Arthur Bunyan Caldwell.

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

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for the purpose of buying and selling, renting and developing
real estate. The concern also has a loan and building fea-



ture. As Prof. Smith was the moving spirit in the organi-
zation, he was made secretary and manager, a position he
is well equipped to fill. He has associated with him as
stockholders and directors the most substantial and success-
ful men of the race in and around Smithfield and in Johnston

Mr. Smith is a member of the Baptist church, but has
not identified himself with the secret orders. He is a clear
and forceful speaker and is in demand on public occasions.
His favorite reading is history. In opening up a new line
of endeavor, he is pointing the way for other enterprising
young men who may venture to get out of the beaten paths.

Robert Baxter McRary

Large numbers of Negroes have done well as the pages
of this book will testify. Occasionally, however, there is
to be found a man who by reason of his exceptional ability
and unusual attainment stands out as an illustration and
as an inspiration to the struggling youth of the race. Such
a man is Dr. Robert Baxter McRary of Lexington. His
clear cut methods, his dignified but cordial manner and his
scholarly attainments have won him a wide circle of friends
and put him at the head of the oldest and most powerful
of the secret orders and benevolent societies of the State,
the Masons, of which he is the Grand Master. Dr. Mc-
Rary has not found it necessary to leave home in order to
succeed. It reflects credit on both his ability and his
character that he has been able to work out so large a
measure of success in the town where he was born, and
among the people with whom he was reared and who know
him best. He was born at Lexington just before the out-
bread of the war on Nov. 21, 1860. His parents were W. H.
and Jane McRary.

On June 23, 1896, Dr. McRary was married to Miss
Annie E. Mendenhall, a daughter of Aaron and Carrie A.


Mendenhall of Greensboro. Mrs. McRary passed away
Feb. 7, 1903.

About the close of the war, our subject was "bound" or
apprenticed as an orphan. He was then about five years
old. Fortunately for the boy he fell into the hands of a
Christian guardian, who inspired in him a desire for an edu-
cation and an ambition for a career in life. When of school
age, he attended the Presbyterian Parochial School of Lex-
ington. After that he matriculated at Lincoln University,
where he won his Bachelor's degree in 1885. His work as
a student was of a high order though his way in school was
not easy. He was thrown largely on his own resources and
earned the money for his expenses by working during vaca-
tions at the watering places along the Jersey Coasr. He
bears willing testimony to the fact that the wholesome reli-
gious atmosphere of Lincoln University was a helpful in-
fluence in his life.

After graduation he began teaching in his home county.
In 1891-2-3 he was principal of the graded school at Reids-
ville, N. C. He was then called to the head of the Normal
Department at Livingstone College. The record he made
as an educator was such as to enable him to select his own
place in the school work of the State had he chosen to re-
main in that field of activity.

He resigned his work at Livingstone to accept a posi-
tion as private secretary to Mr. T. C. Ford, a capitalist and
real estate man of Lexington, and easily passed into the real
estate business for himself, in which he has been unusually

When the graded schools were organized in Lexington
he drafted the plan for the building for the colored school
and supervised that school for several years.

In 1907 he toured Europe, Egypt and the Holy Land,
and wrote a series of Travelogues that attracted considera-
ble attention.

In 1913 he delivered the address on "Isaac N. Rendall
as an Educator" at the dedication of the bronze tablet which
the alumni of Lincoln University provided in memory of the


late President Rendall, on which occasion his Alma Mater
conferred on him the L.L. D. degree. He has also the dis-
tinction of being the first individual alumnus to found a
scholarship at Lincoln University. In 1916 he declined
the presidency of Bennett College.

In politics Dr. McRary is a Republican and was for
six years Magistrate at Lexington. He is a member of
the M. E. church and is a member of the "Board of Mana-
gers of the Freedmen's Aid Society" of his denomination.
He is also a trustee of Bennett College. So in the religious
as well as in the business and educational life of his people
he is a leader.

He has forged to the front in still another line. Among
the secret orders, he affiliates with the Masons, the Odd
Fellows and the Pythians. In 1908 he was chosen Grand
Master of the Masons, Jurisdiction of North Carolina. Un-
der his administration the order has prospered and has
grown from two hundred seventy-two lodges to more than
six hundred, with a membership of approximately fifteen
thousand. There is no finer or more loyal group of men
meeting in the State than the Grand Lodge of Masons over
which Dr. McRary presides. He is president of the En-
dowment Board which handles the large benefit, funds of
the order.

Dr. McRary is a clear and forceful speaker. While he
is not an agitator, still he is unafraid. The first question
he asks himself about a measure or a policy which he is
asked to oppose or support is, "Is it right?" He is the
apostle of progress for his own people and all people but at
the same time is far from being an alarmist. There are
wrongs to be righted, but he believes more strongly in a
program of friendship and mutual co-operation along edu-
cational, industrial, moral and civic lines than in recrimina-
tion and retaliation.

Perhaps the best thing that can be said of Dr. McRary
is that he is a good citizen. During the World War, Dr.
McRary was appointed by the State Director, Colonel F. H.
Fries, Chairman of the W. S. S. Committee (Col.) He can-


vassed the State at his own expense and received honorable
mention in the official "History of the W. S. S. Campaign
in N. C."

Phillip John Augustus Coxe

Coming as he does from an environment conducive to
high attainments and descending from ancestors who for
generations knew not slavery, Rev. Philip John Augustus
Coxe, A. B., A. M., S. T. B., pastor of the Presbyterian
churches at Mebane and Graham and Principal of Yadkin
Academy at Mebane, already has behind him a record of
accomplishment of which a much older man might well be
proud, and, with his equipment, may look forward to years
of large service in his chosen line of work. He is a native
of Chestertown, Md., where he was born May 22, 1872. He
is the fifth of the line to bear the name John. His father,
John P. Coxe, Jr., was a clergyman. He in turn was the
son of John P. Coxe, Sr., who was widely known. His
father's name was John Baptist Coxe, who was a son of
John Coxe. This remarkable family belonged to a colony
of free Negroes who lived at Mt. Pleasant, Md. The mother
of Prof. Coxe resides in Pittsburgh with her son, James D.,
who is Pres. of North Side Realty Co.

As a boy, young Coxe, our subject, grew up in the city
of Washington, where he enjoyed the advantages of the
splendid schools for which the Capital City is well known.
He completed his work at the M. St. High School in 1893.
He passed from High School to Duquesne College, Pitts-
bugh, where he made a brilliant record as a student. At
this time, when only nineteen, he edited a weekly newspaper
and was perhaps the youngest editor of his the race in the

Among other honors he was class day orator, being one
of two colored youth in a student body of six hundred. He
completed his college course at Lincoln University in 1901



with the A. B. degree. He won honors in history and
political science. After completing his work in the college
department he studied Theology at Lincoln University and
won the S. T. B. degree in 1904. In both the sophomore
and junior college years he won second medals in oratory.
The A. M. degree was conferred on him by the same insti-
tution. His first public ministry was in the capacity of
Sabbath School Missionary in Bellevue, a suburb of Alle-
gheny, Pa., under direction of the Bellevue Presbyterian
church. The character of that early work may be inferred
from the fact that the Mission School grew into a flourish-
ing church. After one year on the Bellevue work, he was
called to Carlisle, where he preached from 1905-08. He
served the church at Westchester, Pa., from 1908 to 1914,
when he was called to a professorship in the Mary Potter
School at Oxford, N. C. Here he taught Latin, Ancient
History and English for two years. In 1916 he moved to
Mebane, N. C, to take charge of the Presbyterian work at
that point, including both the church and Yadkin Academy
of which he is Principal.

On May 24, 1904, Dr. Coxe was married to Miss Ama
Delia Caliman, eldest daughter of the late Rev. David F.
Caliman, pastor of Allen Temple, Cincinnati. She was edu-
cated in Pennsylvania. They have five children, Philip F.
A., Gloucester C, Helen M., John the Fifth and Paul D.

Among the secret orders, Dr. Coxe is identified with the
Pythians. In politics he is a Republican. When asked for
some expression as to how the best interests of the race
are to be promoted, Dr. Coxe replied, "By education, Chris-
tian education. Also a recognition of the fact on the part
of race leaders that our rights are to be obtained as history
shows all subject races have; that agitation must be with-
out bitterness; that the ascendant race must be educated
into the fact that we are not the same people we were in 1619
or even in 1861. As men we want a chance, a man's chance
to act, to live. How to persuade him to see that is vital
to the problem."

William Julius Jordan

Rev. William Julius Jordan now (1920) residing at
Durham, has to his credit many years of faithful effective
work as a preacher of the Gospel. His voice has been heard
from the mountains to the sea, and he numbers his friends
by the hundreds in every part of the State. Though born
in slavery, Dr. Jordan has lived to see the most wonderful
developments of all history. He has been an active partici-
pant in much of the development of his own race and has
done his part as a religious leader. He was born at Wil-
mington, Jan., 5, 1853. Being a boy of eight at the out-
break of the war and twelve when it closed, he remembers
with distinctness many of the scenes of that great struggle
as they were enacted in his native city. Dr. Jordan's par-
ents were Willis and Frances Jordan.

Willis Jordan farmed after emancipation and lived to
a ripe old age, having passed away in 1900. Dr. Jordan
was one of a big family of seven boys and five girls.

He went to the public schools after the war and to
Dodge Institute at Wilmington. He spent three years at
Dodge Institute, where he came under the personal direc-
tion of Mr. Dodge, who was a splendid teacher. Later he
completed his course at Kittrell College and from that in-
stitution has both the A. B. and the D. D. degrees. He
has for many years been one of the Trustees of Kittrell
College. Dr. Jordan made a profession of faith at the
early age of twelve and came into the active work of the
A. M. E. church. Even as a boy he had felt that his life
work would be the ministry and would frequently play at
church and preach to whoever or whatever fell in his way.
He built for himself a study when only ten years of age.
In April, 1875, he was married to Miss Elizabeth Ev-
erett of New Hanover Co. They have no children.

In 1882, Mr. Jordan joined the Conference at New
Bern, under Bishop Payne. His first appointment was to



a mission at Company Shops, now known as Burlington.
Nearly forty years later he is back on the same work
and is gratified to find among the substantial men and
women of the prosperous little city those who were children
in his school and church on that first appointment. He
remained there four years, built a house of worship and
left the work firmly established. From there he went to
Pittsboro Circuit four years and remodeled the church. His
next appointment was Morganton one year. From there
he went to Fayetteville Station two years and remodeled the
church. From Fayetteville he was sent to New Bern three
years and from there to Durham three years. At Durham
he completed the St. Joseph church and filled it with folks.
From Durham he was sent to the Asheville Station for two
years At the end of that time he was promoted to the
presiding eldership and presided over the Morganton Dis-
trict for two years, a second term of five years, and was
also at one time on the Greensboro District. Since that
time he has alternated between Station work and the dis-
tricts He has been stationed at Asheville, Greensboro,
Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Bethel, Greensboro and other
important points. The people hear him gladly and do not
tire of him. So it has frequently happened that he has
been sent to the same work again and again.

He has long been a prominent figure in denominational
gatherings and has attended several general conferences.
In the early years of his ministry he taught school several
terms. Perhaps Dr. Jordan is at his best in revival work.
His ministry has been marked by some notable revivals.
One at Durham witnessed the conversion of three hundred


Among the secret orders he is identified with the
Masons, Odd Fellows, Royal Knights, Pythians and Good
Samaritans. His favorite reading next after the Bible is
History. He believes the progress of the race depends upon
right training.

John Henry Bias

Prof. John Henry Bias, Principal of the Berry O'Kelley
Training School at Method, is one of the most capable
young men identified with the educational life of the State.
He is a native of Missouri, having been born at Palmyra,
June 11, 1879. His father, James W. Bias, was for a long
time employed by the C. B. & Q. Railroad. He was a son of
John and Hannah Bias, both of whom were natives of Shelby
Co., Mo. Prof. Bias' mother, before her marriage, was Miss
Dinah Arnold. She came into Missouri from Kentucky be-
fore the war.

Prof. Bias was married, August 30, 1907, to Miss Fran-
ces L. Lane of Baxter Springs, Kans. She was a native,
however, of Tennessee, and was educated at Lincoln Insti-
tute at Jefferson City. They have six children: John C,
Bernice F., James H., Leon L., Charles W. and Elizabeth Z.

Prof. Bias laid the foundation of his education in the
public schools of Marion Co. and later attended Lincoln
Institute at Jefferson City, Mo., from which he was gradu-
ated with the B. S. D. and A. B. degrees in 1901. This
was followed by a course at the State College and special
work at the University of Chicago. Speaking of his strug-
gles for an education, Prof. Bias says: "My parents were
not in position to send me away to school, so at the age of
sixteen I left home to go to our State school in Jefferson
City. When I reached the capital, I had but seventy-five
cents left. I at once found a home where, by working
mornings and evenings, I paid for my room and board.
The next three years at Jefferson City were spent in the
home of a white man; then for about five years I lived in
the home of another white family. The ideals that grew
up during the years spent in these splendid families, made
a very lasting impression on me. Altogether, I spent ten
years at the State school at Jefferson City and two years and


a half in the University of Chicago. While in Chicago, I
worked out all my expenses." Prof. Bias remembers with
gratitude the assistance rendered him by a number of
white friends, including men like the late President Harper,
of Chicago University.

He has tried in every capacity to do well the work as-
signed him, whether it has been his special line, or in the
home, or in odd jobs at which he might be earning the
money for his education. This characteristic has been car-
ried into his later work and his teaching.

On completion of his work at the University, he was
made professor of mathematics and drawing at Lincoln
Institute, remaining there for the school year of 1901-2.
In 1904 he was chosen professor of mathematics and sci-
ence at the State Normal School, Elizabeth City, N. C, and
remained with that institution about four years. He was
then called to the chair of natural sciences at Shaw Uni-
versity, where he taught for ten years. During the last
two years of the Medical school at Shaw, Prof. Bias was
head of the department of Medical Chemistry.

There had been built up, during these years, at Method,
a small town near Raleigh, a modern rural teacher training
school which, largely through the efforts of Mr. Berry
O'Kelley, had grown from a one-room country school into
an institution which stands as a sort of model for the race
in the way of a rural school. In 1917 Prof. Bias was
called to the Principalship of this institution, which has
greatly prospered under his administration. Since he came
to Method the Berry O'Kelley School has reached its high-
est enrolment as well as its highest point of efficiency.
The Board is now (1920) looking for material for a new
home for girls.

Prof. Bias has surrounded himself with a capable fac-
ulty and is making the institution a real training school
for the race. He believes that the progress of his people
depends upon giving the rural inhabitants better schools,
homes and churches and making the development of farm
and country life attractive to them.


In 1920 Prof. Bias was asked to represent the 108
County Training Schools at the Baltimore meeting of the
National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools. At
the meeting in Baltimore he stated that he agreed with
some who felt that in building up the rural civilization,
no work in education is more promising than the develop-
ment of the county training schools. In these schoools
the teachers from the rural section have been given new
ideals, the young people have been taught to remain on the
soil owned by their parents, and to see the advantages of
the rural sections over the large cities.

Charles Gaston Davis

It is not easy to write the story of a man like Prof.
Charles Gaston Davis, of Method, for the reason that it
is hard to make the reader understand the conditions which,
even twenty years ago, surrounded the country Negro boy
who aspired to a college education. While living was cheap,
wages were low and all too often relatives and neighbors
were either antagonistic or indifferent to the importance
of an education.

Prof. Davis was born at the little hamlet of Cotton-
ville, in Stanley Co., Sept. 15, 1880. His father, Frank
Davis, was born near the same place in 1834 and was the
son of Jackson Davis, who lived to be seventy-eight, and
his wife, Nancy Davis, who died at eighty. Prof. Davis'
mother was, before her marriage, Miss Judie Eeasley, who
was born about 1830 and who was free-born. She was a
daughter of Harry and Celia Easley, both of whom lived
to a ripe old age.

The subject of this biography laid the foundation of
his education in the Stanley Co. public schools and did his
college work at what is now the A. & T. College, Greens-
boro. The story of that period cannot be better told than
in his own words. He says: "In September, 1899, I left


home to enter school with $1.43. The distance by rail was
a hundred miles. I borrowed $5.00 from my brother, who
carried me to the station where I took the train for Greens-
boro. We reached the city about 12:30 P. M. and I was
soon on the campus of the A. & T. College. Prof. C. H.
Moore was then bursar, and after paying him $3.00 for
board, I had fifty cents left for my month's laundry and
no books. The next day I made my way to the mechanical
building and found Prof. Snead, who was in charge of the
blacksmithing department, and who wanted some mud
pasted on the inside of the forges. Having finished this,
I sought my next work with Mr. Rooks. The dairy cows
had a disease known as foot rot. I managed to secure the
job of washing the cows' feet and earned enough money
to pay my board. This being my first trip away from home
I grew homesick and, in Feb., 1900, went home to see my
people. On the first of the next February I returned to
college to finish my work and remained till June. Realiz-
ing the disadvantages of doing so much hard work while
trying to study, I decided to remain out of school one year
and save money for the following year. I partially failed
in this and, in 1903, returned to school, where I remained
through four years of college work, winning the Odell medal
given for the highest mark in mechanics for four years."
Prof. Davis completed the course in 1907, and has
since been actively engaged in educational work. In 1907
he went to the Palmer Memorial Institute at Sedalia, N. C,
where he taught for two years. In 1919 he joined Prof.
Bias at Method, near Raleigh, where he has charge of the
agricultural department and vocational training.

Prof. Davis is a member of the A. M. E. Zion church
and in politics is a Republican. He has not affiliated with
the secret orders.

On Sept. 18, 1908, he was married to Mrs. Lillie Jones,
a daughter of Seaborn and Delilah Jones of Greensboro.
They have one child, Charles G. Davis, Jr.

Peter James Cook

Rev. Peter James Cook, D. D., District Superintendent
of the Winston District of the North Carolina Conference,
M. E. Church, resides at High Point.

Dr. Cook is a native of Granville Co., where he was born
Sept., 1868. His mother, Indiana Cook, was a widow with
six children and the subject of this sketch frequently had
to look after the smaller children while she went out to
work. At the tender age of ten years, he worked in a brick
yard, thus helping to make a living for himself and the
family. Even at this early age he had begun going to
school at night and when he was fifteen he went to work
on the Oxford & Henderson Railroad. With his increased
earnings, which would now seem ridiculously small, he put
aside money enough to go to the St. Augustine School at
Raleigh. By dint of hard work and close economy, which
included every day in the year, he was able to remain at
that institution for five years. He learned the trade of
brick-layer and spent several years on that work, buying in
the meantime several lots at Oxford. It must be remem-
bered that during all these years, he was looking out for the
family and educating such of them as were unable to help

At an early age he joined the Episcopal church, and
remained a member of that denomination until he was twen-
ty-five years old. As there was no Episcopal church near
him, he joined the M. E. church at Oxford. Feeling called
to the work of the ministry about this time, he again re-
sumed his studies at St. Augustine, completed the course,
and after that went to Gammon Theological Seminary, At-
lanta , where he finished the Theological course. Later still,
he did special work at the Boston University, including
Theology and the sciences, following this with study of eco-
nomics and sociology at Harvard.

Dr. Cook joined the Conference at Maxton under



Bishop Cranston. His first appointment under the Con-
ference was to the Charlotte Mission, where he preached a
year. While at Boston University he filled an appointment
of three years at a church near that institution.

Returning from his studies at the North to North Caro-
lina, he served the Ramseur charge a year and Mt. Airy
three years. At the latter place he cancelled a debt of
$2,500 and repaired the parsonage. He was sent from there
to the Lexington and Thomasville charge, where he re-
mained for four years. This was followed by a pastorate
of three years at Leakesville, from which he went to High
Point for six years, where a church debt of $3,000 was paid
off and a new parsonage built. He was then promoted to
the District and is now (1920) in his second year on the
Winston District. He erected with his own hands Mays
Chapel, having himself laid the stone. He also built a
brick parsonage at High Point. He has a way of putting
himself in the forefront of denominational enterprises and

Online LibraryArthur Bunyan CaldwellHistory of the American Negro and his institutions; (Volume 4) → online text (page 37 of 48)