Built in 1958 – 1959 and first occupied by Charles E. Sammons and Lena M. Sammons. Charles Sammons was one of several McCrorey Heights men who worked for the U.S. Post Office — among the best-paying steady jobs available to African Americans before the 1960s. Lena Sammons was a life-long educator — a career path she shared with the majority of McCrorey Heights women. She taught at York Road High School and Garinger High School, served as Director of Public Relations at Johnson C. Smith University, and finished her career as Principal at Hidden Valley Elementary.
Thanks to her funeral program, we know more about Lena Sammons than about about her husband.
Lena Mills Sammons (5.19.1932 – 2.5.2000) came up through Charlotte’s public schools, finishing as Salutatorian (second in her class) at West Charlotte High in 1949. She graduated magna cum laude from Johnson C. Smith University and embarked on her career as a educator. She taught at York Road High School when the couple moved into this house.
She went on earn a Masters in Education at UNC Chapel Hill in 1967. With degree in hand, she came back to her alma mater JCSU in 1968 to become an instructor of English and Speech. She later served as Director of Public Relations there. She ultimately returned to Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools as a teacher at Garinger High School, then Principal at Hidden Valley Elementary.
Her passion for education pushed her to run for School Board in 1974 as CMS struggled over compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1971 Swann v Mecklenburg busing decision. The Charlotte Observer quoted her: “‘I do not equivocate in my support of integration or busing,’ she told one all-white group, noting that ‘whatever the charm of neighborhood schools may be, they tend to narrow the student’s world and are contrary to sound education.’ The Observer went on to report that “her criticism of ‘blatant inequality’ in the treatment of women the classroom has won Mrs. Sammons endorsements from both the Black Political Caucus and the predominantly white Charlotte Women’s Political Caucus.” Despite that support she ran last in the election. Not until the 1980s would an African American woman win a seat on School Board.
The disappointment of the 1974 election loss did not dim her activism. She helped lead a Black Women’s Caucus and spoke on its behalf at a 1976 celebration of International Women’s Day. Acknowledging that black women sometimes viewed the 1970s Women’s Movement with suspicion because of its white, middle-class leadership, she urged both groups should be “unified in their struggle. Both want emancipation, but racism has so effectively divided people of this country that many black women will not ally themselves with a common cause and a common sex simply because of the color of their skin.”
Ms. Sammons’ funeral program noted her active leadership in First Baptist Church West, both in its original center city location and later in the new sanctuary by architect Harvey Gantt that went up on the edge of McCrorey Heights in the 1980s. She sang in the choir, contributed historical research, organized an after school computer program and edited the church newsletter.
Like most other McCrorey Heights women, she participated actively in community life: “one of the founders of Charlotte Chapter of National Epicureans, Inc., secretary of the Las Reinas Club … [and] initiated into the Gamma Delta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.”
Lena and Charles Sammons took out the permit to build the house in August of 1958. To do the construction work, they contracted with Marsh Realty, one of the city’s biggest suburban homebuilders/developers in the 1950s and 60s.
Ranch. Red brick, 1-story, with main hip-roofed block and projecting front wing that holds living room and porch. Located on a corner lot adjoining Andrill Terrace at the eastern edge of the neighborhood.
Date issued: August 11, 1958
Owner: Charles E. Sammons
Contractor: Marsh Realty
Other permit info: Build residence
Building permit files, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
First appeared in city directory
1960 – Charles E. Sammons & Lena M.
He: Clerk, Post Office
She: Teacher, York Road School
City directory collection, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
Golden Bull 1968 (JCSU yearbook), pp. 42, 149. On-line at: http://library.digitalnc.org/cdm/ref/collection/yearbooks/id/1464
“Here are Candidates for School Board,” Charlotte Observer, April 28, 1974.
Lena Sammons was interviewed for “Behind the Veil,” Duke University’s 1990s oral history of the segregation era. The tape has not been transcribed nor digitized — and has not been consulted in writing the present essay. http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/btv/#aspace_ref3871_c8n
“Women’s Day Marked at CPCC: ‘No Freedom til All are Free,'” Charlotte Observer, March 10, 1976.