Today marks one month since my beloved father passed from labor to reward. We remain heartbroken, but are grateful for the time we had with him, for the impact he made in the world, and for your continual expressions of care and concern.
Tonight my family celebrated the 50th wedding anniversaries of two of my cousins (who are brothers) and their wives. Another of their brothers and his wife, who came in from Maryland, hit 51 this year. My parents made 60 years in May. So did my uncle and aunt. I can tick off an easy dozen couples in the 25-49 year range and a couple dozen more that only death parted after decades. That this kind of abiding love is commonplace among my people is a blessing beyond measure. We hear so much about the dismal state of the Black family, but here’s the Black family I know. Here’s the Black family I love.
Cheers to you, Effenus and Helen, and Fred and Linda, and Dock and Barbara! Many more!
One of the blessed couples.
“Renewal of vows,” eldest grandson presiding.
The youngest in his first hard-bottoms. (Stacy Adams!) He said he felt like a gentleman.
Today is my father’s 86th birthday, and I’m grateful to be able to spend it with him. He was a storied high school basketball coach in North Carolina and played the game in high school, college, and the Air Force. Here, as a center on Saint Augustine’s College’s team, he takes a jumper over future Globetrotter Curley Neal.
In June of this year, the Henderson family lost an extra-special cousin to COVID-19. Today would have been Reginald J. Henderson Sr.‘s 76th birthday. By happenstance, I ran across his high school yearbook online today and found his senior portrait.
We miss you, Cousin Reggie!
The Tiger (1962), G.W. Carver High School, Mount Olive, N.C., digitized at DigitalNC.
Cousin Onra at the 2018 Henderson Family Reunion, Atlanta.
Onra Henderson Camp Dillard, my grandmother’s paternal first cousin, turns one hundred today. She had long wanted to celebrate in Dudley, North Carolina, her hometown, but recent health challenges and this pandemic wouldn’t allow it. We did the best thing under the circumstances, however, and gathered virtually via Zoom to honor the oldest living member of our Henderson Clan.
It was beautiful, tech glitches and all. It’s Cousin Onra’s birthday, and it’s Mother Day weekend, and COVID-19 has kept apart even those of us who live in the same cities, so how could seeing all those little boxes filled with loving faces not have been great? There were songs and prayers and praises, and the thrill of seeing Cousin Onra laugh and, even now, in that rich voice we know so well, say a few words.
WHEREAS, on the occasion of her centennial birthday, the Henderson family wishes to recognize and honor our matriarch Onra Henderson Camp Dillard; and
WHEREAS, Onra Luevicey Henderson was born May 9, 1920, in Dudley, North Carolina, to Henry Lee Henderson and Christine Lenora Aldridge Henderson; and
WHEREAS, Onra Henderson Dillard is the second child and eldest daughter of eight children and is much treasured by brother Kenneth Avon Henderson and sister Mona Faye Henderson Sutton; and
WHEREAS, Onra Henderson Dillard as a young child joined First Congregational United Church of Christ in Dudley, a church founded by her ancestors; and
WHEREAS, Onra Henderson Dillard was educated in the public schools of Wayne County, graduating Dillard High School, after which she attended finishing school at historic Palmer Memorial Institute near Greensboro, North Carolina; and
WHEREAS, Onra Henderson married William Homer Camp on December 31, 1938, in Raleigh, North Carolina, and to this union was born a son, William Homer Camp Jr.; and
WHEREAS, in 1940 Onra and Homer Camp joined the Great Migration to settle in Washington, D.C., soon purchasing the home on Seventh Street S.E., in which she still resides; and
WHEREAS, Onra Camp married Jackson Dillard on October 19, 1945, in Washington, D.C.; and
WHEREAS, Onra Henderson Dillard supported the nation’s war efforts through employment at the Department of the Navy, and continued her career in the Navy Department as a supply officer for more than thirty years; and
WHEREAS, in the early 1940s, Onra Henderson Dillard joined People’s Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C., beginning a lifelong commitment to Christ-centered service that included positions as president of the Evangelism and Outreach Committee and the April/May Birth-Month Club; membership on search committees for senior and associate pastors; member and secretary of the Board of Trustees; chairwoman of the confirmation committee; confirmation class teacher; deacon; chair of the repast committee for funerals; membership in the Wednesday Prayer Group, the Senior Leisure Group, and the Music Aid Circle; and singing in two choirs; and
WHEREAS, moreover, Onra Henderson Dillard has a distinguished record of service within the Congregationalist UCC denomination, including its Potomac Association and Central Atlantic Conference, and has represented the UCC with the Interfaith Conference in Washington, DC; and
WHEREAS, Onra Henderson Dillard has been an activist on behalf of her Capitol Hill community, by, as a member of the Community Council, helping to stop construction that would have displaced many families and to establish 31 libraries in elementary schools, and using her paralegal training to provide volunteer services, including consumer counseling workshops, for the Council for the Elderly for many years; and
WHEREAS, Onra Henderson Dillard is a loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, sister, aunt, and cousin to many who cherish and revere her; and
WHEREAS, beloved by her family and friends, Onra Henderson Dillard has lived a long and productive life setting an example of service to all; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED by the Henderson Family that we commend and honor Onra Henderson Dillard for her lifetime of commitment to her family, church, and community and, be it
RESOLVED FURTHER, that the Henderson Family prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to Onra Henderson Dillard as an expression of the family’s love and best wishes on this, her 100th birthday.
This 9th day of May, 2020,
The Henderson Family
Cousin Onra, my grandmother, me, and Cousin Evelyn at a family reunion in the early 1990s.
In November of 1948, my great-grandfather John C. Allen Sr. traveled to New York City to mediate on behalf of his local union to end a strike by longshoremen that tied up all cargo except coal.
The Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), 20 November 1948.
In June 1923, my grandfather Roderick Taylor vouched for his first cousin Howard Willis Barnes when Barnes applied for a license to marry Elmer Pentecost Wright in Greensboro, North Carolina. Taylor was still spelling his first name with two D’s and no E at the time. His mother, Rachel Barnes Taylor, and Howard’s father, Ned Barnes, were siblings.
Handwritten on the rear: “To Jas. Battle from Roddrick Taylor.” The photo likely dates from about 1905.
My great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson was selected to serve as a Superior Court juror in Wayne County, North Carolina, in 1877.
Goldsboro Messenger, 20 August 1877.
Henderson Family Reunion 2018, Atlanta, Georgia.
Family over Everything.
Edgar J. “Buddy” Artis (1914-1988) and James Broady Artis (1912-1963), sons of June S. and Ethel Becton Artis, circa 1919.
The Artis brothers were my double cousins. My great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis was their paternal grandfather, and my great-great-great-aunt Amanda Aldridge Artis was their paternal grandmother.
The 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County, recorded the family right around the time the boys posed for this portrait: on Stantonsburg & Wilson Road, farm manager June S. Artis, 30, wife Ethel, 26, and children James, 7, Edgar, 5, Manda Bell, 3, and farm laborer Edgar Exum.
Many thanks to my cousin Adam S. Artis, Edgar J. Artis’ grandson, for sharing this photo.