veteran

The sixteenth to fall.

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Wilson Daily Times, 3 December 1918.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Raleigh Road, farmer Simon Horne, 53; wife Nancy, 43; children Louisa, 22, Matha, 18, Benjamin, 17, Minnie, 14, Annie B., 12, Darling, 10, Thomas, 8, William, 6, and Tobe, 4; grandson Freeman, 4 months; and mother-in-law Bunny Barnes, 78, widow.

Front of Benjamin Horne’s draft registration card.

Army transport passenger list.

U.S. Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939, database on-line, http://www.ancestry.com.

The “colored” who gave all.

The walls of the narrow entryway into the Wilson County Court House are lined with large bronze plaques commemorating the county’s war dead. Look carefully at the World War I and World War II/Korean Conflict plaques. The areas containing veterans’ names are lighter than the surrounding surfaces; the names are picked out in a shinier paint. Why?

The names are embossed on plates secured to the plaques at each corner by small rosettes disguising bolts. These plates are replacements. The originals contained segregated lists. In other words, “colored” men “who gave the last full measure of devotion” were listed separately from their white counterparts.

A 10 April 1976 Wilson Daily Times article about the installation of a Vietnam vets plaque reveals photographs of the original plaques for the earlier wars:

The colored: Henry Ellis, killed 6 October 1918 (Wilson’s African-American post of the American Legion was named for Ellis); Benjamin Horne, died 10 October 1918; Pharaoh Coleman, died 17 October 1918; Luther Harris, died 17 October 1918; Strat Barnes, died 5 December 1918; West Vick, died 11 March 1919; Charles Barnes, died 28 July 1919; and Charles Samuel Clay, died 17 August 1919.

The colored: Levi Adger, Robert E. Ashford, Norman Gilliam, Victor Emanuel Hayes, Less Hinnant, Bobby H. Hyman, James Johnson, Thomas Jones Jr., Claude Kenan Jr., Willie J. Lassiter, Charles Leak, William R. Robinson, Thomas J. Rutland, Herbert L. Simms, Bekay Thompson and Mayo Ward.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2019.

He is a Wilson negro and a bad one at that.

One hundred years ago today:

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The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 16 March 1919.

  • Kit Shaw
  • Luther Barbour — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 809 East Nash, John Barber, 27; wife Ethel, 26; mother Sallie, 59, teacher; and brother Luther, 32. Luther is described as single.

Studio shots, no. 97: Albert Howard, soldier.

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Albert Howard (1892-1956).

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Deal Howard, 39; wife Nancy, 39; and children John, 16, Christian, 14, Oscar, 11, Ettie, 10, Albert, 7, Thomas, 5, Alvin, 3, Herman, 1, and Tiner, 0.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Horne’s Road, farmer Zelius Howard Jr., 49; wife Nancy, 49; and children Albert, 17, Thomas, 15, Alvin, 13, Herman, 11, Tina, 9, Florence, 7, and Ella, 5.

In 1917, Albert Howard registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born in 1892 in Wilson; was single; and farmed for himself.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Deal Howard, 58; wife Nancy, 60; and Albert, 28, Herman, 22, Tiner, 19, and Florence, 17.

In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Albert Howard, 35, farmer; mother Nancy, 75; and James, 11, and Tommie Howard, 9.

Albert Howard died 3 August 1956 in Taylors township. Per his death certificate, he was born 2 February 1890 in Wilson County to Dill Howard and Nancy Black; was married to Ida Howard; was a farm laborer; was a World War I veteran; and was buried in Howard cemetery, Wilson County.

Photograph courtesy of Europe A. Farmer.

 

Carolina Posse Kills Ex-GI.

The lynchings of two Wilson County men are recorded at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The name of the first, killed in 1887, is unknown. The second man, shot to death in 1946, was J.C. Farmer, a 19 year-old veteran of World War II.

Farmer and some friends were in Sims, a village in the western part of the county, playing around while waiting for a bus to take them into Wilson for a Saturday night out. Constable Fes Bissette confronted the group, ordering Farmer to get into his squad car. When Farmer refused, Bissette hit him in the back of the head with a blackjack, drew his gun and tried to force Farmer into the car. The two scuffled. Seizing control of the gun, Farmer shot Bissette through the hand and fled. An hour later, 20 to 25 white men, including Alcoholic Beverage Control agents armed with submachine guns, cornered Farmer near his mother Mattie Barnes Farmer‘s house and opened fire.

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New Journal and Guide (Norfolk, Va.), 17 August 1946.

Though the scant news accounts available are silent, it appears that Farmer was driven ten miles to Wilson to Mercy Hospital, where Dr. Batie T. Clark pronounced him dead from a “gun shot wound chest” about 30 minutes after arrival. Clark also noted on Farmer’s death certificate, by way of explanation: “shot by officer of law in gun duel” though it is not at all clear which member of the posse’s shot hit Farmer, and there had been no “duel.” (Also, who transported Farmer to town — his family or law enforcement? Why was he seen by Badie Clark, a white doctor, rather than, say, Joseph Cowan, who was Mercy’s African-American staff physician? Here’s a guess: Dr. Cowan didn’t dare.)

In 1951, the Civil Rights Congress issued We Charge Genocide: An Historic Appeal to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government Against the Negro People, a “record of mass slayings on the basis of race.” Among the litany of such state-sanctioned crimes committed from 1945 to 1951 was the killing of J.C. Farmer.

Equal Justice Initiative’s 2015 Lynching in America report mentioned J.C. Farmer’s murder in the chapter described racial terror directed at African-American veterans: “No one was more at risk of experiencing violence and targeted racial terror than black veterans who had proven their valor and courage as soldiers during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Because of their military service, black veterans were seen as a particular threat to Jim Crow and racial subordination. Thousands of black veterans were assaulted, threatened, abused, or lynched following military service.” Farmer’s death was just one of a wave of such lynchings in 1946.

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In the 1930 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Josh Farmer, 51; wife Mattie, 46; and children William A., 21, Josh W., 17, Waneta, 14, Lonnie D., 12, Robert, 10, Albert H., 6, and J.C., 3.

In the 1940 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Jack Farmer, 59; wife Mattie, 55; and children Authur, 24, Jack Jr., 23, Robert, 20, Harry, 16, J.C., 13, and Juanita Barnes, 22, and her children Mattie Lee, 3, and Marjorie, 1.

J.C. Farmer registered for the World War II draft on 21 October 1944, was honorably discharged on 16 August 1945, and was dead 13 days’ shy of a year later.

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For the hanged and beaten. For the shot, drowned and burned. The tortured, tormented and terrorized. For those abandoned by the rule of law.

We will remember.

With hope because hopelessness is the enemy of justice. With courage because peace requires bravery. With persistence because justice is a constant struggle. With faith because we shall overcome.

National Memorial for Peace and Justice

Studio shots, no. 70: Sgt. Benjamin A. Harris Sr.

Sgt. Benjamin A. Harris, World War I.

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In the 1900 census of Fremont township, Wayne County: day laborer Ed Harries, 27; wife Bettie, 25; and children Benjamin A., 5, Roday, 4, and John H., 5 months.

In the 1910 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Ed Harriss, 37; wife Bettie, 34; and children Benjamin, 15, Rhoda, 14, Johney, 10, Nannie, 9, Nicie and Vicie, 7, Edgar, 4, and Oscar and Roscar, 1.

Benjamin Amos Harris registered for the World War I draft in Eureka precinct, Wayne County, in 1917.

In the 1920 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: on Stantonsburg Road, farmer Benjamin Harris, 25, and siblings Rhodie, 22, John, 20, Nanie, 18, Vicie and Nicie, 16, Edgar, 14, Oscar and Rosca, 11, Leland, 9, and Hamilton B., 7.

On 14 March 1922, Benjaman A. Harris, 25, of Nahunta, son of Ed and Bettie Harris, married Pauline Artis, 20, of Nahunta, daughter of Wash [sic; Noah] and Patience Artis, in Eureka, Nahunta township, Wayne County.

In the mid-1920s, Benjamin and Pauline Artis Harris moved ten miles north to Wilson.

In the 1925 Wilson city directory: Harris Benj bricklyr h 407 Viola.

Harris, in partnership with George Best, opened a grocery store near the city limits on East Nash Street. In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Harris Benj A (c; Pauline) (Harris & Best) r Finch; Harris & Best (c) (B A Harris and Geo Best) gros 1316 E Nash

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Harris Benj (c; Pauline) brklyr h 312 Finch

The family was missed in the 1930 and 1940 censuses of Wilson, Wilson County.

In 1940, when Harry Bryant Harris registered for the World War II draft in Wilson, he listed his eldest brother Ben Amos Harris as his contact and employer.

Benjamin Amos Harris died 15 May 1955 at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 October 1894 to Edward Harris and Betty Daniel; lived at 312 Finch Street, Wilson; worked as a bricklayer; and was a World War I veteran. Six days later, his widow applied for a military grave marker:

Photo of Benjamin A. Harris Sr. courtesy of Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service, a booklet commemorating the 100th anniversary of Calvary Presbyterian Church, Wilson; image of draft card at U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

 

Studio shots, no. 69: Dempsey L. Henderson.

A veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, Dempsey Lee Henderson received a three-star Pacific Theater Ribbon, American Theater Ribbon, Victory Medal, Purple Heart, and one-star Philippine Liberation Ribbon.

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Dempsey L. Henderson was born on or about 31 December 1927 in Wilson to Lena B. McNair and Jesse “Jack” Henderson.

In the 1940 census of Washington, District of Columbia: at 335 Elm Street, Lena Henderson, maid, 30; son Dempsey Henderson, 12; mother Mary McNary, 53; and lodger John Pendleton, 29, transfer merchant truck driver.

In 1943, Henderson registered for the World War II draft in Washington, D.C.

This 1944 muster roll shows that Henderson was aboard the U.S.S. Abner Read, a Fletcher-class destroyer, in September of that year.

Dempsey L. Henderson died 2003, and was buried at Quantico National Cemetery.

Photo of Dempsey Henderson in collection of Lisa Y. Henderson; Draft Registration Cards for District of Columbia, 1940-1947, digitized at www.fold3.com; Muster rolls of U.S. Navy ships, stations, and other naval activities, 1939-1949, digitized at www.fold3.com.