African American Professionals in Lowndes County pre 1940s

The following excerpts are from the “Source Material for Mississippi History (Lowndes County) Vol. I Part 44” on pages 482-484. The information was compiled and written by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1939. The WPA was a federal agency created by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 as a relief effort to hire millions of unemployed on government projects during the Great Depression.

The two volume compilation is located in the Local History Room with the call number CL 976.209 LOWNDES WOR.

Note: The following content and terminology is representative of the era in which it was written.  No changes were made to the text unless otherwise noted by dots “….” in order to maintain historical accuracy.


Two present day mechanics in Columbus, Will Keaton and Arthur Jackson are considered about the best in this profession.

John Stephens is doing heavy construction work for Tom McIntyre in a large plumbing concern.

Max Butler runs a blacksmith shop.

Eugene Jones, Scott Griffin and Cornelius Evans are the best brick masons among the colored race in Columbus.  Ed Evans and Jim Johnson are very good brick masons also.


Among the musicians of the past (all deceased) were:

Tom Gregory, who played the guitar; Mack Johnson “One Eyed Riley” was a fiddler; Will Tucker and Charlie Gilmer.  There was a band of Negroes which was featured at the “Rosebud” (white) dances about forty years ago.  This young set of debutantes held dances at that time principally in their homes, and the boys of the set – prominent in social circles – would employ these Negroes to furnish the music.

Some present-day musicians are:  Bernice Hunter who plays piano; Hattie Mitchell who sings; Rosa Herndon, an organist at the M.U. Baptist Church in Columbus.

Old Jack Kidd (deceased) was the Captain of the band that marched to the elections in Reconstruction Days around Caledonia.

Perhaps the most prominent musician of the Negro race in Columbus today is Annie Will Alexander who is also a teacher in Union Academy.  She is a pianist and director of Negro spirituals which are featured each fall at the Columbus Radius Fair in October.  About 125 Negro voices blend in rich, colorful harmony.  All church choirs from every Negro denomination are represented in this group, which is divided into trios, quartets, and sextets.  About two thirds of the number are women.

John Dixon plays the saxophone; Paul Cheatham and Edward Bush are drummers; and Johnnie Lee Wilson plays the piano.

Lula Roberts has a very good voice; Old Uncle Edmund Tabb (deceased) was a drummer and was a household servant in the Franklin home.

Lucy Page and Mary Howard are singers in the M.U. Baptist choir of Columbus.  Mack Butler has a good bass voice and lives in Columbus; Joseph Alexander and Leanna Griffin sing in the St. James Methodist choir.


The best known Negro doctors of Columbus are:

Dr. T.V. James, who is regarded as the most prominent and who employs an efficient secretary, Ollie Gray…James’ predecessor was Dr. Moore, deceased.

Dr. A.C. Hunter is another physician who stands well in the community, although his practice is not as extensive as Dr. James.

J.D. Alexander is a well known undertaker of the colored race.  There are two more like establishments in Columbus – those of Sykes and Conner and of Jessie Jones.

The one and only dentist among the Negroes is Dr. D.C. Jackson.

An outstanding practical nurse is Mary Nabors; she earns as much as $20.00 a week…she has nursed the most prominent families in the county.

Rebecca Jerdine, Lula Alexander, and Annie Bell Jordan are all good practical nurses; Pearl Thomas is a combination maid and practical nurse.

Sarah Bradley (deceased) was an outstanding Negro practical nurse.  She passed away recently and her loss is keenly felt.

The two reliable paper-hangers in Columbus are Ed and Will Baker, brothers, who have been quite outstanding in this line.

Albert Pope is also a good paper hanger of Columbus.  Jerry Holmes (deceased) was an outstanding paper hanger in Columbus for a long period; he died some years ago….

Porters:  Mack Johnson, Frank O’Neal, and Peyton Morse (all deceased) were outstanding porters in Columbus.

Walter, a faithful porter at this time for the firm of Robertson & Co., is a Negro highly thought of.  Mack Timberlake was loyal to the Elks Club for a long period.

Tommy Stepp at M.S.C.W. [Mississippi University for Women] is quite outstanding, having been in that institution as “messenger boy” for a long time.  He is rather a quaint character – is liked by all at the college and continued to perform his duties regularly and conscientiously.  Indeed, he is a big part of the college and a conspicuous figure there.  He was with Company B, 805 Pioneer Infantry in the World War.

 Old Uncle Jim (Deceased) was employed at the college during many decades – from approximately 1890 to 1920.  He, too, was well liked by all associated with M.S.C.W.


Old Titus Gilmer, an intelligent barber who had a shop in the historic Gilmer Hotel for a long period of years, was an outstanding Negro in Columbus.  He died some years ago…He was very proficient in the game of “chess”; indeed that was his favorite pastime and he really excelled in this sport.

Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 5:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

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