1813 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 1956 – 57 and occupied for many years by William Oliver, an educator in Charlotte’s public schools, and Blanche Rann Oliver, a music teacher. In 1968 William Oliver won appointment to Charlotte’s Park and Recreation Commission — the first successful appointment to any city board by Fred Alexander, Charlotte’s first black City Councilman in the 20th century.

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William Robert Oliver (11.5.1914 – 7.28.1992) came from his native Meriden, Connecticut to attend college at Johnson C. Smith. He played on the varsity basketball and tennis teams, earning all-CIAA honors for three years. JCSU is likely where he met Blanche Rann, who soon became his wife.

Graduating with a B.S. in 1941, William Oliver joined the military to fight for his country in World War II, rising to the rank of First Lieutenant. After the War he took up his life-work as a schoolteacher. When he and Blanche moved into this house in 1957, he was teaching biology at York Road Junior High School. During his years in the classroom he earned a Masters at University of Michigan. He would step into administration in 1960, becoming assistant principal at York Road and later Myers Park High School, where he retired in 1980.

During his education career, and in retirement as well, Oliver never lost his passion for sports, officiating for local schools and at CIAA college events. JCSU would induct him into its Hall of Fame in 1980, and CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) would duplicate the honor in 1983. In a poem published in William Oliver’s funeral program, the couple’s only child Cheryl Oliver Spaulding recalled her father as a man of dry humor and quiet but unguarded love: “Your quiet manner has taught me / that sometimes there are truly no words.”

Mr. Oliver’s love of athletics, his organizational acumen and the community respect he enjoyed as an assistant principal, plus his steadfast and quiet manner, made him an ideal pathbreaker on Charlotte’s Park and Recreation Commission. Fred Alexander had become the first African American to win a seat on Charlotte City Council in 1965, but well into his second term in office he was unable to get white colleagues to support his nominations for any board or agency. That changed in March of 1968. On a 4-3 vote, Council approved Alexander’s appointment of William Oliver, the first time an African American had been allowed to serve on the Park and Recreation board.

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Blanche Elnora Rann Oliver (4.30.1919 – 2.3.1996) was born in West Virginia where her father taught at Bluefield College. When Johnson C. Smith University offered Professor Rann a position in 1927, the family moved to Charlotte. Young Blanche knew early on that music would be central to her life. She went to Talledega College in Alabama to pursue a Bachelors of Arts degree and also a Bachelors of Music. In Charlotte she taught voice and piano students privately and in the schools, conducted workshops in religious music for the regional Catawba Synod of the Presbyterian Church, and served as organist at Memorial Presbyterian on Beatties Ford Road for 29 years.

Before settling down in this house, William and Blanche went on to University of Michigan to earn Masters degrees in 1953, his a Master of Arts, hers a Master of Music. When they did build here on Washington Avenue, their home included a music room where Mrs. Oliver taught her music students.

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Mrs. Blanche Rann Oliver’s parents and brother also moved to McCrorey Heights in the 1950s. Her father Emery L. Rann, Sr. and wife Vicie initially resided on the JCSU campus when the family arrived in Charlotte in 1927, but in the late 1940s moved to the corner of Patton and Condon avenues in McCrorey Heights.

In 1951 their son Dr. Emery Rann, Jr., built next door to his parents at 2008 Patton. As a young undergrad at JCSU, Emery Jr. had showed an affinity for music not unlike that of his sister Blanche: he performed regularly on WBT radio as part of the University Quintette. Dr. Rann went on to win important Civil Rights victories in desegregating medical care locally and nationally. In 1963 he became the first black doctor to be invited to practice at Charlotte Memorial Hospital, and in 1974 as president of the black National Medical Association he was named to Ebony magazine’s list of “100 Most Influential Black Americans.”

Washington-1813-a-web
Washington-1813-b-web

Ranch house, one-story in red brick. There is a main gable roof and a smaller projecting gabled front wing which holds the living room. Note the three-part “picture window,” a hallmark of the Ranch style.

Building permits

Washington-1813-permit
Date issued: June 12, 1956
Owner: Laxton Construction
Contractor:
Estimated cost:
Other permit info: Wiring, likely for original construction of the house

First appeared in city directory

1957 – William R. Oliver & Blanche R.
He: Teacher, York Rd. Jr. High.
She teaches music here.

“Negro Appointed to Park Board,” Charlotte Observer, March 26, 1968.

“Oliver, Mrs. Blanche Rann,” obituary in Greensboro News and Record, February 6, 1996. On-line at: http://www.greensboro.com/obituaries/article_3a867448-8493-5127-8dd4-fa3d043972c0.html

Oliver, Blanche, funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.

Oliver, William, funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.