Precious memories recorded in the WDN

Published 6:14 pm Monday, September 25, 2023

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The Washington Daily News has been a part of my family as long as I can remember. So much of my family’s history has been recorded in the annuls of the Daily News. I have read newspaper clippings almost a century old of my family’s involvement in this town, how my grandparents were part of social causes and helping to develop commerce many decades before I was born.

I wanted to share one newspaper clipping with you that I hold so very dear to my heart.

It is an 84-year-old newspaper account of my mother graduating from what was then the Washington Colored School in the class of 1939.  The school had been built 17 years earlier and the picture shows the new school at its completion in 1922. The school was located at the corner of Bridge and Seventh Streets.

The graduation event was written by Rev. Isaiah B. Turner, who the I. B. Turner Library was named for. The I. B. Turner Library was the only black library in Beaufort County. He was also the Pastor of the Metropolitan African Methodist Zion Church on Fourth Street, now known as Dr. M.L.K. Jr. Drive, and Market Streets. Pastor Turner wrote the following account in the Saturday, May 20, 1939 Washington Daily News.

“The Rev. W. O. McLeod of Raleigh has been secured to deliver the baccalaureate sermon on Sunday at the Washington Colored School and Professor J. W. Mitchell will deliver the commencement address Monday night at the school.  The graduating class is named below.

Ella Mae Bailey, Ruth Hester Bailey, Verna Elizabeth Barnes, Lena Louise Crandall, Celia Corey, Mary Louise Cozzens (who is my mother,)  Annie Elizabeth Grimes, Mary Eleanor Harding, Annie Elizabeth Hary, Mary Eleanor Harding, Bud Harris, Ophelia Louise Harvey, Susan Ellen Harvey, Verna Elizabeth Hill, Martha Magnolia Holland, Rosa Eddie Johnson, Stella Mae Jones, Ethalia Meredith, Mamie Eloise Minor, Mattie Francis Peel, Ella Safrona Respess, Theodora Delores Robinson, Freddie Mae Rowland, Sylvester Louis Bailey Jr., Luther Wardell Bailey (my brother’s father) Walter Rayfield Clemmons, Lorenzo Wowell Everette, William Arthur Graddy, Luke Langley, Caesar Smallwood, James Walter Williams and Jay Mingol Jones.”

For as long as I can remember, my mother’s diploma from the Washington Colored school dated 1939 was proudly displayed in our living room. The school at that time only went to the 11th grade. It is my hope that someone will see the name of their family member listed in the graduation account and find joy in it the way I have.

Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-curator of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.