Sam Fulwood III, raised in this house, became a nationally known journalist for Cleveland Plain Dealer, Los Angeles Times and other newspapers. He is the author of two books, including Waking from a Dream which recalls his youth in McCrorey Heights. In 2016 Sam Fullwood III is Senior Fellow at Center for American Progress, Washington, DC.
Building permits indicate that this house and the one next door at 1636 Madison Avenue were built speculatively in 1954 – 55 by W.P. Cherry & Son, one of the city’s small white-owned contracting firms. First occupants here at 1632 Madison were Rev. Samuel L. Fulwood and wife Hallie.
Rev. Samuel Levi Fulwood, Jr. (10.12.1925 – 12.10.2007), grew up in Waxhaw. Now a suburb of Charlotte, it was a separate semi-rural community in the early twentieth century. The Fulwoods were Presbyterian church leaders. Rev. Fullwood, Sr., headed a congregation in Waxhaw and he sent his son to Coulter Academy in Cheraw, South Carolina. It was one of a network of private schools run by Presbyterian leaders that helped the best and brightest African American youth achieve a full high school education — something seldom available in the poorly funded black public schools of the segregation-era South.
The top students in the Presbyterian academies were recruited to Johnson C. Smith University. “June” Fulwood (as the family called him) graduated in the Class of 1948, then stayed on in the seminary program, attaining a Divinity degree.
Rev. Fulwood found his calling in Presbyterian churches in the small towns around Charlotte. He took his first pulpit at Cleveland Presbyterian in Cleveland, N.C., then went to Freedom Presbyterian in Statesville, N.C. In 1966 he began commuting to Bellefonte Presbyterian in the farm community of Harrisburg east of the city. He preached there twenty-two years until his retirement. “Following his retirement he served as supply pastor for several Presbyterian churches in this area,” his funeral program noted. “His hours of duty were not limited only to Sunday worship. He ministered to the sick and shut-in, made many hospital visits, bonded unions of matrimony, and endlessly lived for the Lord.”
In 1951 June married Hallie Bernice Massey. She worked as an elementary teacher and the pair raised two sons, Samuel III, who went off to become a noted journalist, and George, who stayed in the Charlotte area.
Much as “June” Fulwood’s innate ability had pulled him to Coulter Academy and thence to JCSU, young Sam’s bright star carried him into some of Charlotte’s first integrated schools, then to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In his book Waking from the Dream, Sam Fulwood III recalled his feelings when Principal Gwen Cunningham, a McCrorey Heights neighbor, suggested that he go to a previously all-white middle school. “One day when I was in sixth grade, Principal Gwen Cunningham summoned me to her office. Mrs. Cunningham, who was always immaculately dressed and smelled as though she took baths in a large vat of floral perfume, handed me some papers…. ‘I’ve talked with your teacher. Mrs. Wheeler says you are one of the best students in her class and she thinks you should go to Ranson Junior High next year. I think you and your parents should be very proud.’” The school board turned down Fulwood’s initial transfer request, but he became part of integration at McClintock Junior High and then at Garinger High School.
He went on to UNC Chapel Hill where he wrote both for the mainstream Daily Tarheel newspaper and also for Black Ink, an upstart publication created by African Americans students. The combination reflected his desire to help forge a proudly Afrocentric community while at the same time playing an active role in wider society. It was a tendency also seen in his induction into the old-line elite Order of the Old Well and Order of the Grail — at the same time that he helped start a chapter of the black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha.
He did so well at the Daily Tarheel that the Charlotte Observer offered him a job at age 20, fulfilling an ambition he had nurtured throughout his teens. From there his career was off and running — Baltimore Sun, Atlanta Constitution, Los Angeles Times where he helped win a Pulitzer for coverage of the Rodney King protests, a stint in South Africa reporting on the dismantling of apartheid, then prestigious research and teaching fellowships at Harvard and other universities, and finally a long engagement as writer at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC.
A compact example of the Ranch style, one-story in red brick. A low gable roof covers the main block of the house. A smaller front gable calls attention to the living room, which has a bay window that may not be original. An even smaller gable projects to shelter the front porch.
Madison 1632 permit a
Date issued: February 25, 1955
Owner: W. P. Cherry
Contractor: J. P. Thomas
Other permit info: Wiring, part of original construction of house
Date issued: December 3, 1954
Owner: W. P. Cherry
Contractor: W. P. Cherry & Son
Other permit info: Build residence
First appeared in city directory
1956 – Rev. Samuel L. Fulwood & Hallie M.
She: Teacher, Public Schools
1981 city directory:
Rev. Samuel L. Fulwood & Hallie M.
He: Pastor, Bellfonte United Presby. She: No occupation listed
[Sons Sam III & Geo. E. are students living at home]
“Coulter Memorial Academy” in the South Carolina Picture Project website. On-line at: www.sciway.net/sc-photos/chesterfield-county/coulter-memorial-academy.html
Beech Award, UNC. On-line at: https://alumni.unc.edu/award-profile-samuel-l-fulwood-iii-78/
“History of Bellefonte Presbyterian Church.” On-line at: http://tedmccachren.com/historic/historicpictures/Bellfonte-History.pdf