Arthur Bunyan Caldwell.

History of the American Negro and his institutions; (Volume 4) online

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Bishop B. F. Lee and was assigned to the Wakefield Mis-
sion where he remained one year. His next appointment



was the Hickory Station where he preached five years and
erected a brick house of worship at a cost of three thousand
dollars. From Hickory he went to the Bethel Station,
Charlotte, where he preached for three years, after which he
served the Lenoir charge five years and began the con-
struction of a new church edifice. In 1917 he was pro-
moted to the presiding eldership and presided over the Dur-
ham District one year. The following year he was given
the St. Joseph Station at Durham, which has prospered
under his ministry.

Rev. Cleland is a forceful and effective speaker and an
organizer. He has not identified himself with the secret
orders, nor does he undertake to carry on any outside inter-
ests, but gives himself with singleness of purpose to the full
work of the ministry.

He is a well informed man, keeping abreast of the
times through the current literature of the day, but his fa-
vorite reading next after the Bible is History. He studies
conditions among his people and seeks to lead them intelli-
gently. He believes the great need of the race may be
summed up in a few words like "education" and "oppor-
tunity," by which he means that they should have the right
sort of education and equality of opportunity with every
other citizen in every walk of life.

Rev. Cleland was married on Dec. 27, 1905, to Rosa
Etta Alexander of Hickory. They have one son, William
Alexander Cleland.

Yorke Jones

If there is a boy anywhere, who is inclined to be dis-
couraged on account of poverty, obscurity or lack or op-
portunity, he should study the life of Rev. York Jones, D. D.,
Professor of Homiletics, Church History, Rhetoric and Eng-
lish Literature at Biddle University. The story begins with
a nameless little waif "Somewhere in Virginia," and has to



do with years of loneliness and struggle up to manhood
and a place of large usefulness in the Kingdom and a posi-
tion of leadership in the race.

Yorke Jones was born somewhere near Petersburg,
Va., possibly in Chesterfield Co. It must have been early
in the sixties, since he remembers some of the closing
scenes of the war and recalls the names of such places as
City Point, Bermuda Hundred and others made historic in
those awful days. With reference to his mother, he knows
only that she was called "Aunt Caroline." His father vis-
ited them sometimes, but he has no information as to his
name or his fate.

A few things stand out clearly, however. A twin
brother died and an older brother is with him in a big room
at Hampton, Va. This must have been about the Surrender
or soon after. Next morning the brother was gone and
Yorke was alone in the world. To this good day, he does
not know when nor why the name of Jones was given him.
For a while he was cared for and taught by the Friends
who had established a school at Hampton. Later he was
transferred to an orphans' home in Philadelphia, known as
the "Shelter," and was sent from there to Burlington, N. J.
A home was found for him with a family of Friends by the
name of Pennell, near Medid, Pa., and the things he learned
and the habits he formed while under the influence of these
good people steadied and gave direction to what is recog-
nized as a life of great influence. The first date he remem-
bers in this connection is 1868. He remained with the
Pennell family till 1875 and then went to work for another

The story of his intellectual development is interest-
ing. Working in the cornfield, he gathered, as boys will,
some interesting specimens of quartz to be found in that
section. These he prized highly. Mr. Gifford noting his
interest presented him a book on geology which he still has.

Through this, the world of books began to open to
him and he was soon passionately fond of history. He was
now attending the public school three months in the year


and working on the farm the rest of the time at eight dol-
lars per month. Under the tutelage of the Friends he had
come to feel the need of an education and in January, 1877,
went to Lincoln University with $51.00 to get what he
called a "practical education," which he imagined would
require about six months. As a matter of fact, he remained
at Lincoln for eight years.

Fortunately he fell into the hands of consecrated, sym-
pathetic teachers and during the first week at college made
the great decision. He was soon confronted by the ques-
tion of what he should do in life and was led into the
ministry as a field where he could make his life count for
most. After that his way was clear. He worked through
both the College and Theological courses brilliantly and
graduated at the head of his class. His record as a student
entitled him to a position as tutor. This, with assistance
from the Board and other quarters, made him easy finan-
cially and enabled him, under the direction of one of his
teachers, to begin the nucleus of a library which has grown
with the years. While taking his Theological course he
spent his vacations in colportage work. The first was spent
in Chester, Pa., and the second at Petersburg, Va. Here
he was impressed with the opportunity for a colored Presby-
terian Church and the following year returned and started
a mission.

For a while he was employed by the Synod of Virginia
(white), but finally settled down to work out the problem at
Petersburg with the assistance of the Freedman's Board.
The Central Presbyterian Church was established and pre-
sided over by him until 1893. At that time he was called
to his present position at Biddle University, where not only
his scholarship but also his splendid Christian spirit has
been felt by hundreds of young men who have come under
his influence. Being a professor, he must be exact, and
even technical, but he is never dry for his work is shot
through with a fine spirit of evangelism, and so it comes to
pass that he teaches not only from his text books but with
his life as well.


On July 9, 1888, Dr. Jones was married to Mrs. Susan
C. Grigg of Petersburg, Va. She had five children all of
whom have been reared and educated.

Though not in the regular pastorate he preaches regu-
larly. He has attended three General Assemblies of his
church. He believes that in the last analysis the problems
confronting the race must be solved by religion.

Dr. Jones has an exceptional gift for music and while
wholly self-taught in vocal and instrumental music, has
himself taught these arts of expression to considerable ex-
tent and beyond question would have achieved much in this
field had he given his sole attention to it. His literary talent
is of an equally high order, his poem "The Slave Mother's
Song" and one of his books, "The Climbers" having been
well received. One with versatile gifts must necessarily
sacrifice a promising career in as many different directions
a? his abilities fit him to pursue, yet after all, in the min-
istry and in educational work there is opportunity to put
everything to right use and so these talents have not been
lost, but are additional opportunities for larger service.

Ezekiel Ezra Smith

That Divine Providence that permitted the coming of
the first ship load of Africans to America has continually
watched over the destinies of this race. That there should
arise types of brilliant and commanding leaders in a signifi-
cant expression of the promise of a race which after 300
years numbers one-tenth of the population of America and
has already given to the world stars of the first magni-
tude in medicine, law, music, painting, oratory, literature,
business, the school room and statesmanship.

When Ezekiel Ezra Smith was born May 23, 1852 there
arose a star of the first magnitude in the aspiration and


inspiration which was destined to illuminate the youth of
the colored race and make a record in the annals of our
country's history. That some are born great and some
achieve it and others have greatness thrust upon them may
beyond a doubt be summed up in the above life. The star
of this interesting character saw the light of this world
68 years ago in Duplin Co., N. C. And that he was born
with aspiration has been evidenced in his earliest efforts
at self support, for his father, Alexander Smith, and his
mother Catherine Smith, permitted this promising youth to
attend night school at Wilmington, walking three milss
each night. And at twelve years of age we see him work-
ing at 25 cents a day and by skill, tact, diligence and per-
sistence, he not only rose to $12.00 per week, but in obedi-
ence to that Divine Law which says "Seest thou a man dili-
gent in his business he shall stand before kings," has been
fully and with distinction realized in this exceptional and
brilliant life.

It may be of interest to note that his paternal grand-
mother was brought direct from Africa and the imagina-
tion naturally would interpret the beautiful Divine plan
which has so wonderfully unfolded itself in the leadership
of one so useful and potential in bearing fruit not only in
America but in its direct effect upon the Dark Continent
which young Smith was destined to illuminate with a life
so pregnant of the best in statesmanship and diplomacy in
later years.

At least one of the great factors in shaping the life
of any man is marriage. Twice married Dr. Ezekiel Ezra
Smith has been a fortunate man each time. His first
choice was Willie A. Burnett, the gifted daughter of Dolly
and John Burnett, to whom he was married in 1875. To
this marriage God has given one son, a physician of promi-
nence of Newport News, Va., Dr. E. E. Smith, Jr. Dr.
Smith's first wife died in 1907. She was a woman of greal
discretion, tact and ability and nobly assisted her distin-
guished husband in his early struggles and his rise to a
commanding position in private and public life. His sec-


ond wife, now livng, was Nannie Louise Goode of Vance
Co.. to whom he was married in 1908. Educated at Ben-
nett College, the second Mrs. Smith is a teacher of ability,
a good executive and disciplinarian and though compara-
tively a young woman has measured up as a refined, cul-
tured, attractive and beautiful wife who has shouldered
much of her great husband's varied responsibilities. Their
lives have been successfully, harmoniously and beautifully
blended into that constant success so characteristic of the
subject of this sketch.

Dr. Smith's education beginning at Wilmington, N. C,
in a night school, and a High School at Goldsboro, N. C,
was completed at Shaw University, where he received the
A. B. degree in 1878 and Ph. D. in 1892. We would use
the word completed advisedly, for Dr. Smith, like all suc-
cessful students, has been all these years a student gather-
ing culture and breadth of mind by contact with everything
he touched. Associated with some of the greatest leaders,
like Dr. Henry Martin Tupper, with whom he toured in
many sections of the North, with the Shaw Jubilee sing-
ers in raising funds for building the early work at Shaw.
Later he was associated with some of the most brilliant
educators, like Dr. E. A. Alderman, the present great head
of the University of Virginia, who at that time presided
over the public schools of Goldsboro. Dr. Smith has trav-
eled in America and Europe and Africa, hence his opportun-
ity constantly added to his varied stock of training. He
has made a special study of philosophy and Biblical Culture
and this has been ever the secret of noble mind. His life's
work has been teaching and preaching. Having begun his
first work as teacher in Wayne Co. at 17 years he has con-
tinued almost constantly in the school room since in the
capacity of pupil or teacher. He came to Fayetteville as
head of the State Normal School in 1883. Having taught
five years he was appointed by President Cleveland to the
post as Resident Minister and Consul General to the Re-
public of Liberia in 1888. Successfully holding this posi-
tion as a diplomat he returns to his home country after


three years and resumes his work as Principal of the State
Normal School, Fayetteville, N. C.

As a member of the Baptist Church he has been not
only prominent and active for long years but has been
President of the Baptist State Convention, a member of
Executive Board of Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention,
and Moderator of Union Association. In all of these posi-
tions he has been a constructive force in molding men and
women as he has so successfully wrought in the school
room all these years.

Dr. Smith is not only the embodiment of culture and
progressive education, but is the ideal in courteous chivalry
.and gentlemanly deportment. Wherever he appears his life
-abounds in sunshine, hope and inspiration. Beautiful in
personality and well featured even to the attractive he was
•compared by the great Dr. Tupper when Shaw conferred
the degree of Ph. D. on him as having a head like Gen.
Banks. It is not fulsome praise to state that whenever he
-appears he becomes the center of interest and attraction
like all great leaders, there is something unusual and sub-
lime in his makeup.

Dr. Smith volunteered under the leadership of Col.
J. H. Young in the Spanish-American War, with the 3rd
N. C. Regiment. He was made Reg. Adj. with rank of
"Capt., and was again given leave of absence from his school
until the close of the war.

He again returns to school work and assumes the head
of the State Normal School at Fayetteville, where he has
wrought with rare success as one of the foremost educators
of the South. The Fayetteville Normal School has made
history in the educational life of the State under his ad-

We close the brief sketch of one of the most useful
citizens, brilliant teachers, successful diplomats, loyal and
gallant soldiers, popular, liberal and broad-minded Chris-
tian gentleman, successful pastor and business man that
North Carolina has produced.

Dr. Smith was converted in 1870, called to preach in


1879, ordained by State Convention of which he afterwards,
became President. His longest and most successful pas-
torate was with the First Baptist Church, Fayetteville„
which he served six years. Dr. Smith, as a business man,
pays more taxes than any man of color in Cumberland Co.
His school plant, the State Normal is worth $90,000, faculty
11, and 500 pupils enrolled.

James Jonas Scarlett

Occasionally one finds in the States a minister or a
doctor who has taken his place among the colored people
of his communit}' and who has lifted himself to a position
of influence and leadership, who is not a native of the
States. The British West Indies have contributed a num-
ber of intelligent and successful men to the professions of
the South. One of these Rev. James Jonas Scarlett, a
prominent Baptist preacher of Greensboro, is a native of
Jamaica, having been born in the Hanover Parish, County
Cornwall, about 1873. His father, Alexander Scarlett, was
a farmer. His mother's name was Dorothy. His paternal
grandparents were James and Rebecca Scarlett. On the
maternal side his grandparents were James and Anna

Young Scarlett grew up on the farm in the beautiful
mountain section of his native island, and when he came
of school age attended the government, or as we would say,
the public schools. He went to a private High School and
also studied engineering. He was an apt student and
taught for a couple of years before coming to the States.

After his conversion he joined the Baptist Church and
in 1894 felt called to preach the gospel. He was not or-
dained to the full work of the ministry until after he
came to the States. On coming over he landed at Balti-
more and later came South. He spent three years at Shaw



University doing Literary and Theological work. He had
planned to study medicine, but on reaching the University
he finally decided to devote his life to religious and edu-
cational work. The measure of success which has attended
his efforts would indicate that he made no mistake. He
taught in the Kinston Graded School for five years and at
Greenville for two years. He also taught near Washing-
ton, N. C, for a while.

It is as a minister of the Gospel, however, that he is
best known. His first pastorate was at James City, where'
he preached for two years. After that he served the First
Baptist Church of Fayetteville ten years and three months.
The church was remodeled during his pastorate and the
membership built up. In 1918 he accepted the call of the
Providence church at Greensboro, where he has since re-
sided. Speaking of the factors which have mogj largely in-
fluenced his life he refers to the example of Mr. Charles
E. B. Gooden, who was his teacher for a number of years.

Retaining, as he does, his English citizenship, he take^-
no active part in local politics. He belongs to the Masons,
and is a member of Love and Charity. - He owns both farm
and city property.

On Dec. 26, 1912, he was married to Mamie L. Rhodes,
of Dallas, N. C. She was educated at Lincoln Academy,
King's Mountain, and is an accomplished teacher. She
taught in Gastonia City Public Schools for ten or twelve
years and was given up by both the patrons and officials.
very reluctantly. She bears the highest recommendation
from the Gaston Co. School officials. She also made a fine
record as a teacher in the Fayetteville City Schools during
her husband's pastorate in that city. Rev. and Mrs. Scar-
lett have three children. They are : Mamie, James and!
Partia. The last two are twins.

William Henry Bryant

Dr. William Henry Bryant, one of the young physicians
of Goldsboro, was born Christmas day in the little city of
Wilson. His father, the late Fisher Bryant, was a laborer,
and his mother, who has also passed away was, before her
marriage, Martha Ruffin. She was a daughter of David
and Phoebe Ruffin. His paternal grandmother was Mary
Jane Bryant.

Early in life, young Bryant caught inspiration from one
of his teachers and though confronted with serious diffi-
culty in getting an education forged straight ahead and has
worked out a measure <of succes which his parents would
scarcely have considered possible. When he came of school
age, he attended the local public school at Wilson and passed
from there to St. Augustine at Raleigh, where he studied
for four years. He then enjoyed the superior advantages
of the Boston High School for two years and after that
went to what is known as the A. & T. College at Greensboro
for four years, leaving with the B. S. degree in 1911. He
had discovered a method of making money out of the Pull-
man service and in 'hotel work at the North during each va-
cation to carry him through the succeeding school year
without going into debt. His work in the Pullman service
gave him a splendid opportunity to see every part of the
United States and parts of Mexico. When ready for his
medical course, he matriculated at Leonard Medical College,
where he remained through the Junior year. He then en-
tered Meharry College at Nashville and was graduated with
the M. D. degree in 1915. He was a popular student and
an enthusiastic football player. After graduation he lo-
cated at Henderson, where he practiced for a little less than
a year. He then went to the army training camp and was
commissioned a First Lieutenant in the Medical Reserve
Corps and went over seas, remaining in France eleven


On his return to the States in the spring of 1919, Dr.
Bryant located at Goldsboro where he has steadily built up
a good practice. He is not specializing but does a general
practice in and around that city.

He is a member of the Episcopal Church. He has ob-
served conditions among his people both North and South
and believes that the great need of the Negro race today is
a spirit of co-operation.

Sidney Houston Witherspoon

Rev. Sidney Houston Witherspoon of West Raleigh is
one of those rare, and singularly blest, human beings whose
entire lives have been dominated by the spiritual forces.
He was born May 2, 1860, and while his parents and entire
ancestry so far back as he can trace it were slaves before
Emancipation they were respectable, thrifty and deeply re-
ligious. His father, Thomas Witherspoon, was reared as a
butler in the home of his master. After the war he turned
to farming and was also a noted cook. He organized the
first colored Sunday School in Wake Co. The mother of
our subject, Rachel Witherspoon, was likewise pious and
deeply anxious that he should consecrate himself to the
ministry. His paternal grandparents were Benjamin and
Lucinda Lee, and the maternal grandparents Samuel and
Amanda Bass, of partly Indian descent. At the age of
nine young Witherspoon was really converted, and joined
the Shiloh Baptist Church when a few years older.

He was about of school age when the first schools be-
gan to open for colored children, and received his primary
education at "Tupper's School," now Shaw University. Like
practically all of the poor but ambitious boys of his race,
his school work was much interrupted so that it was not
until 1886 that he graduated from the Theological Depart-
ment of Shaw University. The little school had grown into
an important educational institution and the small boy,
whose determination to fit himself for the ministry had



enlisted the sympathy and help of Dr. H. M. Tupper, had
already begun his career as a preacher and accepted a call
to Galilee Baptist Church Johnson Co., and Lee's Cross
Roads in Wake Co.

From that time forward the increase in the volume
and importance of his work has been steady. He pastored
Malaby's Cross Roads and the First Baptist Church, Ober-
lin, West Raleigh. In 1887 he resigned from Oberlin to ac-
cept a call of the First Baptist Church at Asheville, where
he remained five years going thence to the charge at the
First Baptist Church of Greensboro. Here his labors were
especially fruitful in awakening revivals and hundreds of
converts. In order to better expound the word he studied
hard in addition to his other labors, almost to the sacrifice
of his health. In 1898 he went to Ebenezer Baptist Church
at Charlotte for nine years. Here his work was most ardu-
ous, but in five years he had succeeded not only in enlarg-
ing the membership of the congregation but in cancelling
a debt of more than five thousand dollars.

For five years he served the Baptist Educational and
Missionary Convention, first as District Missionary and then
as General Missionary and Corresponding Secretary. He
was then called back to pastoral work, serving Laurinburg
First Baptist Church from 1910 to 1912, then returning to
the Oberlin Baptist Church. Smaller churches under his
care include Galilee Johnson Co., Holly Springs Wake Co.,
Gray's Creek, Cumberland 'Co. and Stokes Chapel in Nash
Co. From 1916 to 1919 Dr. Witherspoon had charge of the
Bible Training Department of the Laurinburg Industrial In-
stitute, but was compelled to give up the latter by reason
of pastoral duties that involved so much hard work and
long travel. Since 1909 he has been Corresponding Secre-
tary to the Baptist Ministers Union of South Carolina.

It will thus be seen that Dr. Witherspoon belongs to
that noble galaxy of men who carved their way despite ad-
versity and blazed a trail that will ever be an inspiration
to those who wish to combine unselfish service with a trained
mentality to make it of far reaching effect. In recognition


of his distinguished abilities Shaw University conferred
upon him the degree of D. D. in 19C7 and as a member of
the secret orders he has been given offices that are both
exacting and enviable. He belongs to the Masons, the
Grand Lodge of North Carolina; the Royal Arch and
Knights Templar.

On December 8, 1886, he was married to Mary M.
Mangum, a daughter of Samuel and Ellen Mangum of Wake

(Note.) — Since the above was written Dr. Witherspoon
has been called to his reward. He passed away on Sept. 30,
1920. He lived to the day of his death a faithful, true and
devoted husband, a consistent Christian and a tried and true
pastor. The last Sunday of his life work was spent at

Online LibraryArthur Bunyan CaldwellHistory of the American Negro and his institutions; (Volume 4) → online text (page 15 of 48)