Category Archives: People

People that have made a difference. Some did not do anything that made the history books, but made a difference in someone’s life.

Reflections on Charlotte and the Civil Rights Movement

Okay, I wasn’t alive in September 1963 (but would be born the following February) when events in Birmingham, Alabama, Washington, DC and Charlotte occurred.  But they have made a great impact on my life and the lives of everyone that I know.

I have spent this weekend at our first (of many I hope!) Prince Hall celebration weekend.  For those of you that are not familiar with Freemasonry let me give you a little history.  Prince Hall, who was a free “Man of Color” along with 14 other men petitioned the Grand Lodge of England for a charter so that they could become a ” “regular Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons”. From those men, who chartered as African Lodge # 1 (later changing to African Lodge # 457).  In North Carolina, Prince Hall Masonry got started in 1865 with the establishment of King Solomon Lodge # 1 in New Bern, North Carolina under the guidance of the New York State Grand Lodge.  Paul Drayton Lodge # 7 here in Charlotte was the first Lodge established in this area and chartered September 19, 1872.  Other Lodges in the Charlotte area soon followed and according to James Harrell, who wrote the history of the old 19th and 20th Masonic District which is now split into the 32nd and 33rd Masonic Districts, grew and prospered.

Sunday, September 15 in Birmingham, Alabama.  African-Americans were still rejoicing in the spirit of the March on Washington which had occurred just three weeks before while segregationists were reiterating that they would not change and would do anything to maintain the status quo.  At the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, which had been used as a rally point for civil rights protests in Birmingham (which had the unofficial nickname of “Bombingham”) it was just a typical Sunday morning, which was about to change.  At 10:22 AM, while people were getting ready for the 11:00 AM service sticks of dynamite planted by members of the KKK exploded and killed four young girls. I cannot begin to image what was going through their parent’s minds when they were frantically searching for their loved ones in the rubble and finding out that your daughter is an innocent victim of someone who is willing to kill to maintain segregation of the races.

Charlotte would not experience that type of violence until 1965, although it had its share of moments during the Civil Rights movement.  In 1957 Dorothy Counts, now Scoggins attempted to integrate Harding High School. Images from Charlotte Observer photographer Don Sturkey which made papers around the world shows a young woman attempting to maintain a calm demeanor while walking through a crowd of jeering people:

Photo taken by Don Sturkey - Charlotte Observer via Google Images

Photo taken by Don Sturkey – Charlotte Observer via Google Images

While there were scuffles during the lunch counter sit-ins at McCrory’s in Uptown Charlotte, the city managed to escape most of the violence that engulfed other Southern cities until November 1965.  In the early morning hours of November 22, the houses of Dr. Walker Hawkins, City Councilman Fred Alexander and his brother Kelly Alexander were firebombed.

Repairs to Fred Alexander's House - December 1965.  From t

Repairs to Fred Alexander’s House – December 1965. From the Kelly Alexander Papers (UNC Charlotte Special Collections) via Google Images

While no one was injured or killed that morning, the city was wakened out of its complacency about its slow and baby steps towards civil rights.  Fred Alexander, the first black elected the Charlotte City Council in 1962 and who would later help remove the fence between the white Elmwood Cemetery and the black Pinewood Cemetery was also serving with the reconstituted Mecklenburg Chapter of the NAACP and as Secretary for the North Carolina Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

While events such as the 16th Street Baptist Church bombings or the firebombing of Fred Alexander’s house may not seem relevant today, the lessons that we could take is that while people may go to extreme measure to maintain a way of life, other people must make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

Where did I get my information for today?  My pictures and information came from:

Don Sturkey’s photo of Dorothy Counts walking up the stairs at Harding High School – Charlotte (NC) Oberver photograph from via google images (downloaded September 15, 2013)

Repairs to Fred Alexander’s House – Fred AlexandeRr Papers in the UNC Charlotte Special Collections via google images (Downloaded September 15, 2013)

Brief History of the Charlotte Area Prince Hall Masonic Lodges – History of Prince Hall Free Masonry and Appendant Bodies in the Charlotte Area 32nd and 33rd Districts formerly 19th and 20th Masonic Districts and 14th and 24th Order of the Eastern Star Districts compiled by James E. Harrell 33° (Charlotte:Self-Published) 1994

16th Street Baptist Church Bombing – Siblings of the Bombing-Remembering Birmingham Church Blast 50 Years on by Jessica Ravitz (, September 15, 2013 updated at 2:05 PM EDT)

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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in History, People


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Dr. George Davis’ House – it’s being saved!

Dr. George Davis’ House, located at 301 Campus Street in the Biddleville Community of Northwest Charlotte has been rescued by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission with help from private resources and is in the process of being restored. Here are a couple of pictures of the restoration:

Picture taken by author.

Picture taken by author.

Side of the house - Photo taken by author.

Side of the house – Photo taken by author.

According to the report written by Dr. William Huffman of the Historic Properties Commission; the house was originally built in the 1890’s as a frame structure, additions made in the early 1900’s and the brick added in the 1920’s.  After Dr. Davis’ passing in 1955, the house was sold to Johnson C. Smith University, where it served as student housing up until 1982.

Here is what the house looked like when Dr. Davis and his wife were raising their children in the house and what it will look like when the restoration is complete:

What the house looked like in the early 1920's when the brick veneer was added. Picture taken by author.

What the house looked like in the early 1920’s when the brick veneer was added. Picture taken by author.

I’ll be keeping up with the progress and write about it in another entry.


Survey and Research Report: The Dr. George E. Davis House.  Prepared by Dr. Dan Morrill for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission March 7, 1984.  Retrieved August 7, 2013 at

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Posted by on August 7, 2013 in People, Places


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Have you driven on a “Ford” lately?

(With apologizes to the Ford Motor Company for swiping their 1984 slogan)

Visitors to our city have probably noticed the abundance of roads with with “Ford” or “Ferry” in the name and may have wondered how the road got their name.  Places such as Beatties Ford Road, Nations Ford Road and Rozzells Ferry Road are well known here in Charlotte and named for places on the Catawba River that early settlers used to cross the river going west.  Most of these names have been lost to history, but several still survive in the roads that were given their names.

Beatties Ford Road, which starts just north of Uptown at Johnson C. Smith University and runs north to what is now Lake Norman was named for John Beatty, who according to historians, was the first white man to cross the Catawba River while following the a trading path used by the Native American tribes of the area.  He is recorded as buying 944 acres on the west bank of the Catawba River on July 17, 1749 and establishing a ferry to take passengers across the river and became the main route between Salisbury and Morganton, North Carolina. 

Rozzells Ferry, which is south of Beatties Ford on the Catawba River was named for John Rozzell, who operated the only ferry between Mecklenburg and Gaston Counties before the Civil War. A descendant, Edward Rozzell built a house near the river that was the scene of the only skirmish in Mecklenburg County during the Civil War.  The road starts at the “Five Points” intersection which comprises of Beatties Ford Road, 5th Street, State Street, West Trade Street and Rozzells Ferry, the road parallels NC 16, locally known as Brookshire Boulevard.  The road changes names just  to Bellhaven Boulevard in the 1980’s but a small spur of the original road retains the Rozzells Ferry name. The road ends just before reaching the Rozzells Ferry Bridge on NC 16. 

Nations Ford Road in the southern part of the County, was on the main trading route from Charlotte to Columbia, South Carolina.  Like other roads in this part of the state, it was established along an Native American trading path.  The modern version of Nations Ford starts at the Billy Graham Parkway (named for the famous evangelist) and winds southeast through the Charlotte suburbs until ending at NC 51, known locally as Pineville Matthews Road at the South Carolina state line.  While it does not go into South Carolina, Nations Ford is remembered as a major trading path and Nations Ford High School in Fort Mill carries the name.

I will be going into more depth about these roads in future articles and I hope that you will enjoy them. If you want to know more about the old roads and ferries that helped shape Mecklenburg County, please check out the Carolina Room at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library on-line at If you are visiting Uptown Charlotte, please visit the main library at 310 North Tryon Street, the Carolina Room is located on the third floor.

A special thanks to Ms. Jean Johnson and Dr. Thomas Cole at the Carolina Room for their help and assistance in getting this article written.

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Posted by on July 7, 2013 in People, Places


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