1608 Madison Avenue

 

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Built about 1960 and first occupied by Eddie Byers, a principal at several Charlotte Mecklenburg schools, and his wife Lois H. Byers, also a lifelong educator. Both were leaders in Charlotte’s civic life. Among other activities, Mr. Byers served as Vice Chair of Charlotte’s anti-poverty agency, the Charlotte Area Fund, and Mrs. Byers led the local chapter of Jacks and Jills, the enrichment organization for African American youth.

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Eddie Elliot Byers, Sr., (3.28.1921 – 6.23.1997)  grew up in Charlotte in a family that valued education. At a time when only a small percentage of students finished high school, he graduated from Second Ward High and went on to Johnson C. Smith University. World War II pulled him into the military, but upon his return he graduated summa cum laude in 1948. He was elected president of the Class of ’48 and also became a life-long member of the Swanks, the social club whose founders Thomas Wyche, Ray Booton, Gerson Stroud and others would do much to lead Civil Rights activism in Charlotte.

Mr. Byers began his career as teacher-principal at small rural Tuckers Grove school in Lincoln County. He next taught high school in Spartanburg, South  Carolina, but came back to Charlotte as soon as he could. In 1955 he started teaching at York Road High School. He continued his studies during the summers, earning a Masters Degree in school administration at Columbia University. That qualified him to become assistant principal at Sterling High in Pineville, then principal at Plato Price High on the western edge of Charlotte. He would subsequently serve as principal at three junior high schools in the city – Piedmont, Kennedy and Northwest – and also at Westerly Hills Elementary. He retired in 1986 after thirty one years with CMS.

At the same time, he dove into the civic life of his community. He served on the Trustee Board and sang in the Senior Choir at Gethsemane AME Zion Church. He belonged to Omega Psi phi fraternity, helped start the local chapter of the Phi Delta Kappa education honor society and maintained membership in Charlotte’s NAACP. When local educators chartered a School Workers Federal Credit Union, he served on the board. When national anti-poverty efforts inspired creation of the Charlotte Area Fund, he served as Vice-Chairman. His obituary called him a “stalwart warrior for decency, fairness and the elimination of ignorance … a scholar who never lost the common touch nor found security in taking the popular, safe positions.”

While Eddie Byers was a student at JCSU he met and married Lois Harris of Birmingham, Alabama. Lois Harris Byers (8.9.1927 – 2.8.2012) had grown up the seventh of ten children, a musician and a natural teacher who found her life’s direction in the AME Zion church. She moved to North Carolina to attend the denomination’s college in Salisbury, Livingstone College, but after one year transferred to the bigger campus of Johnson C. Smith University. Upon completing her B.A. she went on to New York University for a Masters Degree in physical education and would later gain a second Masters in counseling. She taught physical education in Charlotte-Mecklenburg School for thirty years, tried retiring, but returned to head the After School program at Irwin Elementary.

Like her husband, she treasured community involvement. She served in many leadership capacities at Gethsemane AME Zion. She became president of the local chapter of Jacks and Jills, the enrichment organization for African American youngsters, and national president of the Holidays Bridge Club, where she helped launch a number of new chapters in other cities. She chaired the Charlotte membership committee of the elite Links, Inc., and took a lifelong role in Delta Sigma Theta sorority, including representing the Charlotte Chapter on the Pan Hellenic Counsel. Both she and Eddie enjoyed athletics, winning medals in Senior Olympics competitions. The couple raised two children in this house:  Karen Michelle and Eddie E. Byers, Jr.

Principal Eddie Byers’ younger brother lived two blocks away at 1812 Madison Avenue. Alexander Hamilton Byers followed in closely in Eddie’s footsteps — student government president at Johnson C. Smith University, classroom teacher, then education administrator. Alexander H. Byers was the initial principal of J.T. Williams Junior High and later at Ranson Junior High he became Charlotte’s first black principal to lead a previously white junior high. He finished his career as Assistant Superintendent of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.

Madison-1608-a-web
Madison-1608-b-web

Architecture

Ranch house with a main gable roof and a projecting front gabled porch. Aluminum siding sheathes the gable ends. “Wrought iron” columns support the front porch roof. Permits show that the original owner added a rear addition (kitchen, den, bedroom, bathroom) in 1964.

Building permits

Madison 1608 permit
Date issued: July 20, 1964
Owner: Eddie E. Byers
Contractor: Cecil B. Threadgill
Estimated cost: $6,875
Other permit info: rear addition: kitchen, den, bedroom, bathroom

First appeared in city directory

1961 – Eddie E. Byers & Lois. He: Teacher, York Road High.
She: Spl Teacher, Board of Ed.

1981 city directory – Eddie E. Byers & Lois H.
He: Principal Kennedy Jr. High. She: No occupation listed. [Karen M & Eddie E, Jr., students, live at home]

Resources

“In Memory of Alexander Hamilton Byers,” Q-City Metro, April 4, 2009. On-line at: https://qcitymetro.com/2009/04/04/in-memory-alexander-hamilton-byers-025741541/