1706 Washington Avenue

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

Built in 1971 for Rev. J.A. DeLaine and wife Mattie Belton DeLaine. The DeLaines played an important role in the national Civil Rights Movement, working with their neighbors in Clarendon County, South Carolina, to file the first of the five cases that came together as Brown v Board of Education. The landmark 1954 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court declared that racial segregation must end in education and by extension in all of American life — the most far-reaching Court decision of the twentieth century.

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Rev. DeLaine grew up in rural South Carolina, went off to Allen College in Columbia, SC, run by the AME (African Methodist Episcopal) denomination, then returned to his rural roots for a life of activism. When his farmer neighbors in impoverished Clarendon County sought a school bus for children who lived nine miles from the county’s only black high school, Rev. DeLaine helped them file a lawsuit. It failed, so DeLaine tried again, boldly demanding the end of segregated education. He convinced NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall to take the case, Briggs v Elliott. Marshall developed four additional cases which came together under the title Brown v Board of Education, the landmark 1954 decision in which the Supreme Court decreed the end of racial segregation. The U.S. Congress marked the pivotal importance of the Clarendon County suit when it awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to Rev. J.A. and Mattie DeLaine and their Briggs compatriots in a 2004 ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.

As the cases moved toward the Supreme Court during the 1950s, the DeLaine family suffered reprisals. Their house in Summerton, South Carolina, burned to the ground as the fire department watched. Re-assigned to preach in Lake City, South Carolina, Rev. DeLaine was targeted by night-riders who shot up the family home and set fire to his church. Relatives helped smuggle the DeLaines out of the state. Rev. DeLaine finished his career in the New York City area, then retired south to Charlotte where his wife Mattie had family.

Mattie Belton’s two brothers Joseph C. Belton (4.11.1914 – 3.14.1983) and Moses S. Belton (   ) both lived on Washington Avenue and had long association with Johnson C. Smith University. The family hailed from Fairfield County, South Carolina, where they likely had connections with Rev. H.L. McCrorey, the Fairfield County native who became president of Charlotte’s Biddle College 1907 -1947 and transformed it into Johnson C. Smith University. In any case, both Moses and Joseph made their way to JCSU in the 1930s and went on to be leaders in Charlotte’s civic life. Joseph Belton headed Clear Creek (later known as J.H. Gunn) School, the main rural high school for African Americans in the eastern part of Mecklenburg County. Moses Belton became a top adminstrator at JCSU, building one of the earliest Public Relations offices at a historically black university in the U.S. He became a key behind-the-scenes force during the Sit-Ins of 1960, which successfully ended segregation at lunch counters, and again in 1963 as Charlotte integrated move theaters and upscale restaurants — a year before the 1964 Civil Rights Act required such action.

Mattie Belton DeLaine shared her brothers’ spirit of civic service. Educated at Allen College in Columbia, S.C., with a graduate degree from Hostra University  in New York, she not only labored alongside her husband in his church work and cared for her family in the face of reprisals for their Civil Rights activism, but she also pursued a career in education. She taught in one- and two-room elementary schools in rural South Carolina, then during her years in New York State she focused on teaching children with special needs. She retired in 1973 after 43 years in the classroom.

Mattie and her husband had three children, all grown by the time this house was constructed on Washington Avenue. The youngest, Brumit Belton “B.B.” DeLaine, co-led Charlotte’s 1960 Sit-Ins as a student at JCSU, then went on to a teaching career in Charlotte including breaking barriers as the first African American teacher at white Garinger High School. His sister Ophelia earned a PhD, served as one of the first African American Peace Corps volunteers in the early 1960s, then became a professor at the Medical College of New Jersey. Joseph A. DeLaine, Jr., worked in cancer research, then in the pharmaceutical industry and traveled the world. He arranged construction of this Modernist house and when his parents passed on, he made it his own, filling it with Asian art and antiques from his travels.

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Architecture

Alexander Tudor, an architect based in Nutley, New Jersey, drew the plans for this house, commissioned by Joseph A. DeLaine, Jr., son of the original owner. It is a distinctive Modernistic residence, one of a handful of architect-designed dwellings in McCrorey Heights.

The house is one-story tall. Its main living area is topped by a truncated-hip roof. Two flat-roofed blocks extend at either side.  The block on the west includes the front living room, with a large front single-pane window, plus other rooms. The block on the east holds the garage, whose front roll-up door is a major design-element facing the street. Between the two blocks is the front entrance. The exterior of the house is sheathed in tan brick. There have been no exterior changes except for the enclosing of a rear porch by the original owner in 1975.

The bold design reflects the character of the family that commissioned it. Rev. J.A. DeLaine led in the filing of the first lawsuit to challenge segregated education in the South. His son J.A. DeLaine, Jr., who arranged construction of the house for his elderly parents then lived there himself after their passing, shared his father’s impatience with outmoded precedent.

Building permits

Washington 1706 House History Sheet

Building permit(s): Washington-1706-permit
Date issued: March 25, 1971
Owner: Rev. and Mrs. J. A. DeLaine
Contractor: Gulledge and Holmes
Estimated cost: $25,200
Other permit info: to build residence

Building permit(s): Washington-1706-permit-a
Date issued: March 27, 1975
Owner: Mrs. Delaney
Contractor: Modern Custom Builders
Estimated cost: $2,000
Other permit info: Cover porch

 

First appeared in city directory

1976 – Mrs. Mattie DeLaine. Retired.
(Son BB & wife live at 2424 Senior Dr.)

Resources

Belton, David C., “A Brief History of the Belton Family,” on the Belton Family Reunion website. On-line at: http://www.mybeltonfamily.org/html/history.html

DeLaine, Mattie Belton, funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.