by C. Rudolph Knight
FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The Perry-Weston Historical Institute recognized and honored six community nonagenarians on Saturday, June 1, in the Calvary Episcopal Church Memorial Hall.. They were Carrie Lawrence Bridgers (91), Magnolia Spencer Bryant (92), Irma Harrison DuBose (91), Lillie Mae White James (90), Bessie Brown Lawrence (91), and V. Dorothula Harrison Vines (92). Since 2004, citizens 90 years of age or older have been honored at the Perry-Weston Nonagenarian Tea. This is the fourth such event.
Carrie Lawrence Bridgers, a 1940 graduate of Tarboro Colored High School, is the daughter of the late Samuel Henry and Clara Pitt Lawrence. She and her six sisters and three brothers enjoyed a close-knit family environment at 903 Bradley Avenue, here in Tarboro, which was built by her father, an area master carpenter.
She married James Edward Bridgers on April 16, 1940, and they have two children, Margarella Bridgers Moore and Cullen Bridgers. In the early years of their marriage, she was a meticulous and caring homemaker, providing a warm and loving atmosphere for her husband and children. In addition to her household responsibilities, she clerked in the Bridgers family convenience store on Main Street in Princeville where she developed and utilized her entrepreneurial skills. Through the years, she hired and trained many high school students in salesmanship, customer service, and professional conduct.
She always wanted the most for her family and encouraged her children to strive for education. Her daughter, Margarella, is a retired public school music teacher and an active church musician in several Tarboro/Princeville area churches. Her son, Cullen, is a retired public school physical education teacher from the Maryland public school system, and he and his family live in Rose Hill, North Carolina.
Carrie took enjoyment in several organizations such as Eastern Star, Home Mission, and Pastor’s Aid Committee at her home church, Eastern Star Missionary Baptist Church in Tarboro. Born on January 6, 1922, she remains very active with “Meals on Wheels” with which she has served for the last twenty-five years.
Magnolia Spencer Bryant - After arriving in Tarboro early in 1946 as the relatively new bride of Raleigh Otis Bryant, Magnolia Spencer of Scranton, North Carolina, associated herself the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church and has been a member for sixty-seven years. She is a 1940 graduate of the Hyde County Training School where she was known as “Big Baby” and was born November 11, 1920. Her parents were Reverend Samuel Warren Spencer and Harriett Spencer Spencer of Scranton, NC. Mr. and Mrs. Raleigh Bryant were married in 1943 and had previously resided in Norfolk, Virginia before settling in Tarboro, NC.
While in high school, Magnolia was a member of the basketball team and the Choral Club every year; served as treasurer of her senior class; participated in class plays as a freshman, sophomore, and junior; was business manager of her senior class; and was an honor student each year of high school career. Her stated ambition at the time of high school graduation was to become a trained nurse.
Tragically, on January 9, 1957, Raleigh died suddenly of a heart attack and, as a surviving daughter later relayed, “If one mother can take care of seven children, then why can’t seven children take of one mother?” And take care of these seven children, she did! All are high school graduates with varied interests and talents.
Harriet, as the oldest set the example for her siblings by working as a teacher’s assistant in the Tarboro Public School system; Minnie Ray completed North Carolina A&T University and was employed as a nutritionist with L. Richardson Hospital in Greensboro, NC, before her untimely death in 2008; Artis attended North Carolina Central University as an outstanding football player and worked in the Public Recreation Department for the City of Greenville, South Carolina before his premature death in 2001; Joycelyn lives in Greensboro and works as a registered cancer nurse; and Raleigh, Winston, and Samuel have had productive careers in manufacturing.
The family has enjoyed many happy times, in private and on the stage, sharing their musical singing talents with others in the community.
Today, “Ma Mag,” after retiring from Phoenix Trimming Company where she worked for twenty-one years, serves as a Senior Mother at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church and, recently, retired her melodious voice from the senior choir.
Irma Harrison DuBose was born January 9, 1922. Her parents were George Henry Harrison and Verna Love Harrison. She married the late George H. DuBose, and they had two children, Gayle Fentrice Harrison and Jacques Xavier Harrison.
Mrs. DuBose worked for the Tarboro Funeral Home for thirteen years and for the Rocky Mount City Schools for more than twenty-two years. Now retired for several years, she keeps active with professional sewing, church activities, and family, especially her grandchildren.
She is a former member of St. Paul AME Zion Church, her family’s home church which is the oldest African American church in Tarboro, established in 1865. More recently she affiliated herself with the interdenominational Gateway to Heaven Church For All People, located in historic Princeville, North Carolina. As a member of the church, she has served as president of the choir, president of the Helping Hand Committee, secretary of the Trustee Board, and secretary-treasurer of Bible Studies. Socially, she belongs to the Tarboro Order of the Eastern Star and has been a member of the community choir.
Mrs. DuBose attributes her longevity to doing good things for others and by living a Christian and religious life.
After retiring, Lillie Mae White James returned to Tarboro, along with her husband, Warren Harding James. She had had a productive and rewarding twenty-five career as the office manager of an electric firm in Irvington, New Jersey. After graduating from Tarboro Colored High School in 1940, she relocated to East Orange, New Jersey, and, while there, completed business courses in an evening adult-education program.
During her tenure in Irvington, NJ, she was a member of Olivet Baptist Church, Newark, NJ, and served as a good member and a witness to the Lord. After returning to Tarboro, she reaffiliated herself with Eastern Star Missionary Baptist Church.
She is the daughter of Walter and Mary White and was born March 9, 1923. Lillie Mae attributes her longevity to “Living a good clean life.” She and her son, Gregory Harding James, live together and enjoy traveling and visiting family and friends along the eastern seaboard.
Bessie Brown Lawrence, a star girls basketball player under the legendary Coach Earl Burnette, was graduated from Tarboro Colored High School in 1939. After marrying Charlie Lawrence on April 24, 1942, the couple joined the ranks of the Great Migration and relocated to Washington, D.C. First working for the United States Army and the United States Navy, she secured a clerk examiner’s position with the Department of the Treasury, retiring in 1982 with thirty-one years of Federal Government employment.
During her working years, Bessie took numerous training classes pertaining to her work assignments and duties through George Washington University. Being a life-long learner, she had continued to matriculate at different educational institutions in Washington, D.C. and in North Carolina.
She, Charlie, and Charlie Alvin “Chucky” moved back to Tarboro in 1990, after fifty years, and she joined Union Baptist Church where she serves on the Mother Board. Her parents were Lafayette “Fate” and Lossie Bryan Brown. She and her family enjoy all kinds of sports and especially basketball, her specialty.
V. Dorothula Harrison Vines was born on September 29, 1920, to George Henry and Vernal Love Harrison and was graduated in 1940 from the Tarboro Colored High School. A professional seamstress by trade, she was highly regarded for creating bridal attire and formal wear and for fashionable alterations. Her mother, a product of the home economics program (textiles, clothing construction, and garment care) at the Joseph Keasbey Brick Agricultural, Industrial and Normal School near Enfield, North Carolina, systematically passed on this knowledge to her daughters, Dorothula, Naomi, Irma, and Ruth.
After her marriage to Reuben H. Vines and the birth of her two children, Vernal Kimberly and Mitchell, she devoted her time and energies to her husband, children, and domestic responsibilities. She was a member of St. Paul AME Zion Church and served for many years as a Mother in the church and served on the Steward Board and Lay Council. More recently she has attended Gateway to Heaven for All People, located in Princeville. Her pride and joy are her grandchildren.
The Perry-Weston Historical, Educational, and Cultural Institute promotes African American history, genealogy, culture, and arts, particularly in Edgecombe County and North Carolina. The Institute also promotes the conservation and preservation of selected African American buildings, sites, and records. The Institute sponsors classes, lectures, exhibits, demonstration,s publications, and special projects and programs.
C. Rudolph Knight is a Tarboro native, a retired community college educator, a research historian, and the Chair of the Perry-Weston Historical Institute.