1715 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 1966-1967 for Rev. Howard W. Givens, Jr., and wife Helen. He is best remembered for bringing together the churches that became Memorial Presbyterian Church and helping raise funds for its new building dedicated in 1968, a leading institution on Charlotte’s west side. His wife Helen Bampfield Givens, granddaughter of the African American Civil War hero and political leader Robert Smalls, taught school in Charlotte.

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Howard Washington Givens, Jr. (August 5, 1904 –  December 1981) was one of the many Presbyterian ministers in McCrorey Heights, thanks to the neighborhood’s creation by Presbyterian minister and JCSU President Rev. H.L. McCrorey. Born in rural Georgia, Givens attended Presbyterian-run Boggs Academy near Augusta. In an era when white school boards seldom funded black schools past eighth grade, academies such as Boggs were an essential part of African American education in the South. Givens went on to Presbyterian-run Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, earning a B.A. degree in 1932 and a Bachelors of Divinity in 1935.  He would never stop learning, eventually achieving a Masters from prestigious Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

But meanwhile he went to work. After five years pastoring rural Ben Salem and Lloyd churches outside Charlotte, he received the call to lead Biddleville Presbyterian in 1940. It ranked as perhaps Charlotte’s second-most important Presbyterian congregation, located just off the Johnson C. Smith University campus. In 1961 Rev. Givens helped arrange a merger with Emanuel Presbyterian. The new church became known as Memorial Presbyterian with Givens and Emanuel’s pastor Rev. DeGranval Burke sharing leadership until their retirement. Givens and Burke raised funds for a modern new building in 1968, which has become a lasting landmark at 2600 Beatties Ford Road.

Rev. Givens became an active figure in both religious and civic circles. He served as Stated Clerk, one of the top governing positions in the regional Catawba Synod of the Presbyterian denomination. Within Charlotte he led the Ministerial Alliance of black churches, then won election as “the first man of color to serve as President of the [formerly all-white] Mecklenburg Ministerial Association,” according to the obituary in his funeral program. During World War II he was one of a handful of African Americans who sat on Charlotte’s Rationing Board, earning a citation from President Franklin Roosevelt. He joined the board of the Charlotte Branch of the NAACP, volunteering as its treasurer for many years, and he helped launch the Biddleville Community Organization.

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Howard Givens married Helen Bampfield (4.19.1896 – 8.26.2000) in 1935 as he completed his divinity degree at JCSU. She had grown up in the port of Beaufort, South Carolina, part of the remarkable family led by Robert Smalls and his daughter Elizabeth Smalls Bampfield.

A slave in Charleston during the Civil War, Robert Smalls commandeered a Confederate ship and escaped through Confederate lines — a story of courage that received wide acclaim in the media of that day and in history books ever since. He went on to win election to the South Carolina legislature during Reconstruction, then to four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives where he served until 1887. Smalls finished his career as U.S. Customs Collector for the port of Beaufort, in office nearly 20 years til 1913.

Smalls’ daughter Elizabeth was equally impressive. She married Samuel Jones Bampfield of Beaufort, a African American political activist who worked closely with her father. Bampfield hailed from Charleston where his family were among the leaders of the city’s considerable free black population before the Civil War. In Beaufort he became an attorney, co-published a weekly newspaper called The New South, served as Clerk of Court for twenty years, and won election to the South Carolina legislature. Though women of that time almost never held government positions, Elizabeth was appointed by President Teddy Roosevelt as postmaster in Beaufort, South Carolina, where she served for many years. She later worked at the famed Penn School, one of the South’s earliest black educational institutions.

Elizabeth and Samuel Bampfield’s eleven children included daughter Helen, born in 1896. The Smalls/Bampfield family had an ongoing relationship with Biddle Institute/Johnson C. Smith University. Helen came up to the Charlotte area in 1910 at age 14 to complete her high school education at Barber-Scotia in Concord, then earned a college degree at JCSU. She taught at Alexander Street School at the edge of First Ward for many years and, as a minister’s wife, gave much of her time to her husband’s church. Her nephew Bampfield J. Stinson lived nearby in McCrorey Heights at 1812 Patton Avenue.

Helen Bampfield Givens died in 2001 at age 104. Both she and her husband are buried in the Bampfield family plot in Beaufort, SC.

Washington-1715-c-web
Washington-1715-b-web

Architecture

Split-level, one of fewer than a dozen in McCrorey Heights.

The eastern side is one story tall, gable-roofed with a brick exterior.  The roof extends at the front to form a shallow porch supported by unusual cast iron columns. The large living room window is a bay-window unit with small square panes arranged in five vertical frames.

The western side of the house is two stories tall. It has a transverse gable roof with returns in the front gable end. The second story is now sheathed in vinyl siding, and it slightly overhangs the first story, which is sheathed in brick.

At the west side of the dwelling is a carport added by the original owner Howard Givens in 1974. A rear addition was made at the same time.

Building permits

 Washington-1715-permit-a
Date issued: September 22, 1966
Owner: H.W. Givens (301 Campus Street)
Contractor: Mangie McQueen
Estimated cost: $16,300
Other permit info: Build residence

Washington-1715-permit-b
Date issued: May 1, 1974
Owner: Rev. Howard Givens
Contractor: Evans Bros. Co.
Estimated cost: $4000
Other permit info: Rear addition

Washington-1715-permit-c
Date issued: June 3, 1974
Owner: H.W. Givens & wife Helen B.
Contractor: Evans Construction
Estimated cost: $1800
Other permit info: Add side carport 14′ x 24′

First appeared in city directory

1968 – Rev. Howard W. Givens & Helen B.
He: Pastor, Biddleville Emanuel Presbyterian Church
She: No occupation listed

1982 – still listed.

Resources

Billingsley, Andrew, Yearning to Breathe Free: Robert Smalls of South Carolina and His Families. ( ), pp. 191 – 192, 202 and passim.  On-line at: https://books.google.com/books?id=8326_m-Zq0IC&pg=PA202&lpg=PA202&dq=Helen+Bampfield+Givens&source=bl&ots=yT8N-13KO4&sig=QIDgyBavEAw8ZDloS23BT5sNXxQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwit7oq5ld7UAhUI04MKHewoAfwQ6AEIKDAB#v=onepage&q=Helen%20Bampfield%20Givens&f=false

“Church History,” Memorial Presbyterian Church website. On-line at: http://memorialpresbyteriancharlotte.org/mpc1/index.php/who-we-are/church-history

Givens, Helen, funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.

Givens, Howard, funeral program in _______________