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William Eugene Partee



Rev. William Eugene Partee, A. B., A. M., D. D., who
for seven years has had the chair of systematic Theology
rat Biddle University, brings to bear on his work not only
the learning of the schools but also years of experience
.-as a successful pastor and practical educator. He is a native
•of the old town of Concord, where he was born just before
the outbreak of the war on Dec. 19, 1860.

Dr. Partee bears the name of his step-father, Samuel
A. Partee, who was by trade a tanner. His mother's name
before her marriage was Trenton Foard. She was a daugh-
ter of Isaac and Mary Ann Harris.

Coming of school age just after the war when the
•public school system was in its infancy, young Partee at-
tended the Parochial School at Concord and there laid the
foundation of his education. He was under the necessity




WILLIAM EUGENE PARTEE



NORTH CAROLINA EDITION 359

of working his way during his early school days. Later
he was awarded a scholarship after which the way was
easier. From Concord he passed to the preparatory depart-
ment of Biddle University as student. At the age of six-
teen he was converted, which changed the whole course of
his life. Deciding to take up the work of the gospel minis-
try the determined to equip himself for his life work. On
completion of his preparatory course at Biddle, he entered
upon the college course and won his A. B. degree in 1881.
Three years later, he was graduated from the Theological
department with the B. D. degree. Later in recognition
«of his attainments his Alma Mater conferred on him the
•degree of A. M. and later still the degree of D. D.

Since his graduation the years have been filled with
service as a teacher and preacher. His principal work has
"been in his native state, in Virginia and in Florida. His
pastorates have included Concord, N. C, Gainesville, Fla.,
Jacksonville, Fla., Richmond, Va., and, Lynchburg, Va.
Along with his pastoral work he also taught while at Gaines-
ville and Jacksonville, Fla. Such was the record he had
made in both lines of work that when in 1912 a vacancy
occurred in the chair of Systematic Theology at Biddle Uni-
versity, he was called to the position which he has since
filled with credit to himself and to the satisfaction of his
Board and patrons as well.

On July 15, 1886, Dr. Partee was married to Miss Edith
I. Smith, a daughter of William D. and Martha E. Smith.
Of the eight children born to them six are living. They
•are William E. Jr., Fannie H., Marion D., Harold S., LeRoy
D., and Arthur A. Partee. In 1900 Mrs. Partee passed to
her reward and the Doctor has not again married.

Dr. Partee has not recently been active in the secret
orders nor has he been active in politics. Naturally his
principal reading is along Theological lines, but he also
finds inspirational and biographical books helpful. With
reference to the progress of the race, he speaks out of a
varied experience stretching over a period of years and
believes that progress is to be promoted, "By Christian cul-



360 HISTORY AMERICAN NEGRO

ture, vocational training as well as higher education and
a proper regard for all that goes to make worthy citizens of
a great Republic."



James Elmer Dellinger



Dr. James Elmer Dellinger of Greensboro will be re-
membered as a highly endowed man of imposing presence.
He is unusually tall and of fine appearance. It was not
his lot to attend any of the great universities of America
and the world, but he can take care of himself before any
audience or in company of the most cultured before whom
he is frequently called to appear.

Dr. Dellinger is not only successful in the practice of
his chosen profession but is public spirited and is active
in many ways in his town and State. He was born at
Lowesville, N. C., on Nov. 3, 1862. His father Jas. Monroe
Dellinger was a farm cropper and ordinary laborer. His.
mother was, before her marriage, Miss Belzie Nance. His
father's parents were Cato and Delia Moore and his mother's
parents, Cephas Hargroves of pronounced French extrac-
tion and Anne Johnson. He came up a poor boy, and worked
on the farm until crops were laid by and then he would get
other work so as to enable himself to go to school as op-
portunity might offer him. He worked at the small wage
of ten dollars a month, and after saving up thirty dollars,,
entered school. He attended the public schools, then the
private school and finally finished his course of study at
the State Normal School at Salisbury and received his di-
ploma in 1886. He then matriculated at the Medical De-
partment of Shaw University at Raleigh. The course of
study at Shaw was of four years but by dint of hard study
and splendid ability he graduated in three years and re-
ceived his diploma with the degree of M. D. He was upon,
graduation appointed physician to the, Leonard Medical
Hospital which place he held with credit to himself and:




JAMES ELMER DELLINGER



362 HISTORY AMERICAN NEGRO

signal service to the students of the school and the citizens
of Raleigh. He serves also as Trustee of the Board gov-
erning the University. He took a special course at Harvard
University. After practicing his profession for a while at
Raleigh he decided to move to Greensboro where he at once
began to meet with success in his chosen profession and
where now he has a lucrative practice.

When the Spanish American War broke out, Gov. Rus-
sell honored the colored men of the State by giving them a
regiment. Dr. Dellinger was commissioned in this regiment
Chief Surgeon with the rank of Major, and as usual he ac-
quitted himself with credit.

Dr. Dellinger is a recognized leader in the State in
many ways. He is a Republican in politics and has been
honored on several occasions by being sent to various State
and National Conventions. He is a member of the Baptist
Church and has always held some important office in his
church. He is now a Trustee. He is a familiar figure at
the various religious gatherings both in and out of the
State and in all denominations. His service as Superin-
tendent of the Sunday School covered a period of twenty
consecutive years. He is held in high esteem by all who
know him, and his friends have prevailed on him to accept
many positions of trust and honor. He is also identified
with the leading secret orders such as, the Masons, the
Eastern Star and the Pythians, in all of which he is promi-
nent.

Dr. Dellinger's idea of the greatest need of the race
is that of race leadership. He knows that the great masses
are ignorant and poor, and in a very helpless condition, but
he feels that with proper leaders the race will soon over-
come the disadvantages. He cites the fact that the great
masses of the white race are not educated, but the white
race believes in a prepared and consecrated leadership, and
the result is that the Anglo-Saxon race leads the world.
He attributes their place in the world to leadership, and
he pleads for a trained leadership for the Negro race and
he thinks the problem will no longer annoy and affright



NORTH CAROLINA EDITION 363

the people of this country. He believes in educational lead-
ership, but also consecrated leadership.

Dr. Dellinger has been greatly impressed in his life
by reading religious books like Pilgrims Progress and the
Bible and the result is that he takes a sober view of the
practical problems of life. Although his parents were poor
and for the most part uneducated, still they took pains to
teach their son James Elmer all they knew of the require-
ments of true manhood and they handed down some heredity
that no doubt constituted their principal asset. He is an
illustration of what a poor boy can do if he makes up his
mind to be a real man.

Dr. Dellinger was married on Sept. 12, 1894, to Miss
Gertrude Camilla Farrer, a daughter of Jesse and Amanda
Farrer of Charlotteville, Va. One child was born to them,
but it did not survive, and his wife did not' live long. He
then met Miss Lizzie B. Pentecost at Macon, Georgia, while
his regiment was in camp near that city and their acquaint-
ance ripened into love .and they were happily married April
1, 1890, but their life has been childless. Dr. Dellinger
has been in poor health in recent years but he still serves
the people with much satisfaction.



William Franklin Witherspoon



As one moves among the colored people of the Old
North State, he is impressed not only with the number of
the A. M. E. Zion Churches and members, but also with the
strength and efficiency of their leadership. It is one of
the most hopeful signs of the times, that the great de-
nominations are emphasizing the matter of efficient leader-
ship. More than that, the biggest and best churches are
coming more and more to demand intelligence as well as
zeal. Among the men of the denomination who have strug-
gled up from privation and obscurity into the sunshine of
success, none have a more thrilling story than Rev. William



WILLIAM FRANKLIN WITHERSPOON



NORTH CAROLINA EDITION 365

Franklin Witherspoon, B. D. now (1919) stationed at New-
bern, which is one of the best appointments in the Connec-
tion.

He is a native of the neighboring state of South Caro-
lina, having been born at Rock Hill on June 19, 1875. Hi
father, Richard Witherspoon, who still survives (1919) is
a successful farmer. His mother, who before her marriage,
was Louisa Roddey, has passed to her reward. On the
paternal side Mr. Witherspoon's grandparents were Jennie
Witherspoon and Cornelius Pelham. On the maternal side
there is a strain of Indian blood.

Young Witherspoon grew up on the York Co. farm
and recalls vividly the poverty and the hardships of those
early years when he was willing to do any amount of hard
work, practice any sort of selfdenial and undergo any sort
of privation in order that he might go to school.

He went first to the rural schools, then to Clinton Col-
lege at Rock Hill, after that to Lancaster Normal and In-
dustrial and to Livingstone College. Only those who have
found it necessary to piece together an education in this way
can understand the meaning of those years. Yet they have
borne fruit in the life of Dr. Witherspoon and have enabled
him to sympathize with every struggling youth.

When he first aspired to an education, his father op-
posed his plans. He prayed that the Lord would open the
heart of his father. And he did. School was seven miles
away so the boy walked fourteen miles a day, so anxious
was he for an education. The following year he worked like
a Trojan and in the fall had three bales of cotton. After
clearing up his expenses, he had $29.00 left. His father's
landlord learning of this claimed it in settlement of debts.
Again the boy prayed. Again the way opened up and he
started to school at Lancaster. He found some wood to be
chopped two miles away and tackled the job with such vigor
that he soon had ten cords cut. His strength and determin-
ation grew with each victory won. He graduated well up
in his class, but was in debt for the suit which he wore at
the time. Immediately after graduation he went bravely



366 HISTORY AMERICAN NEGRO

to work to pay for the suit. About that time he was called
to the pastorate of the Heath Springs Church and his ca-
reer as a preacher began. Not yet content, however, with
his equipment he continued to read and study and after be-
ing transferred to North -Carolina and getting into the regu-
lar pastorate went to school at Livingston College where he
studied for six years while making full time as a pastor.
It must be remembered that for a part of this time he was
preaching as far away from Salisbury as Hamlet.

He joined the Conference at Lancaster in 1902 under
the late Bishop Hood. His first appointment was the Heath
Springs Circuit which he served for two years and improved
the church property. From there he went to Concord and
preached at the Price Memorial for one year. His next
appointment was the Monroe Circuit which he served three
years. The Union Springs Church was built while he was
on this work. He was then sent to the Norwood Station
for four years and built a new house of worship. From
Norwood, he went to Maxton for a pastorate of three years
and built two churches on the circuit and repaired the one in
the city. He then went to Hamlet for one year and while
there paid $562.49 of the $1100.00 debt on the church. His
next appointment was to Salisbury which gave him the
long desired opportunity of completing his Theological
course. He remained on that work for four years and went
from there to his present work at Newbern in 1917. Here
a debt of $6000.00 has been discharged and the whole work
made to prosper under his administration.

On Dec. 23, 1903, Dr. Witherspoon was married to Miss
Ada Pickett of Rock Hill. They have six children. Their
names are William F. Jr., Roberta E., Richard A., Whittier
C, Elizabeth C, and Eva C. Witherspoon. The last two
are twins.

Dr. Witherspoon holds membership in the Masons and
Odd Fellows. He was a delegate to the General Conference
in Charlotte in 1912 and to the 1920 General Conference at
Knoxville.

/



NORTH CAROLINA EDITION 367

When asked how in his opinion the best interests of
the race are to be promoted he replied, "By better educa-
tional facilities and more efficient teachers."



William Ellerbee



In the midst of much noise and in the presence of mul-
tiplied organizations, it is well to pause and consider the
life and work of a quiet but effective old soldier of the cross
like Rev. William Ellerbee of Raleigh. The race owes much
to men like him who through the years have stood for
righteousness. He is a native of Richmond, Va., where he
was born Oct. 21, 1853. His father was Albert Garnett and
his mother Marian Bowen. When the boy was three months
old, he and both parents were sold. The father and mother
were sold apart, but the baby boy and his mother went to-
gether. They never saw the husband and father again.
The mother and baby were brought to Richmond Co. North
Carolina where he grew up. During the war when he was
ten years of age, his mother passed away and. the boy was
left entirely alone in the world. After Emancipation he
continued to work on the farm. On Jan. 15, 1874 he was
married to Miss Mary Graham, a daughter of Caroline and
Handy Graham. They have seven living children: Eugene,
Luther, Estella, Alice, Clingman, Julia and William Ellerbee.
Three children, Percy, Benjamin and Minnie have passed
away.

The year following his marriage, Mr. Ellerbee was con-
verted and three years later felt called to the work of the
Gospel ministry. In 1891 he was ordained by the Pine
Grove Church and has since been active as a preacher. As
he was about to enter upon his work he was made to feel
the need of better preparation for his life work. Three
children had come into the home and the family was to
be supported on the small wages then prevailing. Notwith-
standing this, he entered Shaw University and spent three




WILLIAM ELLERBEE



NORTH CAROLINA EDITION 369

years at that institution under difficulties. Beginning to
preach even before he was ordained, he has had long pas-
torates and has been blessed with a fruitful ministry. He
preached at Pleasant Grove one year. His next church was
Mt. Moriah which he served for fourteen years. In fact he
organized this church with a membership of seven which
grew to eighty five. A house of worship was erected. He
also preached for a good while at his old home church, Wake
Baptist Grove. After building a new house there, it was
wrecked by a storm and another house was built on the
same site. He preached at Juniper Level eighteen years,
repaired the building and added three hundred to the mem-
bership while there. He pastored St. Amanda in Johnson
Co. nine years and Oak City Church at Method twenty three
years. At the latter place, he built twice. He also erected
a new church at East Durham where he preached for six
years. At Piney Grove in Granville Co. he repaired the
church and preached for twelve years. He is now repairing
the church at Tallaho in the same county where he has pas-
tored for eight years. He is now in his sixth year et Mt.
Vernon, Granville Co. and has repairs under way there
also. He has preached at Rogers Grove for nineteen years
and built a church. For many years he was Moderator of
the Johnson Baptist Association and is still a member of
the Executive Committee. Throughout his life Rev. Ellerbe
has held to the principle of truthfulness and fair dealing
with every body and in his own experience has tried to
apply the Golden Rule. His reading is along the line of his
work. He remembers that he spent the first twenty five
cent piece he ever had for a spelling book. Mr. Ellerbe
has been a Mason for thirty years.



Harry Howard Norman

One of the pioneer Baptist preachers of eastern North
Carolina and a "father in Israel," is Rev. Harry Howard
Norman, of Elizabeth City. There are few men in that




HARRY HOWARD NORMAN



NORTH CAROLINA EDITION 371

part of the State who are more widely, or favorably, known
to the brotherhood than Dr. Norman. He goes back to the
slavery period, having been born several years before the
outbreak of the war, on August 19, 1857. He remembers
the closing scenes of that great struggle which brought
Emancipation to him and his people and recalled how he
looked on the Yankee soldiers as a boy. He was born in
Washington Co. and his father was Isaac Norman, a son
of Rosa Norman. His mother, before her marriage, was
Miss Dorcas Spruill who was a daughter of Penny Daven-
port.

Growing up after the war, young Norman went to
school in Washington Co. He worked on the farm till he
had grown to manhood. When he was about twenty-two
years of age he was converted and came into the work of
the Baptist Church. Even before that, his mind had turned
to the ministry so that after he joined the church he felt
that there was no escaping from the sacred calling. He was
licensed, and fully ordained to the work of the ministry
when about twenty-four and for nearly forty years has
been going in and out before his people. A full list of the
churches he has served is a long one, but is well worth mak-
ing. His first pastorate was Galatia, which he served five
years where a new house of worship was erected. He
preached at the First Church, Colerain, six years and paid
the church out of debt. He served St. John Church, Eden-
ton, six years and after an interim of five years served the
same church for another period of nineteen-years, making
a total of 25 years with that church. Two houses of wor-
ship have been erected at that point under his administra-
tion. He is still serving St. John. He preached at Heavens
Creek Church at Manteo, on Roanoke Island, for ten years
and built a new church. It will be recalled that this was the
first attempted settlement in North Carolina. He has been
preaching at Christian Home Church, Moyock, for four
years and has a house of worship under way at that point.
He served Philadelphia Church in Camden Co. six years. A
new church was also built at Zion and another at Pleasant



372 HISTORY AMERICAN NEGRO

Branch in Currytuck, during a period of four years. The
Chapel Hill Church, in Tyrrell Co. held him for four years.
He is now serving the Calvary Baptist Mission in Elizabeth
City. He was at Zion Hill at Plymouth, for four years and
erected a new house of worship. He preached at Bellhaven
for one year, and at Snow Hill Church for one year. He
preached at Mt. Carmel in Pasquotank Co. for thirteen
years and built a new house of worship.

No accurate record of the number of people he has
brought itno the church has been kept. Thousands, how-
ever, date their conversion from meetings at which he
preached, as he has been a prominent figure in the Baptist
ministry in North Carolina for many years and has done a
great deal of evangelistic work in his own churches and in
assisting the brethren.

At an early age he was inspired by a minister to study
the Bible and he dates his interest in religious thought to
that experience. He is a member of the Executive Board
of the Roanoke Baptist Institute at Elizabeth City. He
was for a number of years Secretary of the same Board and
has been actively identified with that institution from its
beginning.

Though not active in politics, he is a Republican and
the only secret order with which he is identified is the
Gideons.

Rev. Norman has been married twice. His first mar-
riage was on November 15, 1878, to Miss Mahala F. Moclees.
She passed to her reward in 1911. On April 23, 1914, he
was married to Mrs. Mary F. Winslow. He has resided at
Elizabeth City for a number of years and his property in-
terests are in that prosperous little place, where he is well
known and esteemed.



Robert David Harris



The life and work of Rev. Robert David Harris illus-
trates again what a country boy can do when he yields him-
self to Divine leadership. Brought up in a home of poverty
and obscurity, he spent all his early years on the farm.
He was born at Pineville in Mecklenburg Co. on March 1,
1862, which it will be remembered was in the midst of the
war. His parents were Absalom and Caroline Harris. Back
of them there is no record of his ancestors. After the war
when he came of school age he attended the local public
school and that was the extent of his education till after
he decided to heed the call to preach.

As a youth he was converted and joined the local Meth-
odist Church. Once when the lesson for the day was about
John the Baptist he disagreed with the class and the teacher
so strenuously that he was dismissed. Later he joined the
Smithfieldl Baptist Church and almost immediately felt
called to the ministry.

Like many another man he tried to escape from this
clear call of duty but could not. He recalls the influence of
his old mother on his life at this time. Finally he yielded
and in 1887 was licensed by the Smithfield Baptist Church
to preach and in 1892 was by the same church ordained to
the full work of the ministry. Realizing the need for better
preparation for his life work he entered the Rowan Normal
Institute where he spent four years. He also attended
Friendship College, Rock Hill, S. C, for a short while. His
first regular pastorate was Bethel Baptist Church in Gas-
ton Co. which he served acceptably for ten and a half years.
The church was remodelled and 110 new members baptized.
He pastored Salem fourteen and a half years. Here a new
house of worship was erected and 116 baptized. He preached
at Gold Hill in Lincoln Co. six years, built a new church and
baptized 125. Fifty seven were baptized at a single meet-
ing. He served Springfield at Stanley Creek eleven years,
baptized 125 and purchased a lot for a new church.




ROBERT DAVID HARRIS



NORTH CAROLINA EDITION 375

For nearly four years he has been on the work at Pine
Grove in Cherokee Co., S. C. A debt of five hundred dollars
has been cancelled and a like amount raised for improve-
ments while fifty new members have been added. So it
will be seen that he has had a fruitful ministry. Long ago
his strength as a leader was recognized and he was elected
Moderator of the Mt. Peace Association which position he
has held continuously for eleven years.

Rev. Harris belongs to the Masons but is not active in
politics. He is a member of the Board of Managers of the
State Convention. He believes the greatest single need of
the race is the right sort of education.

In Jan. 1883, he was married to Emma Crawford of
Sharon. She was a daughter of Anderson Crawford. They
own an attractive home in Charlotte.



Levi Edgar Rasbury

The leading educational institution of the Free Will
Baptist Church is at Kinston, and is known as Kinston Col-
lege. It is now (1920) under the efficient management and
direction of Prof. Levi Edgar Rasbury.

Prof. Rasbury is a native of Green Co., having been
born at Snow Hill January 11, 1888. His father, Edmund
Rasbury, was a farmer and young Rasbury himself grew up
on the Green Co. farm. His mother, who still survives, was
before marriage Miss Sarah Harper, a daughter of Harry
and Nancy Harper. They were slaves, although there was
a strain of Indian blood on the mother's side.

On September 19, 1917, Prof. Rasbury was married to
Miss Evelyn Morton, a daughter of Austin and Patsy Mor-
ton. Mrs. Rasbury was educated at LaGrange and Kinston
and assists her husband in teaching at Kinston College.
They have one daughter, Emma Elizabeth Rasbury.

The subject of this biography attended first the pub-



Online LibraryArthur Bunyan CaldwellHistory of the American Negro and his institutions; (Volume 4) → online text (page 21 of 48)