Wilson High School

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.

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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.

 

 

Class of ’28.

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).

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  • Jennie Moring Parker Kerbo, prophet (1909-2006, daughter of Charles and Maggie Hedgepeth Parker)
  • Herman Bess, valedictorian (possibly, son of William and Ada Best)
  • Ada Elizabeth Harris Reid Sharpe, treasurer (1908-2010, daughter of Leander and Lucy Brooks Harris)
  • Esther Lue Purdie, president (1907-??, daughter of Street P. and Lenora Bethea Purdie)
  • Walter Jefferson Giles, vice president (1909-2001, son of George W. and Lucettie Sutton Giles)
  • Vivian Elizabeth Peacock Smith, secretary (1909-1999, daughter of Levi H. and Hannah Pyatt Peacock)
  • Odelle Whitehead Barnes, salutatorian (1912-2011, daughter of J. Henry and Victoria Ennis Whitehead)
  • Mattie Smith, poet
  • Henderson Jesse Cooke, orator (1910-1971, son of Jerry and Clara Godette Cooke)
  • Catherine W. Whitehead Bynum, giftarian (1910-1999, daughter of J. Henry and Victoria Ennis Whitehead)
  • Maggie M. Ricks, alphabet (1909-??, probably, daughter of Ed and Nannie Gaston Ricks)
  • Beatrice Taylor Barnes, pianist (1912-1995, daughter of Russell B. and Viola Gaither Taylor)
  • Mary Street, historian
  • Cora Miller Washington Artis, class soloist (1909-??, daughter of George W. and Cora Miller Washington)
  • Ruby Speight, critic
  • Isaac Artis
  • Sarah Virginia Thomas Bryant (1909-1992, daughter of Charles and Sarah Best Thomas)
  • Pearl Foreman
  • Cora Bell Exum Lane, class will (1908-1984, daughter of Frank and Mamie Johnson Exum)
  • Clara Battle (1908-??, daughter of Joseph and Gertrude Battle)
  • Martha Bedford Savage Lucas (1907-1965, daughter of Frank and Serena Woodard Savage)
  • Naomi Scott Edwards (1910-??, daughter of Charles and Susie Ann Jones Edwards)

As was their principal, the Colored High School’s teachers seem to have been short-term Wilson residents:

  • F. Meredith — in the 1928 Wilson city directory, duplicate entries (though the names differ slightly): 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.
  • J.E. Amos — in the 1928 Wilson city directory, Jane E. Amos, teacher, Wilson High School, 111 Pender. In the 1930 city directory, Jane E. Amos, teacher, Wilson High School, 919 Atlantic. However, in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 919 East Nash, brickmason James Russell, 42; wife Julia, 42; and daughter Annie, 7, plus lodger James E. Amos, 41, South Carolina-born school teacher. This is surely Jane E. Amos.
  • J.T. Anderson — see James F. Anderson at F. Meredith, above.
  • B.M. Davis — in the 1928 Wilson City directory, Bessie M. Davis, teacher, Wilson High School, 908 East Nash. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 913 East Green Street, teachers Ruth A. Brown, 23, of Nevada; Annie Wilson, 25, of North Carolina; Lucile Wynn, 22, of Virginia; and Bessie Davis, 28, of Washington, D.C.
  • C.F. Hunt — in the 1928 Wilson City directory, Cornelia F. Hunt, teacher, Wilson High School, 1009 East Nash. In the 1930 city directory, Cornelia F. Hunt, teacher, Wilson High School, 910 East Green. This is likely the Cornelia Frances Hunt born in 1907 in Granville County, North Carolina.

Photograph courtesy of Darden Alumni Center, Wilson.

Moral laxity and lack of interest in race.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 10 October 1931.

William Henry Alexander Howard was born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1872. He graduated from Georgia Industrial School (now Savannah State University) and taught there under the direction of Nathan B. Young. Later recruited by Young to teach at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical College in Tallahassee, Howard had a stellar 20-year career as professor of economics and sociology, Dean of Mechanical Arts, and innovator of FAMC’s military training program. In 1923, however, Young was ousted in the wake of suggestions that FAM diversify its curriculum by adding more academic courses, and Howard was appointed interim president with a mandate to crackdown on rebellious students.

It seems odd that less than five years later, Howard had fallen from the ranks of college teaching and administration and was working as a high school principal in Wilson. Perhaps his initial connection to the school was via Daniel C. Suggs, who was president of Georgia Industrial in the first decade of the 1900s.

In the 1880 census of Montgomery, Alabama: Rich. Howard, 35, domestic servant, wife Emma, 32, children Mary M., 12, Alberta E., 10, and Wm. Henry A., 8, and two other relatives.

In the 1920 census of Leon County, Florida: Wm. H.A. Howard, 47, college teacher, wife Frances, 36, and daughter Harriett, 8.

In the 1928 city directory of Wilson, William H.A. Howard is listed as principal at Wilson High School and living at 108 Pender Street.

In the 1930 census of Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina: William H. Howard, 58, public school teacher, wife Frances, 39, daughter Harriett, 19, and Samuel Gibson, 24. [Did William leave Wilson, then return? Did his wife and daughter ever live there? Or did they maintain a household in Raleigh of which William was nominally a member?]

William H.A. Howard died 16 December 1932. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 August 1871 in Columbus, Georgia, to Richard and Emma Howard; was married to Frances Howard; worked as a school teacher and high school principal; lived at 407 Reid Street; and was buried in Wilson. His daughter Harriett Howard of Raleigh was informant.