Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Photographs, Virginia

Rest in peace, Jasper Maxwell Allen, Jr. (1931-2021).

Jasper M. Allen Jr.

My extended Allen family, which has always been small, recently lost its oldest member, my mother’s first cousin, Jasper Maxwell Allen, Jr. I never met Cousin Mack Jr., but for the last dozen years or so spoke with him once or twice a year by telephone. He was close to his beloved late wife Arnetta’s family, and I am grateful to them for this obituary:

The late Jasper Maxwell Allen, Jr. was born in Charlotte Courthouse, Virginia on February 10th, 1931, to the late Lena P. Allen, a school teacher and Dr. Jasper Maxwell Allen, Sr., a dentist. Jasper, Max, or Allen as most of us called him was a bit rambunctious as a child (by his own admittance), and often joked about his experiences as a kid and getting into mischief every now and then. One of his favorite stories to tell was how his beloved mother Lena was not only his mom, but also his teacher in elementary school. He would snicker about getting into what he called “double trouble” when he would misbehave in school!!

As a young man, Allen went on to Maryland State College, now known as the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree. He then went on to be drafted into the military and served during the Korean War, in both France and Germany. The military allowed him to utilize his degree and knowledge of technology and computers. During this time, he also acquired a love for the Volkswagen! While in the military, Allen would also go on to meet Merchant Marine Chief Henry Burton, who would later coincidentally, become his uncle in-law. After completing both college and his military tour Allen lived and worked in Washington DC before settling in Harlem, New York. His expertise in the world of technology earned him jobs with IBM, Rudband, and even a covert position that until this day he had never “spilled the beans” on. Which was absolutely within his nature. Allen was a “by the book” kind of guy.

While living in New York and working at Rudband he met who would later become the love of his life, Arnetta Lewis. Arnetta was Allen’s supervisor in the Key Punch Department. Their love blossomed during their carpool rides from work, in which Allen was the driver. At 90 years old, Allen could still describe the exact outfit and hair style Arnetta was wearing the day that they met (a gold and blue checkered jacket, a gold blouse and her hair was in a French roll). To quote him on their early encounters “my heart jumped up and moved around a bit!” Allen and Arnetta dated and later married on September 7th, 1957 and were married for 55 years. They would go on to leave Harlem and move to the Bronx where Allen spent the last 45 years. Allen and Arnetta did everything together! They bickered and fussed, partied, traveled, prayed, and loved their family and each as a unit. Arnetta preceded Allen in death in November of 2012.

As the elder of our family Allen remained the wise, smart, cool, funny, gracious, and slick guy we all loved, and we all had our very own special relationship with him. From the oldest to the youngest, he could hold a conversation with any of us about anything. He also knew how to get us to stop fussing at him by playing possum and faking a nap, he would sometimes peak one eye open to see if we were still there (Classic Allen).

Affectionately known as “Uncle Allen” by his New York family, Allen remained surrounded by loved ones no more than an elevator or a train ride away! Allen leaves behind nephews and nieces, Rodney A. Lewis, Juanita Lewis, Darcel Kennedy, John Harries, Rodney E. Lewis, Jasmine N. Lewis-Peguero, Kayla E.N. Lewis, Jasmine Rucker, Jamek Rucker, Kaiah Irene Lewis, Rodney Trey Lewis, Jason R. Peguero, Raul Peguero and Tracee Bryant. Allen also leaves behind a host of family and friends in his home state of Virginia. We love you and will miss you dearly Uncle Allen.

Cousin Mack, his mother Lena Jeffress Allen, and wife Arnetta Lewis Allen.
J. Maxwell Allen Jr. and his first cousins (my uncles) Charles C. Allen and John C. Allen III, circa 1938.
J. Maxwell Allen, his cousin/my aunt Marion Allen Christian, and his brother Cameron L. Allen.

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Business, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, Politics, Virginia

Allen testifies and makes a good witness.

The Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), 19 April 1911.

In 1909, the churches of Newport News’ East End, known as Bloodfields for its violence, commenced a campaign to curtail liquor licenses in the neighborhood. In April 1911, Zion Baptist Church and the Colored League of East End (represented by J. Thomas Newsome) appeared in court to contest the grant of a license to William Gholsen to open a bar at “the old Sam Hall saloon” near 20th Street on Ivy Avenue. My great-grandfather John C. Allen Sr. spoke on behalf of the church — at some length and to good effect. Gholson was denied.

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Maternal Kin, Virginia

Hiding in plain sight.

I don’t understand how I have missed this:

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Almost exactly four years ago, with help from my late uncle Charles C. Allen and my new DNA cousin A.B., I identified Edward C. Harrison as the biological father of my great-grandfather John C. Allen Sr.

The screenshot above shows a portion of the 1880 census of Harrison township, Charles City County, Virginia. Household number 73: Wm. L. Harrison, 32; his mother C.R., 64; and siblings J.C., 24, and E.C., 31. That’s Edward C. Harrison, his brother William Lambert Harrison, his mother Caroline R. Lambert Harrison, and his sister Jane Cary Harrison. (His father William Mortimer Harrison died in 1865.) Household number 74, right next door: Gram Allen, 26; wife Mary; and children Namie, 5, John, 3, and Emma, 1. That’s my great-grandfather John, his mother Mary Brown Allen, his adoptive father Graham Allen, and his half-sisters Namie (Naomi? Nannie?) and Emma. I repeat: living next door.

Were the Allens tenants on the Harrisons’ farm? Graham Allen and Mary Brown married 22 June 1876, when she was just a few months pregnant by Edward Harrison. Were both of them already living on the farm? Why remain under the gaze (and, presumably, control) of the father of Mary’s oldest son? What relationship, if any, did John have his biological father? With other Harrisons?

Before recognizing this census entry, I had no evidence of how Mary Brown and Edward Harrison met or whether John Allen knew his father’s identity.

William Lambert Harrison (1845-1919), John C. Allen Sr.’s uncle.

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Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, Photographs, Virginia

Beauty winner!

My grandmother worked as a dietician at Dorie Miller Recreation Center in Newport News, Virginia. The organizers of a teen beauty contest were looking for more contestants, and my 13 year-old mother casually entered.

“And the winner is … Beverly Allen!”

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Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), 15 August 1951.

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New Journal and Guide (Norfolk, Virginia), 25 August 1951.

The summer after high school, to while away the hours until enrollment at Hampton Institute, she entered the Fancy Pants and Sport Shirt Ball at the city of Hampton’s African-American beach resort, the Bay Shore Hotel. In a midriff-baring genie outfit whipped up by my grandmother, she took second. (But really? You be the judge….)

New Journal and Guide (Norfolk, Virginia), 30 June 1956.

Sixty-two years later, she’s still beautiful … inside and out.

Happy 80th birthday to this abiding blessing, my mother, with love.

 

 

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Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, Virginia

Voters League meets at Zion Baptist.

The Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), 10 September 1931.

It appears that the Citizens Civic and Welfare League quickly narrowed its focus and morphed into the Colored Citizens Voters League. By 1931, John C. Allen Sr. was president of the organization for several years. (Zion Baptist was Allen’s home church.)

The Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), 30 March 1936.

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Education, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, Virginia

The Allens make the honor roll.

5 9 1911

The Daily Press, 9 May 1911.

11 10 1912

The Daily Press, 10 November 1912.

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The Daily Press, 10 December 1939.

My great-uncle J. Maxwell Allen, great-aunt Marion Allen Lomans, and first cousin once removed J. Maxwell Allen Jr. excelled in their elementary school studies at John Marshall School in Newport News, Virginia. John Marshall opened in 1896.

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Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, Virginia

The D.D.G.C.

I finally ponied up for expanded access to Newspapers.com’s holdings and immediately tapped into a vein of articles about my Allen family in Newport News, Virginia. Expect a river of posts, starting with the earliest print references I have found to my great-grandfather John C. Allen Sr.

rp 3 7 1908

Richmond Planet, 7 March 1908.

rp 4 2 1910

Richmond Planet, 2 April 1910.

John Allen arrived in Newport News from Charles City County in 1899, an unlettered farm boy. Less than ten years later, he held high office in the Knights of Pythias of North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, an African-American fraternal organization founded in Richmond in 1869 after a black man was denied membership by the Pythians’ Supreme Lodge.

These notices, published in Richmond’s black newspaper, signaled to the public the fraternal organization’s trustworthiness and largesse and undoubtedly attracted new members and expanded its influence.

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