Shortly after my grandmother’s birth in the summer of 1910, her father, J. Thomas Aldridge, decamped for Shaw University. Dudley’s colored school went only through eighth grade, so Tom, already in his mid 20s, had to start in Shaw’s preparatory division. (He shaved ten years of his age the rest of his life.) The family’s pride and joy, Tom was the first to pursue higher education. Near the start of his second year, however, Tom was arrested for forgery. Ever vigilant for stories that cast colored people in a negative light, the story was picked up by newspapers across eastern North Carolina, no doubt amplifying his humiliation.
Wilmington Dispatch, 8 November 1911.
Clinton Caucasian, 9 November 1911.
Wilson Daily Times, 10 November 1911.
I don’t know the outcome of the prosecution. Presumably, Tom, at least, was not convicted. He is listed as an enrolled student at Shaw University each year from 1911 through 1917, as he worked his way through its preparatory and undergraduate divisions. (Early in his studies, Tom changed the spelling of his name from ‘Aldridge’ to ‘Aldrich.’ I don’t know why.) After Shaw, he went on to Meharry Medical School in Nashville, his brush with the law far behind him.
37th Annual Catalogue of the Officers and Student, Shaw University, 1911.