier John Clark, 56; wife Ida, 48; and daughter Flora, 12.

On 18 June 1930, Flora Ruth Clark, 21, of Wilson, daughter of John H. and Ida R. Clark, married Wilton Maxwell Bethel, 21, son of Ernest and Phillis Bethel, at Saint Mark’s Presbyterian Episcopal Church in Wilson. Presbyterian Episcopal minister Eugene Leon Henderson performed the ceremony in the presence of John H. Clark and Ida R. Clark.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 706 East Nash Street, John Clark, 76; wife Ida, 65; son-in-law Wilton Bethel, 33, insurance agent for N.C. Mutual Insurance; and daughter Flora, 30, school teacher at Darden High School.

Ida R. Clark died 13 June 1942 at her home at 706 East Nash, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 25 May 1873 in Franklin County to Prince and Chaney Crenshaw of Franklin County; was married; was a teacher and homemaker; and was buried in the Masonic cemetery. John H. Clark was informant.

The (heroic) teachers of Principal Reid’s school.

This astounding photograph depicts the teachers on staff at the Colored Graded School around 1918, when school superintendent Charles L. Coon slapped Mary C. Euell after principal J.D. Reid complained that she was insubordinate. Euell, who pressed charges against Coon and led a boycott of the public school, is seated second from left.

Information about the teachers is elusive. Only one, S. Roberta Battle, was a native of Wilson. Georgia native Georgia Burke spent about a decade in Wilson, and Virginia native Mary Jennings at least four years. The remaining women are not found in local census records or directories.

  • G.M. Burks — Georgia Mae Burke. Georgia Burke boarded with Roberta Battle’s family during her time in Wilson. In 1921, she and Mary Euell were nearly involved in a second slapping incident in Wilson. In 1928, she moved to New York City to commence an acting career.
  • L.B. Wayland
  • M.L. Garrett
  • S.R. Battle — Sallie Roberta Battle Johnson.
  • S.D. Wiseman
  • M.A. Davis
  • M.C. Euell
  • M.M. Jennings — Mary M. Jennings. Virginia-born Mary Jennings, 28, private school teacher boarded with the family of Hardy Tate at 208 Pender at the time of the 1920 census. In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C. city directory, she was described as the principal of Wilson Normal School, which was probably the independent school founded by black parents and businessmen in the wake of the boycott. In the 1922 city directory, she is listed as a teacher at the Wilson Normal School and resided at 307 [formerly 208] Pender.
  • J.B. Pride

Photograph courtesy of Congressman G.K. Butterfield Jr., D-NC, a Wilson native. Thank you!

Studio shots, no. 57: Elizabeth Courtney Plummer Fitts.

Elizabeth Courtney Plummer Fitts (ca.1890-1976).


In the 1900 census of  Warrenton, Warren County, North Carolina: on Waddell Street, liveryman John O. Plummer, 46, a widower; and children Robert, 25, John O., 20, James B., 18, Richard P., 16, Della M., 14, Bula, 12, Courtney, 10, and Archer, 8; and mother-in-law Della Owen, 71.

On 30 June 1920, Howard M. Fitts, 30, of Warren County, son of Bennie and Jane Fitts, married Elizabeth C. Plummer, 28, of Warrenton, son of John S. and Mariah Plummer, in Greenville, Pitt County.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1007 Washington Street, Howdard Fitts, 37, and wife Courtney, 36, both teachers, with children Howdard Jr., 8, and Rosemary, 6.

In the 1930 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Fitts E Courtney (c), tchr Stantonsburg St Graded School h 1007 Washington; Fitts Howard M (c) (E Courtney) commander American Legion, Henry Ellis Post, h 1007 Washington.

Elizabeth Courtney Plummer died on 22 November 1976, in Durham, North Carolina.

Photograph courtesy of Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service, the 100th anniversary commemorative booklet of Calvary Presbyterian Church.

The Pope-Morisey wedding.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 8 January 1938.

This blurb appears in the “Rocky Mount, N.C.” column of the Courier‘s 8 January 1938 society page. Per their marriage license, the wedding took place in Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina. Juanita Marion Pope was the daughter of O.R. and Myrtle Pope of Rocky Mount, and Alfred Alexander Morisey was the son of Rev. A.A. and Mamie Morisey of Raleigh. The couple did not live in Wilson very long — had they met there? — and it is not clear whether they taught at Darden or the Sallie Barbour school (or in the county). Though they are not found in the 1940 census, the 1942 Raleigh city directory lists: Morisey A Alex (c; Juanita) news reporter h S Davie ter CH. By 1946, the couple is listed in the Greensboro city directory with Alex working in public relations for Bennett College (his wife’s alma mater) and Juanita for the Colored Division of the United States Employment Service. 

Morisey’s obituary, published 26 July 1979 in the Washington Post, sheds light on his accomplishments after his time in Wilson:

“A. Alexander Morisey, 65, a former director of public relations at Howard University who was one of the first black reporters to work for a white owned southern newspaper, died of cancer Monday in New York City hospital.

“Mr. Morisey worked for the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal from 1949 to 1955 where he covered the black community and did general assignment reporting.

“Journal reporter Roy Thompson said, “Not a handful of people here remember after all these years, but blacks and whites in this town know a great deal more about one another than they did when Alex came to town, and he had a hand in this.”

“After working for the American Friends Service Committee, Mr. Morisey came to Washington and was public relations director at Howard University from 1967 to 1969.

“He left Howard to become public relations director of the Philadelphia Committee on Human Relations. Mr. Morisey joined the public relations staff of The New York Times in 1969, and was named public relations director two years later.

“Since 1973, he had been assistant for community relations to the president of Manhattan Community College in New York.

“Mr. Morisey was a native of Smithfield, N.C., and a graduate of Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. He also did graduate work at American University.

“He is survived by his wife, Dr. Patricia Morisey, of the home in New York City; a son, A. Alexander Jr., of Philadelphia; two daughters Jean Alexander and Muriel Morisey, both of Washington; a stepson, Paul Garland, of New York City; a brother, John, of Philadelphia; a sister, Grace Jones, of Burlington, N.C., and three grandchildren.”

John E. Dixon, educator.

John E. Dixon, The Trojan (1950), Darden High School

John Ezra Dixon, 95, died Aug. 17, 2004. Homegoing services for Mr. Dixon will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23, 2004, at Shiloh Baptist Church, 1210 S. Eugene St., with Pastor Anthony Cozart presiding.

John Ezra Dixon was born on Aug. 16, 1909, to the union of the late James Stewart Dixon and Ruetilla Dixon in Bladen County, N.C. He received his early education in Bladen County and he received his high school training and education from Burgaw Normal and Industrial High School in Pender County, N.C. After graduation, Mr. Dixon attended Shaw University in Raleigh and earned a Bachelor of Science degree. He continued his studies at Pennsylvania State University where he earned a Master of Science degree. His thirst for knowledge led him to pursue further studies at North Carolina Central University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and East Carolina State University.

An educator by profession, Mr. Dixon worked in the North Carolina School System for 39 years. He served 24 years as a math and science teacher and 15 years in school administration as a principal.

While living and working in Wilson, N.C., Mr. Dixon was affiliated with Jackson Chapel Baptist Church with his usual dedication and spirit. He faithfully served as chairperson of the Deacon board, member of the Gospel and Mens Choirs and he was a Sunday school teacher. For many years, he served as the church clerk. Upon his retirement, Mr. Dixon relocated to Greensboro in 1976, where he joined Shiloh Baptist Church. At Shiloh, Mr. Dixon served in many capacities including: the Mens Choir, the Sunday school department, the Laymen League, the Bible Study Group and the Shiloh Bowling League. He was involved in the Boy Scouts of America for 46 years and completed advanced training at the Schiff Reservation in New Jersey. Other civic and community involvements included: the Shaw University Alumni Club, the Gamma Beta Sigma Chapter of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, the Ever Achieving Retired Teachers Club, and the North Carolina Retired School Personnel Group. Mr. Dixon worked and lived by his favorite quotes: “To those whom much is given, much is expected” and “Keep God in all you do.”

John Ezra Dixon leaves to cherish his memory a devoted and loving wife, Ann Belle-Dixon; one son, John E. Dixon II (Paula); a grandson, Dr. John K. Dixon; three sisters, Amy D. Young, Genola D. Burks and Verona D. Vaughn; one brother, Levie Dixon; daughter-in-law, Betty Jean Dixon; three step-children, Barbara Belle Jones, Peggy Belle Parks and Robert P. Belle; four step-grandchildren; two step-great-grandchildren; one adopted grandson, David Miller; and a former daughter-in-law, Faye Dixon.

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Mabel Brewington Dixon; a son, Levie C. Dixon; and a grandson, Ian J. Dixon.

Visitation will be at 1 p.m. at the church.

Community Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.

Greensboro News & Record, 21 August 2004.

Shaw ’38.

From the 1938 edition of the Shaw University Journal:

  • Mabel Lenora Brewington

shaw 1938

In the 1920 census of South Clinton township, Sampson County, North Carolina: on Lisbon Street, farmer Cnelus Brewington, 36; wife Emma, 26; and children Norward, 11, Mabel, 6, and John, 2.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 912 East Nash Street, building mechanic Frank Williams, 50, and wife Emma, a teacher; step-children Norwood, 21, Mabel, 16, and Johnnie Brewington, 11.

Mabel Brewington graduated from Darden High School in 1932.

On 8 March 1941, John E. Dixon, 29, of Burgaw, North Carolina, married Mabel Brewington, 27, of Wilson, in Wilson.

Mabel B. Dixon died 10 July 1975 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 December 1913 to Cornelius and Emma Moore Brewington; was married to John E. Dixon; resided at 411 North Vick Street; and was a teacher.

Snaps, no. 24: Howard M. Fitts Sr.

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Howard Monroe Fitts Sr. (1890-1868).

In the 1900 census of River township, Warren County: Ben Fitz, 46; wife Jane, 43; and children Emma, 16, Frank, 12, Howard, 10, Ruth, 8, Raymond, 6, and Amy, 3.

In the 1910 census of River township, Warren County: farmer Jane Fitts, 50, and children Emma, 23, a teacher, Frank, 22, Howard, 20, Raimond, 16, and Annie B., 14.

Howard Monroe Fitts registered for the World War I draft in 1917 in Halifax County. Per his registration card, he was born 3 April 1890 in Warren County; worked as a farmer; and lived in Littleton, North Carolina.

In the 1920 census of River township, Warren County: widowed farmer Jane Fits, 65, and children Frank, 31, Howard, 28, schoolteacher, Raymond, 25, and Amie, 13.

On 30 June 1920, Howard M. Fitts, 30, of Warren County, son of Bennie and Jane Fitts, married Elizabeth C. Plummer, 28, of Warrenton, son of John S. and Mariah Plummer, in Greenville, Pitt County.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1007 Washington Street, Howdard Fitts, 37, and wife Courtney, 36, both teachers, with children Howdard Jr., 8, and Rosemary, 6.

Howard Fitts was one of the early members of the Men’s Civic Club, founded in 1936.

Howard Monroe Fitts Sr. died 11 January 1968 at Lincoln Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 April 1890 in Warren County to Benjamin Fitts and Jane [last name not listed]; was married to Elizabeth Courtney Plummer Fitts; resided at 710 East Green Street; was a retired Wilson County teacher; was a World War I veteran; and was buried in Wilson. Informant was Howard M. Fitts Jr., Durham.

Photograph courtesy of Ancestry.com user saxnam.

William J.F. Meredith, the Czar.

As shown in this class portrait, in 1928, Wilson Colored High School was led by principal William H.A. Howard and teachers F. Meredith (math), J.E. Amos (home economics), J.F. Anderson (science), C.F. Hunt (English), and B.M. Davis (history and French). None were Wilson natives — a source of community discontent that helped end Howard’s tenure. Who were these teachers?

William James Flournoy Meredith was born 13 December 1901 in Pulaski, Giles County, Tennessee, to Claude and Willie Laura Howard Meredith.


In the 1910 census of Pulaski, Giles County, Tennessee: on Cotton Street, roller mill laborer Claude Meredith, 34; wife Willie, 29, a chambermaid at a college; sons Flournoy, 8, and Eddie, 6, plus widowed mother-in-law Josie Howard, 46.

In the 1917 Nashville, Tennessee, city directory: Flournoy Meredith, houseman at 308 17th Street North.

In the 1920 census of Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee: widowed laundress Willie Meredith, 39, and children Flournoy, 18, boarding house waiter, Willie, 15, cafe waiter, and Bertha, 2, plus a boarder, William Morrow, 42, city cement worker.

Flournoy Meredith graduated second in his class at Nashville’s Pearl High School in 1921.

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Annual Report of the Public Schools, City of Nashville, Tennessee, Scholastic Year 1920-1921.

He went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fisk University in 1926.

In the 1928 Wilson city directory, duplicate entries (though the names differ slightly) lists Wm. J.F. Meredith, school teacher, 624 East Green; James Meredith, school teacher, Wilson High School, 624 East Green.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Edwin W. Fisher, 56, district manager insurance company; wife Daisey V., 52; daughter Susie A., 21; and lodgers James F. Anderson, 26, Indiana-born school teacher, and William Meredith, 25, Tennessee-born school teacher.

Per the Record of Proceedings of the Board of Trustees of the Ohio State University (1931), William James Flournoy Meredith, B.A. Fisk University, was conferred a Master of Arts degree in 1930.

Abstracts of Theses Presented by Candidates for Masters Degrees in the August Convocation (1930).

Meredith seems to have left Wilson shortly after receiving his master’s degree. By the end of 1932, he was well ensconced at Southern University and an active member of the Baton Rouge Fisk Alumni Club.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 24 December 1932.

In the mid-1930s, he helped charter the New Orleans alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity:

“In an oak lined area of the Crescent City known as Gentilly, the six Georgian styled buildings of Dillard University would be the incubus for the New Orleans Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., the first graduate chapter of the Fraternity in the State of Louisiana. From 1934 to 1936, Dr. Horace Mann Bond served as Dean of the University at Dillard until the first president was agreed upon and appointed later in 1936. Dean Bond lived on the campus of Dillard and his home served as the initial meeting place for the Chapter.

“The New Orleans Alumni Chapter charter members and officers were: Polemarch Dr. August C. Terrance, a physician and resident of the French Settlement of Opelousas and in the City of New Orleans; Vice Polemarch Dr. Hiram P. Wheeler (Beta, 2/1/1915), a prominent dentist in the Crescent City; Keeper of Records Dr. Leo Stanley Butler, a well established physician in the Capitol City of Baton Rouge; Keeper of Exchequer Dr. William W. Stewart, Principal of the Southern University Training School and Director of Practice Teaching at the University; Strategus Joseph Adkins (Alpha Pi, 3/26/1934), a student in his last year at Dillard; Dr. Horace Mann Bond (Epsilon, 10/9/1920), Dean of Dillard University; Herbert C. Blanks, D.D.S. (Kappa, 4/6/1923), another prominent dentist in New Orleans; W.J.F. “Czar” Meredith, journalist and Southern University History Professor; Dr. Leonard G. Israel, pharmacist and owner of one of the most modern drug stores in Baton Rouge; and Otha Lee Gains (Alpha Pi, 3/26/1934), and, a recent graduate of Dillard University.”

In the 1940 census of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana: at Southern University, Tennessee-born teacher William J.F. Meredith, 38, was a lodger in the household of Robert L. and Camille S. Shade, a teacher and librarian at the college.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 23 May 1942.

During World War II, Meredith, who attained the rank of sergeant in the U.S. Army, was stationed at Fort Lawson, Seattle, Washington. He remained in Seattle the remainder of his life.

Per chapter history William Meredith was instrumental in the founding and development of University of Washington’s chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi:

“Prior to 1938, it is very likely that numerous Kappa men visited or passed through Seattle. However, it was not until September of 1938, that the first Kappa Brother – Brother Sterling Dover – permanently settled in the Seattle community. Two years later, two newcomers, Brothers Charles Stokes and Tom Woods, joined Brother Dover in Seattle. World War II brought several more Kappa men to Seattle. They were Brothers Robert Addison (a defense worker’s housing manager), and William J.F. Meredith (a Fort Lawton P/X manager).

“These five men met on Sunday at the Phillis Wheatley House to “explore” the possibility of establishing a Chapter in Seattle. Lacking the necessary quorum for establishing a new fraternity chapter, their ideas were placed on “hold.” The end of the War changed the situation, when many young veterans began entering the area’s institutions of higher learning by way of the G.I. “bills.” The ground was fertile for Kappa Alpha Psi’s seed. Brother Meredith’s maturity during this period was invaluable. As a former faculty member of Southern University, he had earned the affectionate and respectful nickname “Czar.” Brother Meredith was blessed with the ability to achieve a firm, but sympathetic, rapport with his students and young people in general.

“Brother Addison, likewise, was a strong factor at this stage. He counseled and encouraged two young ex-service men — Leslie Stallworth and Jacques Chappel — to seek out interested men among the University of Washington student body. The energy and persuasiveness of these two young men resulted in a phenomenal success. As a result of their efforts, approximately twenty other young men expressed an interest in Kappa Alpha Psi. At last, Brother Addison’s role as liaison between the Seattle area and the Grand Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi would bear fruit. On May 22, 1948, with the five previously named alumni Brothers serving as the initiation members, the GAMMA ETA Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. become a reality! Brother Jacques Chappel was elected to be the first Polemarch of the Chapter. Brother Dover was entrusted with the task of formulating the first set of by-laws to guide the new Chapter.”

In 1960, W.J.F. Meredith was listed as “foster son” in the obituary of Violet Lynch of Nashville. As Meredith’s mother lived until he reached adulthood, it is not clear what his relationship was to Lynch.

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Nashville Tennessean, 15 January 1960.

“In February of 1968, Kappa Alpha Psi suffered a great loss in the death of its beloved Brother William “Czar” Meredith. He willed his home located at 516 – 22nd Ave. East, to the Fraternity. In his memory, the house is now named the William “Czar” Meredith Memorial Kappa House.” In this Youtube video, Clayton Pitre Sr. reflects on Meredith’s influence and legacy among Seattle Kappas. At one point, he mentions that Meredith taught school in North Carolina (presumably a reference to his time in Wilson) and was inspired to pledge Kappa by a fraternity member he met there.