Bampfield Stinson’s unusual name offered clues to his impressive family heritage, which reached back to celebrated Civil War/Reconstruction leader Robert Smalls.
As a slave in Charleston during the Civil War, Robert Smalls commandeered a Confederate ship and escaped through Confederate lines. He went on to win election first to the South Carolina legislature, then to four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving 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 remarkable woman who served as postmaster in Beaufort, South Carolina, and later worked at the famed Penn School, one of the South’s earliest black educational institutions. She married Samuel Jones Bampfield of Beaufort, a African American political leader who worked closely with her father. Bampfield came 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.
Elizabeth and Samuel Bampfield’s daughter married a prominent African American physician, Dr. Charles Sumner Stinson (spelled Simpson in some sources), a native of Rock Hill just south of Charlotte.
Their son (Robert Smalls’ great-grandson) Bampfield J. Stinson (1917 – 1979) carried the names of both families. He attended Johnson C. Smith University, and later studied business administration at Western Reserve University (now Case-Western) in Cleveland. In between, Stinson enlisted in the Army. He signed up on January 22, 1942, just a few weeks after the U.S. entered World War II — and just a few months after his 1941 marriage to JCSU classmate Dorothy Peoples. He fought with distinction, reported his obituary in the Charlotte Observer: “twice wounded in action and decorated twice for bravery, receiving the honors of the European African Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with three Bronze Stars, and the Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster.” Somehow, coming through the horrors of war gave Stinson an inner peace. “‘Bammy,’ as he was affectionately known by everyone,” continued the Observer, “… was an unusually devoted husband, … a calm, loving, good natured person, dependable and concerned about the welfare of others.”
Stinson’s main career was with the Post Office. He became, according to the Observer, “one of the first black Postal Clerks serving the city of Charlotte.” It was among the most steady and well-paying jobs available to African Americans in the era before the Civil Rights movement — and it must have had special resonance for Mr. Stinson because of his great-grandfather Robert Smalls and grandmother Elizabeth Smalls Bampfield who had worked so hard to ensure that such government jobs would be open to African Americans.
When “disability forced him into early retirement,” said the Observer, he assisted his brother Julian L. Stinson who owned a prominent westside business, the Esso gas station on Beatties Ford Road just north of the Johnson C. Smith University campus. Bampfield and Julian’s relative Helen Bampfield Givens lived nearby in McCrorey Heights at 1715 Washington Avenue, wife of Memorial Presbyterian Church’s founding minister Rev. Howard W. Givens, Jr.
Bampfield Stinson lived in this house for barely four years before he died, but his widow Dorothy continued to reside here for many years. Charlotte native Dorothy Peoples Stinson (6.13.2002-6.15.1915) had attended Fairview Elementary and Second Ward High, then went to Winston Salem Teachers College (now Winston Salem State University) to earn a teaching certificate, and completed a B.A. at Johnson C. Smith University. She would go on to gain a Masters in Elementary Education at Columbia University in New York.
Dorothy Stinson taught for 40 years, mostly in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools including Alexander Street School, First Ward Elementary and Olde Providence Elementary. She was also a longtime Sunday school teacher at First United Presbyterian Church, where her energetic volunteer work in many capacities earned her posts as Deacon and Elder — an early female in those positions. She also belonged to the Charlotte chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, one of its first initiates in 1942 and a member for 60 years.
One story Ranch house in yellow brick. Gable roofs are arranged to accentuate the horizontality of the house: a small gabled one-car garage at the west end of the dwelling gives way to a larger gable roof over the main block of the house, then an even larger gable that extends to create the front porch, and finally a smaller gable to finish out the ensemble. The simple Doric wooden porch columns, the large vertical windows with wooden 6-over-9 sash, and the non-functional wooden shutters that flank the front windows all vaguely recall Colonial style motifs.
Date issued: March 14, 1975
Owner: Mr. [sic] Dorothy P. Stinson
Contractor: Stallings Const. Co.
Estimated cost: $28,000
Other permit info: residence
Building permit files, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
Stinson,_Dorothy, funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.
First appeared in city directory
1976 – Bampfield Stinson & Dorothy P.
He: Retired. She: No occupation listed.
[Likely the same Dorothy Stinson as listed in 1961 at 222 N. McDowell, Teacher Alexander Street School]
[Bampfield Stinson (1917 – 1979) was a descendant of celebrated Civil War/Reconstruction leader Robert Smalls of South Carolina. A slave who commandeered a Confederate ship and escaped through Confederate lines, Smalls became a U.S. Congressman. Andrew Billingsley, Yearning to Breathe Free (2007)]
City directory collection, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
Andrew Billingsley, Yearning to Breathe Free: Robert Smalls of South Carolina and His Families (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2007).
A.B. Caldwell, editor, A History of the Negro and His Institutions, South Carolina edition. (Atlanta: Caldwell Publishing, 1919). On-line at: https://archive.org/stream/historyofamerica03cald/historyofamerica03cald_djvu.txt
“Death Notices: Mr. Bampfield Stinson,” Charlotte Observer, November 4, 1979.