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.
Henderson Family Reunion 2018, Atlanta, Georgia.
Family over Everything.
Cousin Onra and her brother, Johnnie D. Henderson, 1940s.
Wishing my first cousin twice removed, Onra Henderson Camp Dillard, the happiest 98th birthday!
Cousin Onra and I at her home in Washington, D.C., 2016.
Last month, the Wilson Times featured an article looking back at the legendary coaching career of my father, Rederick C. Henderson.
Photograph by Paul Durham, courtesy of Wilson Times.
I couldn’t sleep; I hadn’t adjusted to the night sounds of Guatemala City. So I logged into Ancestry.com, and:
- T.L., who is a known third cousin. The match is actually with his sibling K.L., who provided a sample in lieu. (Predictably, Ancestry underestimates our match at 11.9 cM — 5th to 8th cousins. He shares 17 cM with G.W. and 47 with K.J., who are his third cousins and my second.) His great-grandmother Emma McNeely Houser, and mine, Carrie McNeely Colvert, were sisters. He’s my first McNeely match who is not also a Colvert, so I’m hoping our common matches will shed light on that line.
- W.H., my known half-third cousin. His great-grandmother, Lillie Barfield Holmes, and mine, Bessie Henderson, were both daughters of J. Buckner Martin. W.H. matches siblings J.E. (94 cM), L.H. (105 cM) and M.C. (23.6 cM), who are grandchildren of Bessie’s full brother Jack Henderson. (They’re W.H.’s half-second cousins once removed.) These are especially satisfying matches as I have been frustrated and mystified by our failures to register matches with descendants of Aunt Lillie’s brother. W.H. and I aren’t Ancestry matches, but we’ll see what Gedmatch says.
- I was shocked speechless by a match with F.W., whose tree shows her to be a descendant of Durant Dove. Durant Henderson, alias Dove, was the son of Nancy Henderson Dove, whom I believe to have been the sister of my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Patsey Henderson. But at 32 cM?? That fourth cousin-range number is much higher than I would expect with a fifth cousin second removed. F.W. has a second Henderson-Dove line, but I’m not sure that’s enough to account for the extra.
One of the earliest of the many sweet surprises my genealogical research has uncovered is that I am distant cousin to a close college friend, Lorna Dove. Lorna is descended from Durant Dove, alias Durant Henderson, whose mother, Nancy Henderson, I believe to have been the sister of my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Patsy Henderson.
I met Lorna’s father Milton Dove in the days leading up to our graduation from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. I knew of his tremendous work as a community activist in Kinston and was proud to claim a bit of kinship with him.
Today, I learned that Mr. Dove passed away last week at the age of 93. My deepest condolences go to the Dove family, who shared their father with so many for such good. Rest in peace, Milton Dove!
“KINSTON – On December 12, 1923, Milton Bickett Dove Sr. was born to Hosea and Rosella Dove on the family farm in the Woodington area of Lenoir County, North Carolina. He was a lifelong resident of Lenoir County having attended the public school system and graduating as valedictorian from Adkin High School in 1941. He passed away peacefully at his home on October 26, 2017. He met and married Mary Frances Mills on March 29, 1942 after which they moved to Kinston staying first in the Mitchell Wooten Courts Housing Projects, then in Lincoln City, and finally on Beech Avenue. Together they raised five children, Velma, Milton Jr., Kaye, Timber, and Lorna. Milton opened Dove’s Auto Service in 1946 and made many real estate investments. With the support of his wife Frances, he was able to pursue his life’s passion, community service. He worked with the Boy Scouts of America serving as scout master for many years, participated in Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Black Artist Guild, and the Greater Kinston Credit Union. The family frequently joked about the fact that he served as president of the elementary school PTA long after his children had left the school. In 1976 when the Lenoir County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was established, he was elected as the branch president. He was an NAACP Golden Heritage Lifetime Member and encouraged everyone to join as a lifetime member. While branch president, school desegregation was a primary initiative, however they also fought to eliminate discriminatory employment practices and spearheaded a voter registration drive. The NAACP presented him with many awards as he worked on the county, conference, and state levels. Throughout his life, he worked against Jim Crow Laws and upon discerning that they understood and accepted the risks associated with public protests, he encouraged his children to stand up for social justice. He successfully sued the Kinston School District for conducting a separate but unequal education system. The lawsuit resulted in a court-ordered integration plan resulting in his daughter Lorna’s enrollment in the previously “whites only” Northwest Elementary School. Prior to that, his daughter Kaye was one of the first black student enrollees in Grainger High School under the Freedom of Choice Plan. Attending the March on Washington in 1963 along with a bus load of other community activists was one of his fondest memories. Also being an ardent supporter and admirer of Nelson Mandela, in 1997 he visited South Africa and toured Mandela’s home in Soweto and the place of his 27-year imprisonment, Robbins Island. The trip to South Africa was truly a high light of his life. He was predeceased by his wife, Mary Frances; brothers, Wiley, Jarrell, King David; and sister, Ella Gray. He is survived by his sister, Eva Mae and brother, Alvin (Crystal) as well as five children, Velma Dove (Brian), Milton Jr., Kaye Jackson (James), Timber Washington (Lester), and Lorna Mills Dove (Daniel) along with a host of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. The funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, November 1 at the United American Free Will Baptist Tabernacle, 1011 Dr. J.E. Reddick Circle, Kinston, NC. Burial will follow in Mills Memorial Gardens. A wake will be held from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, October 31, at Mills Funeral Home. Viewing will be held one hour prior to the service Wednesday at the church. Arrangements are by Mills Funeral Home, Inc. Sign the guest book at kinston.com.”
On 12 March 1949, Freeman Farmer, 22, son of Tom and Anne Bynum Farmer, married Lunia Cannady, 21, daughter of Albert and Sylvan Andrews Cannady, on Lepton [Lipscomb] Road in Wilson. Original Free Will Baptist minister George W. Little performed the ceremony in the presence of Jeraline Edwards, E.N.C. San. C.D.; my grandmother Hattie Henderson, 1109 Queen Street; and Bessie Simmons, 211 Stantonsburg Street. Each of these women worked at Eastern North Carolina Sanatorium and, presumably, so did Lunia Cannady Farmer.
Cousin Zeke in 2013, age 93.
I happened to be in Wilson when the news came. Cousin Zeke had passed peacefully at the age of 97.
Cousin Zeke at right, with sister Bessie and their father Jack, circa late 1920s.
Alice “Zeke” Henderson Mabin was born 22 January 1920 in Wilson to Jesse “Jack” Henderson and Pauline Artis Henderson. Despite their ten-year age gap, she and my grandmother were close pals in the years before Zeke relocated to Norfolk, Virginia — where she met husband Joseph W. Mabin — and eventually Baltimore, Maryland.
Cousin Zeke in front of the family’s home on East Vance Street in the early 1940s, with sister Doris Henderson Ward behind.
Cousin Zeke returned to Wilson four years ago as her health began to fail. She had no children, but was well-loved by her many nieces, nephews and cousins.
Right to left: Cousin Zeke, her husband Joe, and her sisters Bessie Henderson Smith and Mildred Henderson Hall in Mildred’s den on Queen Street in Wilson.
Sisters Zeke and Bessie on their sister Mildred’s porch, 1986.