Arthur Bunyan Caldwell.

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

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the war closed and Emancipation became effective he was
of school age and started to school to white teachers who
had come down from the North. He remembers with par-
ticular gratitude two of his teachers, Miss Merritt, since
wife of the late Gov. Reed, of Florida, and Miss Norris.

Mr. Lawrence was born on Dec. 14, 1858. His parents
were Webb Lawrence and Sylvia Jones. His paternal
grandfather, Munger, was a native African.

After the war young Lawrence made good progress in
his studies and had for schoolmates men who later became
prominent. Among these men was Dr. Price, the distin-
guished founder of Livingstone College, and a great orator
of his race.

When he was through school he learned the coopering
trade, at which he worked for eight years. LatEr he
opened up a music store in New Bern. He was himself
a teacher of music and has for a long time been organ-
ist at St. Peters A. M. E. Zion Church. He became skillful
in repairing musical instruments and ran the store for
nearly twenty years. At times he did collecting and later
bought out the Wheeler and Wilson Sewing Machine Agency.
After that he added insurance. He maintains a place of
business on George Street near his residence. While he
has been a busy business man and varied interests have
claimed his attention, at different times he has also been
prominent in political circles. He is, of course, a Republi-
can. In 1888 he was appointed Deputy Collector of Customs
for the Port of New Bern. For a part of the time he ad-
ministered the affairs of the office as Special Deputy as the
Collector was physically unable to discharge the duties of



the office. Later he was a candidate for Collector, and was
endorsed by Senator Pritchard, but race conditions in East-
ern Carolina were such at that time as to preclude the ap-
pointment. He was appointed Notary Public by Governor
Scales and with only about two exceptions has been reap-
pointed by each Governor since. Governor Bickett was the
last to appoint him, and his term will expire in 1922.

On Mar. 29, 1878, Mr. Lawrence was married to Julia
A. Wethington, who was educated at St. Augustine, and
who before her marriage was a teacher. Of the four chil-
dren born to them two are living. They are Cicero and
Willie Lawrence. Their mother passed away in 1883.

On Oct. 10, 1887, Mr. Laurence married Lillian A.
Hauens, who was a teacher. Mr. Lawrence has from time
to time been identified with various Negro enterprises and
organizations in and around New Bern.

He is a member of St. Peters (formerly St. Andrews
Chapel) A. M. E. Zion Church, which he has seen grow from
small beginnings to one of the great congregations of the
denomination, it being the Mother Church of the South.
For twenty-five years he was Superintendent of the Sun-
day School and Chairman of the Trustees, a Steward and
Class Leader. He was at one time President of the N. C.
State Sunday School Association, and is now District Su-
perintendent of Sunday Schools. He has attended five Gen-
eral Conferences of his church and knows the denomina-
tional leaders. But it is perhaps as a sacret order man that
he is most widely known. He has been an Odd Fellow
since he was eighteen and has held all the subordinate of-
fices and several important positions in the Grand Lodge.
Under his administration a large tract of land was pur-
chased which was recently sold for $46,000.00. Two hun-
dred acres were retained for a home. He was National
Grand auditor for six years and served on the sub-commit-
tee which had the erection of the hundred thousand dollar
building in Philadelphia, he being at that time a Grand

He is also a prominent and useful member of the;
Masonic Fraternity. He has served this order in various


capacities including the positions of Grand Organist and
District Deputy G. M. He has risen to the 33d degree
Scottish Rite. He is now Auditor General ; for three terms
he has served in this office, and is an active member of
Supreme Council.

He has also taken every degree in the Pythians and
was at one time Supreme Grand Exchequer till the branch
he was identified with withdrew from the State on account
of restrictions on their insurance.

Such in outline is the story of one who though born
in slavery has led a busy life and made a success among
those who know him best. In fact, in the moral, spiritual,
material and intellectual development of his race the subject
of our sketch is identified and so interwoven, both in words
and in his life, that he ranks high among both classes of
people; a place that is worthy of emulation, a place no
enemy can batter down.

Alfred James Griffin

, Some one has said: "Man must work. That is cer-
tain as the sun. But he may work grudglingly, or he may
work gratefully ; he may work as a man, or he may work as
a machine. He cannot always choose his work but he can
do it in a genial temper and with an uplooking heart. There
is no work so sordid that he may not exalt it. There is no
work so impassive that he may not breathe soul into it.
There is no work so dull that he may not enliven it."

That paragraph epitomizes the experience of Prof. Al-
fred James Griffin, Principal of the High Point Normal &
Industrial Institute вАФ we had almost said the creator and
establisher of that institution.

Professor Griffin is at once a man of vision and a man
of action. Whether trying to support his mother, trudging
eight miles to school or presiding over a great work, Prof.
Griffin puts soul into all that he does and always looks for-



ward to something better. The stories of such men should
be a light to every struggling boy. The record of their
struggles, fidelity and brilliant success is one of the most
valuable assets of their people. There have been a few
men who have fought so steadily and so long to achieve their
ideals as to make their histories more like romance than
fact. These men have simply refused to be discouraged.
Such a man was Booker T. Washington. Such another is
A. J. Griffin.

He was born in Madison Co., N. C, November 15,
1868, and came to school age during those hard years known
in the South as the "reconstruction period." His parents
were James Everett and Sylvia Griffin. His mother was
left a widow. He was her oldest son and however small
his income, he never failed to share it with her. He started
to school in the public schools of Edgecombe Co. When
he came to understand what an education meant, he also
realized the difficulties in the way of securing one. He had
no money, no clothes and but little food. He went to Bethel,
eight miles away, walking the whole distance on Monday,
carrying with him his little supply of rations for the week.
On Friday afternoon he would walk back and work on the
farm all Saturday. When seventeen years of age, he se-
cured a second grade teacher's license and taught school one
month for $15. After that he went to the Parochial School
at Tarboro for three years, putting in such time as he could
spare on the farm and during the summer months taught
school at $25 a month. He was now going to school twelve
miles from home and would carry a week's supply of bread,
peas and potatoes to the school each Sunday afternoon and
then walk back on Friday. For five years he had no new
clothes and when it was necessary for him to appear on the
programs along with the other students, he swallowed his
pride regardless of their taunts, took his place and made a
record of which he may well be proud. After this experi-
ence, he went to Raleigh and entered the St. Augustine
School where he remained for five years. During that time
he had only one new suit, but he graduated at the head of
his class, and at the graduating exercises wore a second


hand suit for which he paid $1.50 and had given a tailor
another $1.50 to cut it down to his size.

Such had been his record as a student at St. Augustine
that upon his graduation he was immediately employed as
a teacher in the institution at a salary of $25 per month,
which was gradually raised until he was receiving $350 a

In the meantime, on Dec. 26, 1894, he was married to
Miss Ophelia A. Thompson, of Asheville. She was also
graduated from the St. Augustine school and is herself an
accomplished teacher. They have nine children, who are:
Burtis H., Agnes 0., Charles H. A., James, Marion W., Car-
roll S., Carolina A., Ethel G. and Josephine T. Griffin. This
family is a remarkable one. The oldest daughter is a
graduate of Columbia University, and is now studying medi-
cine. The others are making fine records at school.

In 1897, Prof. Griffin resigned his work at St. Augus-
tine and took charge of the High Point Normal & Industrial
Institute under the auspices of the Yearly Meeting of the
New York Society of Friends. It was the beginning of a
new era for that institution. The faculty, the enrollment
and the equipment have all shown vigorous, healthy growth
since his identity with the school. On assuming charge,
there was a faculty of six. It now requires a teaching force
of fourteen to take care of the school. On beginning he
found five acres of land ,one fram building, a small cottage,
one horse and a few tools. At the first meeting of his board
he was asked what he wanted and he replied that he wanted
a new building for the girls, and a farm. He was confronted
by the fact that there was no money available. He told the
members of the board that if they could raise a little money,
he would teach the boys brick-making and carpentry and
build the house he wanted. They instructed him to go
ahead and he secured a teacher from Tuskegee and set the
boys at work brick-making. A teacher from Hampton was
called to teach carpentry and at once the place began to
take on new life. As a result Congdon Hall, a modern, two
story brick structure with basement was erected and other
buildings have followed from time to time. A ninety acre


farm nearby was bought and this is used in teaching agri-
culture and in raising supplies for the school. There is a
domestic science department and the school, which a few
years ago was scarcely known, has come to be one of the
recognized institutions for colored people in that part of
North Carolina. Graduates are admitted to the best col-
leges without examination. Many teachers are equipped
and the property is worth at least $75,000, bought and paid

Prof. Griffin has surrounded himself with a corps of
capable teachers and has infused into the faculty and the
student body his own fine spirit. The record of how he
has reared and educated a large family, kept in touch with
the leading movements of the race and accumulated consid-
erable property on the salary which he earned during the
early years of his work would make a great story of itself.
He is a man of rare business judgment, possessing a knowl-
edge of values and executive ability. He is not only a hard
worker himself but has that unusual quality which enables
him to correlate all his forces to secure desired results.
During the war he took a leading part in various drives,
such as the Red Cross, Y. M. C. A. and W. S. S. campaigns.
His work in connection with the school has frequently taken
him North, Where he has been heartily encouraged.

He is a member of the Episcopal Church and is iden-
tified with the Masons and Odd Fellows. His favorite read-
ing is History.

Robert Clebert Savoid

In recent years, the insurance field has attracted a
number of the most intelligent and energetic men of the
race. Among the men of western North Carolina who
have made a success in this field must be mentioned Robert
Cleveland Savoid, now located at Hickory. He was born
January 3, 1872, in what was then Wake, now Durham Co.
His father, Wm. Ruffin Savoid, was a farmer, and his



mother, before her marriage, was Miss Henrietta Mills, a
daughter of Harriet Mills.

Growing up on the farm, young Savoid attended the
Durham Co. public schools and later, coming into the city
of Durham, worked in the tobacco factories. When he had
grown to young manhood, he went South and was for a
number of years in the turpentine woods of Georgia and
Florida, spending about six years in Georgia and eight in
Florida. Returning by way of South Carolina, he came
back to Durham and again started into the factory for a
short while. About that time he was induced to take up
insurance work and spent a few weeks in the office in Dur-
ham in order that he might familiarize himself with the
details of the work. He was then appointed agent of the
North Carolina Mutual at Savannah, Georgia, where he
remained for two years and went from there to Augusta
for three years. Failing health made it necessary for him
to seek a different climate, and such was his record that
his Company was glad to promote him, and so made him
superintendent of the Hickory District, where he has re-
sided for the last four years.

Mr. Savoid is an active member of the Baptist Church
and teacher in the Sunday School. He was at one time
Superintendent of the School. He holds membership in
the Masons and in politics is a Republican.

He has had opportunity to study conditions among his
people in various parts of the South, both in the cities and
in the country, and believes that the greatest single need
of the race today is education.

On August 21, 1914, Mr. Savoid was married to Tressie
Christian, of Wrightsville, Georgia. She was educated at
Tuskegee and was an accomplished teacher. They have
four children: Othalia, Wm. Ruffin, Alzenia and Robert C.

James Benson Dudley

One visiting the Agricultural and Technological Col-
lege, more popularly known as the A. & T. College, at
Greensboro, scarcely need be told that there is a construc-
tive genius at the head of the institution. One sees it in
the grounds and the buildings and the general aspect of
the place. A careful examination of the curriculum, as laid
down in the catalog, only serves to confirm the impression.

Dr. James Benson Dudley, President of the A. & T. Col-
lege, is a man of unusual capacity, who for years has ex-
erted a powerful influence on the educational life of the race
in North Carolina.

He is a native of Wilmington, where he was born
November 2, 1859. His parents were John B. and Annie
(Hazel) Dudley. While technically born in slavery, his
environment was such that he scarcely felt the pressure of
that baneful institution.

After Emancipation came the establishment in the
South of missionary schools under the auspices of the Freed-
mens' Bureau. Coming of school age just about this time,
young Dudley attended the school at Wilmington, which
was then taught by Miss Ella E. Roper. Here he laid the
foundations of an education which was later to bring him
into prominence as an educator himself. These teachers
from the North, devoted men and women of learning, while
never popular with the white people of the South, did s
magnificent work, which has borne fruit throughout the
years. They believed in thoroughness and started many a
colored youth on the road to success.

When he finished the local school, young Dudley at-
tended the Institute for Colored Youth at Philadelphia for
one year and later spent a year at Shaw University. He
made a brilliant record as a student and when, at an early
age, he took his first examination in Sampson Co. he won
a first grade teacher's certificate. Thus armed, he began
teaching when only seventeen or eighteen years old and



opened up a school with eighty pupils, at that time having-
read no book on method nor a teacher's journal. He tells
in an interesting way of his effort to teach the class the
alphabet, and how he stumbled on a pedagogical principle
which has since come into general use.

Such was the record that he made as a country school
teacher that, without applying for the place, he was elected
to the Peabody Graded School of Wilmington where he
remained for eighteen years. The school he presided over
grew under his administration and it was not long before
he came to be recognized as one of the most efficient edu-
cators of the State. He was one of the organizers of the
State Teachers' Association and was for a number of years-
its President. His independence and intelligence gave him
great political influence in and around Wilmington so that
almost any political office within the gift of his party could
have been his, but he did not seek office for himself. The
position of Collector at Wilmington was open to him at the
time the Presidency of the A. & T. College was offered to
him. This was in 1896. He decided to accept the work
at Greensboro, where the first session showed an enrollment
of fifty-two. There was one school building and a dormi-
tory. The enrollment has steadily grown until it has now
reached about 700, requiring the services of a faculty of
twenty-two to say nothing of the extensive summer work
which is put on each year, in which fifteen or twenty more
teachers are employed. The curriculum is a far-reaching
one, covering not only the normal and classical courses but
agriculture, domestic science and mechanical arts as well.
The graduates of the A. & T. College are much in request ;
in fact, the demand always exceeding the supply. This is
true for teachers, mechanics, farmers and in fact the gradu-
ates from every department of the school. Dr. Dudley has
long been identified with the National Teachers' Associa-
tion and was responsible for harmonizing and bringing to-
gether the two branches of that organization. When Amer-
ica declared war on Germany, many of the young men at the
College were called to the colors and the institution was
turned into a training camp. It has the distinction of hav-


ing trained more Negro soldiers than any other Negro land
grant college in the country. Dr. Dudley was himself
active in every feature of the war work in which he was
called to take part.

In all inter-racial matters, he counsels patience and
non-resistance. He is frequently called upon to lecture and
to speak for his people in inter-racial gatherings, and be-
lieves that his people should act without malice or vindict-
iveness. At the same time he is frank and fearless when
asked to state the Negro side of a question, and always
seeks to get down to fact and to fundamental justice. He
is Chairman of the Negro Section of the Inter-Racial Com-
mittee and was the only Negro on the Committee of City
Extension for Greensboro.

Dr. Dudley is a member of the A. M. E. Church, of
which he is a steward. Among the secret orders, he is iden-
tified with the Masons, Odd Fellows and Pythians, being
for twenty or more years Foreign Correspondent of the
Grand Lodge of Masons.

On February 23, 1881, Dr. Dudley was married to Susie
Wright Sampson, of Wilmington, N. C. She was educated
at Wilberforce and. Cleveland. Of the two children born to
them, Annie V. (now Mrs. Jones) survives.

Dr. Dudley is a man of pleasing address and fine phy-
sique, which has stood well the strain of the years. He is a
distinguished representat ive of his race and a real asset to
his city and State.

Joseph Harrison Robinson

In recent years the medical and dental professions have
attracted increasingly large numbers of young colored men.
It is gratifying to record that, as a rule, they are meeting
with splendid success. In other professional lines as, for
instance, the ministry and teaching, there is no competi-
tion between white men and colored. With the colored phy-



sician it is different. He must measure up to the same
standards and pass identically the same examination as the
white man before he can be licensed to practice. Then he
must build his practice in the face of established white phy-
sicians. That he has been able to do so successfully and at
the same time maintain the most cordial professional rela-
tionships with the white doctors, indicates the class of men
who, in recent years, have gone into medicine.

One of these is Dr. Joseph Harrison Robinson of Ham-
let, who is a son of Rev. E. B. Robinson and his wife Leccy
(Wall) Robinson. She was a daughter of Richard and
Caroline Wall.

Our subject was born at Pee Dee on April 28, 1890.
He was married on Dec. 19, 1918 to Laura Sanders, who was
educated at Livingstone College.

Young Robinson laid the foundation of his education in
the public schools. He early aspired to a college education,
and after completing the public schools matriculated at Liv-
ingstone for his college work. Later, having decided upon
medicine as his life work he entered Meharry Medical Col-
lege and won his M. D. degree in 1917. On completion of his
medical course, he began the practice in Georgia, where he
remained for about a year. In the fall of 1918 he returned
to his native State, and locating at Hamlet, near his old
home, has already established himself in a good general
practice. While in College he spent his summer vacations
at the North in hotel, dining car and Pullman service. This
served two purposes. It enabled him to earn the money
necessary for his course and gave him an unusual opportun-
ity to see every part of our great country. As he looks back
over his life Dr. Robinson would give chief credit to the ex-
ample and teaching of his parents for his success in life.
He takes no active part in politics. He is a member of the
A. M. E. Zion Church and sings in the choir. He belongs to
the Masons and Pythians. His property interests are at

Well equipped mentally and physically, with a good
practice and a happy home before he is thirty, Dr. Robin-


son can face the future with confidence and with the hope of
being able to render large service to his race. He belongs
to the N. C. Medical & Dental Association.

James Alexander Bonner

Few, if any, of the older States have contributed more
men, in proportion to population, to the upbuilding of other
States than has the Old Dominion. This has been true of
both races. Among the sterling Virginia men who have
done good work in the religious and educational field in the
Old North State, must be mentioned Rev. Dr. James Alex-
ander Bonner, of Wilmington.

He was born in the historic old town of Petersburg, at
the beginning of the most tragic period of its history, March
7, 1864. His father, Benjamin B. Bonner was a brick mason
by trade, who, after Emancipation entered the ministry.
He was a son of Wyatt Bonner and Salina Hill. Wyatt Bon-
ner was a railroad fireman and his wife was a Godly woman.
Dr. Bonner's mother, before her marriage was Mary Eliza-
beth Lively. Her father was free born and was a local

Young Bonner grew up in Petersburg and attended the
public schools there, and in Goldsboro, N. C. He passed
from the public schools of Goldsboro to Lincoln University,
Chester Co., Pa., where he remained for eight years, five in
the Literary and three in the Theological Department. He
finished the College Course in 1885 with the A. B. degree,
and in 1888 the Theological Course. Lincoln has since
conferred on him the A. M. degree, while he has the D. D.
degree from both Lincoln and Biddle Universities.

From the beginning of his work at Lincoln he was under
the necessity of making his own way. Accordingly his
summer vacations were spent at the resort hotels or in the
Pennsylvania hay fields. He has never been afraid of exer-
tion, mental or physical. He did some teaching while at
Lincoln and after reaching his Sophomore year was supplied
by an unknown benefactor whose name he never ascertained.



Prom early life he was prompted by a desire to be
somebody and to do something worth while. If the thou-
sands who have passed under his tuition as a teacher or who
have sat under his ministry as a preacher of the Gospel
^could speak they would doubtless testify that he has at-
tained his early ideal.

Dr. Bonner's mind turned early to religious matters
and he came into the church when about sixteen. His first
regular pastorate was at Troy, S. C., where he preached from
1888-90 and taught a parochial school. He went from there
to Lexington, N. C., where he remained for five years. At

Online LibraryArthur Bunyan CaldwellHistory of the American Negro and his institutions; (Volume 4) → online text (page 7 of 48)