1650 Washington Avenue

This is a draft, now being reviewed by members of the McCrorey Heights Neighborhood Association. Please share comments with Tom@HistorySouth.org 

According to current resident owner Edith Shearin, this house was built as the parsonage for First United Presbyterian Church, also known as Seventh Street Presbyterian. It was one of the city’s leading downtown congregations, responsible for the founding of Johnson C. Smith University.

The first occupants at 1650 Patton Avenue, from about 1952 to 1962, were Rev. James W. Smith, Sr., pastor at Seventh Street Presbyterian, and his wife Margaret A. Smith, a longtime Charlotte school teacher.

James Wynnetotte Smith, Sr., (3.15.1893 – 9.20.1982) grew up in the rural Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Cherokee County, South Carolina, today about 90 minutes southwest of Charlotte. He attended Harbison Institute in Irmo, S.C., an academy founded by Presbyterians to offer high school classes to African American youngsters in that era when rural public schools seldom went beyond eighth grade. Harbinson’s leader, Rev. Calvin Young, Sr., had strong ties to Johnson C. Smith University (Rev. Young’s son Calvin Young, Jr., would eventually build a McCrorey Heights house at 1600 Patton Avenue in 1959).

James Smith was clearly a bright young scholar of promise. Rev. Young and the teachers at Harbison made sure that Smith journeyed up to Charlotte to attend Biddle University, as Johnson C. Smith was then known. He earned four degrees from the university, from B.A. to Doctor of Divinity. While at Biddle, the obituary in his funeral program proudly reported, “he volunteered for service in World War I,” assigned to the “92nd Buffalo Division, Army Expeditionary Forces in Europe, and was 11 miles from the signing of the Armistice Day Agreement November 11, 1918.”

Rev. Smith began his ministerial career at churches in Knoxville, Wilmington and Raleigh, then in 1941 returned to Charlotte. He led Seventh Street Presbyterian for a quarter century, retiring in 1966 and continuing to preach occasionally as Pastor Emeritus for many years. “He exhibited enormous civic pride,” said his funeral program. He was elected as a statewide Division Commander in the veterans organization the American Legion, served as Secretary on the JCSU Board of Trustees, co-founded the local Alpha Omicron chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and was active in the Prince Hall Masons.

His wife Margaret Arthur Smith (      – 6.12.1973) grew up in Charlotte. She went to the AME Zion denomination’s Livingstone College is Salisbury, studying to be a teacher. She started her classroom career back in Charlotte, where she met and married Rev. Smith. She continued teaching in each new city as his career advanced, then likely breathed a sigh of relief when they returned to Charlotte for good. She taught in Charlotte schools from 1941 until retiring in 1963.

The Smith’s four children, all raised in this house, included two who followed closely in their parents’ footsteps:

  • Gloria Margaret Smith Burch (11.26.1929 – 3.3.2000) taught in Charlotte elementary schools for thirty years.
  • Son Rev. James Wynnetotte “J.W.” Smith, Jr., (5.8.1924 – 6.24.1990) became a minister. Like his father he attended Johnson C. Smith University and as a youngster joined Charlotte’s downtown 7th Street Presbyterian Church. After earning a Bachelor’s of Divinity at JCSU, he attended the renowned McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He pastored at Presbyterian churches in the Charlotte environs, then he and wife Marjorie Caldwell Smith made their way to Washington D.C. — part the Great Migration that pulled so many African Americans from the South to the North seeking opportunity. He won a position as Chaplain at the Veterans Administration Medical Center, retiring in 1990 after 25 years.

Their children grown, the senior Rev. & Mrs. Smith took out a permit for a house of their own in 1961. They had no interest in leaving McCrorey Heights; their new Ranch style dwelling on a corner lot at 1901 Patton Avenue remained their home for the rest of their lives.

Washington-1650-b-web

Architecture

Cape Cod style dwelling, one-story in red brick, with a high gable roof that hides a second story. There is a small gable roofed front porch. Beside it, the living room has a large three-part “picture” window, a popular feature in homes of the 1950s and 1960s. There is a a two-story wood-frame rear addition.

First appeared in city directory

1953 – (#1644) James W. Smith (renter)
1955 – Rev. James W. Smith & Margaret A. (renter)
He: Pastor, 7th St Presbyterian Church
She: Teacher, Alexander Street School

Obituaries

Smith, Margaret, funeral program in the Obituary Project notebooks, African American Genealogy Interest Group collection, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Smith, James_W, funeral program in the Obituary Project notebooks, African American Genealogy Interest Group collection, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Burch, Gloria,  funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.

Smith, James Sr.,  funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.

Resources

“92 Infantry Division (United States).” Wikipedia website. On-line at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/92nd_Infantry_Division_(United_States)

Burch, Gloria, funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.

“Harbison Agricultural College Photograph Collection,” South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina. Finding guide on-line at: http://library.sc.edu/digital/collections/harbisonabout.html

“Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Cherokee County, SC.” Roots and Recall website. On-line at: https://www.rootsandrecall.com/cherokee/buildings/hopewell-presbyterian-church/

Shearin, Edith, oral history interview, UNC Chapel Hill. http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cgi-bin/showfile.exe?CISOROOT=/sohp&CISOPTR=6184&filename=6216.pdf

Smith, James W., Sr., funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.

Smith, James W., Jr., funeral program [where?]

Smith, Margaret, funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.

Building permit files, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. No permits have been found for this address.

City directory collection, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.