World War II

Bell hops at the Hotel Cherry.

In 1991, front desk clerk turned newspaper man Roy G. Taylor (1918-1995) self-published a memoir of his years working in Wilson. Though tinged with the casual racism of the time, My City, My Home offers fascinating glimpses of Wilson in the World War II era.

Here are excerpts:

“Anyway, [hotel owner J.T. Barnes] had a suite on the mezzanine floor, 221 and 223. And Jesse Knight was his personal servant and also a bell hop. Lessie, Jesse’s wife, had worked for the Barnes family.” p. 9

“The roster of bell hops at the Cherry in the 1940s included Jesse Knight, whom I mentioned earlier; Ruel Bullock; Henry Potter, Robert Haskins, Clarence Holly, Fred Artis, Peacock (the only name he was called by), Louis Hines and “Rent” Gay, Uncle Charlie’s son. Uncle Charlie was old and had a stiff leg and he went around with a feather mop, dusting off things, and he loved whisky better than most men love women.

“… Henry was a large man and rather lazy acting. When he wasn’t busy he would sit in the lobby in a rather slouchy position, but jumped up hurriedly when the bell sounded. And he was the best one about going for the mail. But I’d have to say Henry was the ‘densest’ one of the crowd.

“Ruel was of light skin, and a rather handsome man. He was a family man and had 10 children. He worked during the day, as did Henry.

“Robert was dark-skinned and a rather tall, large man and he was a little more serious than most of the men. Robert worked mostly the day shift also but would work at night if it became necessary.

“Clarence was a night man. And talk about sly! He was something else. Of course, all the boys were sly, although all of them were always courteous to the desk people and all were ready to do whatever was asked of them. I never remember any of the bell hops being disrespectfuil while I was there.

“Fred Artis was a tall, thin man and he could swing from day to night duty. And Fred is still around. He is employed by the Arts Council of Wilson.

“Peacock always worked nights. He was the head night man. Peacock was nice too, and he looked after the guests. But he was a sly one too.

“Louis was a tall, well-built man that had a lot of charisma. ‘Rent’ was also thin and tall and very neat in appearance and as I recall, he worked mostly at night also.” pp. 29-30

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  • Jesse Knight — Jessie Knight was an Edgecombe County native. When he registered for the World War II draft, he listed his employer as J.T. Barnes.

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  • Lessie Knight — Lessie Locus Knight.
  • Ruel Bullock — Ruel Bulluck was an Edgecombe County native. He married Louise Missouri Jones, daughter of Charles T. and Gertrude Johnson Jones, on 10 December 1930 in Wilson. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 412 Viola, owned and valued at $2000; Charles Jones, 61, janitor at Vick School; wife Gertrude, 59, a tobacco factory stemmer; daughter Ruth Plater, 35, divorced, teacher; grandsons Torrey S., 12, and Charles S. Plater, 11; son-in-law Ruel Bullock, 35, a hotel bellboy; daughter Louise, 30; grandsons Jacobia, 7, Robert, 6, Harold, 4, and Rudolph, 7 months; and granddaughter Barbara Jones, 6.

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  • Henry Potter — John Henry Potter was a native of Aurora, Beaufort County. In the 1925 city directory, Henry Potter, bellman, is listed at 719 East Green. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1210 Atlanta [Atlantic] Street, hotel bellboy John Potter, 40; wife Ruth, 28; and daughter Ruth, 9 months.
  • Robert Haskins — Robert Douglas Haskins was the son of Robert and Gertrude Haskins. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Robert Haskins, 55, drug company salesman; wife Gertrude, 48; and children Mandy, 36; Elizabeth, 33, cook; Estelle, 29, beauty shop cleaner; Robert D. Jr., 29, hotel kitchen worker; Lossie, 24, N.Y.A. stenographer; and Thomas, 20, barbershop shoeblack; plus granddaughter Delores, 15, and lodger Henry Whitehead, 21.
  • Clarence Holly — Clarence Virgo Holley was a Bertie County native. He registered for the World War II in 1940 in Wilson. Clarence Holley died 4 May 1964 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 May 1919 in Bertie County to William Holley and Molly Smallwood; operated a shoeshine parlor; and lived at 300 North East Street. Informant was Elma Holley.

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  • Fred Artis — Probably Fred Artis Jr., who was the son of Fred and Mattie Lewis Artis.
  • “Peacock” — Levi Harry Peacock was the son of Levi H. and Hannah Polk Peacock. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 204 Vick Street, hotel bellboy Levi Peacock, 30; wife Elouise, 28, a public school teacher; children Jewel D., 4, and Thomas L., 14; and mother-in-law Etta Reaves, 50, post office maid.

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  • Louis Hines — Probably Louis Hines Jr. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 303 Elba Street, Eva Hines, 50, household servant; son Charlie, 21, yard boy; and daughter Henrietta, 13, shared a household with Louis Hines Jr., 21, whiskey storage loader; wife Dolly M., 19, tobacco stemmer; and daughter Martha L., 6 months.
  • “Rent” Gay — Edgar Reynold Gay was the son of Charles B. and Ella Tate Gay.

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[Sidenote: perhaps someone can clarify what “sly” meant in the usage of the day? — LYH]

Herbert Reid, Harvard Law, Class of ’45.

More on Herbert O. Reid, Wilson-born scholar and civil rights attorney.

HERBERT O. REID

IN THE FIELD of constitutional law and in the protection of civil rights, Herbert O. Reid, who died on Friday at the age of 75, stood out. Because of Dr. Reid, a brilliant professor and former acting dean of the Howard University Law School, thousands of men and women across the country share a common vision of the majesty of the Constitution and the workability of America.

Except for his first year as a Howard Law School professor in 1947, when he said he learned more from his students than he taught them, Herb Reid had a major hand in producing a host of this country’s most distinguished lawyers, public officials and judges. Many served with him during the decades of the 1950s and 1960s as legal guardians of the civil rights movement. But unlike many legal scholars, Dr. Reid was as comfortable in the courtroom and in the backroom of politics as he was in the classroom. Everywhere he landed, he became a pivotal figure. He took on the exclusion of New York Rep. Adam Clayton Powell from the House of Representatives in 1967 and won a U.S. Supreme Court victory two years later. School segregation in America fell before him and a handful of lawyers from the Howard Law School faculty and the NAACP who participated in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education and the companion desegregation cases for the District of Columbia. They carried the day in court, in part, because of the preparation and the dry runs that took place under Herb Reid’s drilling in the basement of the law school.

Dr. Reid was always on call for rescue operations. Sixteen years ago, when the board of education was mired down in the firing of yet another school superintendent, it was he who took on the excruciatingly difficult role of hearing officer and, with a degree of incisiveness and dignity, helped end that long ordeal for the city. It was that sense of duty to the city and his friends from the movement that led Dr. Reid to serve as former mayor Marion Barry’s personal counsel and then as a member of that administration. Without Herb Reid’s being there, friends say, it could have been even worse.

A graduate of Harvard law school himself, Dr. Reid frequently spoke lovingly and longingly about the “golden age” of the Howard Law School — the period in the 1940s and early 1950s, when distinguished faculty worked with students and other lawyers on the major civil rights issues of the time. Herbert Reid was a central part of it all.

Washington Post, 17 June 1991.

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On 16 October 1940, Reid registered for the World War II draft at the Harvard University precinct in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

12-8-1945

New York Age, 8 December 1945.

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New York Age, 12 July 1947.

U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

In observance of Veterans Day.

3-21-1911

Wilson Daily Times, 21 March 1911.

On 12 June 1866, Richard Pate married Rebecca Daniel in Wayne County.

In the 1870 census of Goldsboro township, Wayne County: farm laborer Richard Pate, 37, wife Becky, 32, and daughter Polly, 12. [Next door was a household headed by white farmer Brtant Pate, 48, and nearby were other white Pates. Perhaps Richard’s former owner was one.]

In the 1880 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: Richard Pate, 36, wife Rebecca, 36, and daughter(?) Trecinda, 3.

In the 1900 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: farmer Richard Pate, 59, and wife Rebecca, 57.

In the 1910 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: farmer Richard Pate, 74, wife Rebecca, 72, and grandchildren Louis Daniel, 30, Roscoe Barnes, 12, and Leanne Barnes, 10.

Richard Pate died 21 March 1915 in Crossroads township. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1855, worked as a farmer, and was buried in the Pete Daniels graveyard. William H. Pate was informant.

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3-14-1919

Wilson Daily Times, 14 March 1919.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: printing office laborer Charlie Thomas, 49, wife Sarah, 44, and children Elton, 20, hack driver, Lizzie, 18, carpenter (?), Louis, 15, Hattie M., 11, Mary, 5, and Sarah, 18 months. Elton Thomas died 15 December 1970 in Goldsboro, aged 79.

Dave Barnes was the son of Dave and Della Hines Barnes. He died 12 May 1966 at the Veterans Hospital in Durham, North Carolina.

John Parker Battle was the son of Parker and Ella Burston Battle. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: foundry laborer Parker Battle, 54, wife Ella, and children Roberta, 24, a teacher, Grace, 22, a factory laborer, and John, 19.

Charlie Austin was, in fact, Charles Alston. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: day laborer James H. Alston, 29, wife Martha, 28, and children Eula Lee, 6, and Charley, 4. Charles S. Alston eventually migrated to Newark, New Jersey, where he was living when he registered for the draft of World War II.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Richard Parker, 73, wife Lottie, 71, daughter Elizabeth, 27, son David, 28, and grandchildren Moses, 10, and William Henry, 8.

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World War I draft registration card of Moses Parker.

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8-2-1919

News & Observer (Raleigh), 2 August 1919.

Charles Barnes was the son of Wesley and Ella Mercer Barnes. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on the N.&S. Railroad, drayman West Barnes, 22, wife Ella, 47, laundress, and children Sylvester, 17, drayman, Viola, 15, cook, and Charlie, 13, laborer at wholesale store, plus son-in-law James Watson, 23, drayman, wife Lucy, 22, cook, and children West, 4, and Lucy, 3 months. Charlie Barnes died of tuberculosis at an Army hospital in Asheville.

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New York Age, 8 August 1942.

Matthew Stanley Gilliam Jr. was the son of Dr. Matthew and Annie Davis Gilliam.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: filling station attendant Herman Gilliam, 20; his widowed mother Annie, 48, a cook in a private home; and brothers Charles, 28, a waiter at Cherry Hotel, Stanley, 26, a teacher, and George, 22, a janitor at Carolina Theatre.

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World War II draft registration card of Matthew S. Gilliam.

M.S. Gilliam died of a heart attack at a Veterans Administration hospital in Petersburg, Virginia, on 7 March 1978. He was 64 years old.

U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.