Built in 1961 for Rev. James W. Smith, Sr., Pastor at Charlotte’s leading downtown African American Presbyterian church, 7th Street Presbyterian, and his wife Margaret A. Smith. The Smiths previously lived in the church’s parsonage at 1650 Washington Avenue in McCrorey Heights, built about 1953.
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.
Rev. and Mrs. Smith were near retirement age when they took out the permit in 1961 to build this house. They were in good company: several other senior pastors built handsome retirement dwellings in McCrorey Heights, including AME Zion minister Walter Slade at 1722 Washington Avenue, Presbyterian minister and educator Leland Cozart at 1015 Clifton Avenue, and AME minister and Civil Rights activist J.A. DeLaine at 1706 Washington Avenue.
The Smith’s four children — all of whom had left home before this house was built — 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.
Ranch style house, one-story in red brick. It has a main hip roof and a projecting front hip roof, all with wide eaves which give the house a horizontal emphasis. The front windows, including a large “picture” window in the living room, are grouped to reinforce that horizontality. Constructed by leading African American contractor Mangie McQueen, this is one of the best Ranch style examples in McCrorey Heights.
The dwelling is located on a large corner lot. On the east end facing Mulberry Street the land dips down, allowing a direct entrance to the basement. At the rear of the house there is a wooden screened porch which sits up on pillars to create a carport at the basement level.
Date issued: December 5, 1960
Owner: J. W. Smith & Wife
Contractor: Mangie McQueen
Estimated cost: $19,850
Other permit info: residence, brick veneer
Building permit files, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. No permits have been found for this address.
First appeared in city directory
1965 – Rev. James W. Smith & Margaret A.
He: Pastor, 7th Street Presbyterian Church. She: no occupation listed.
City directory collection, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
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.
“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/
“92 Infantry Division (United States).” Wikipedia website. On-line at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/92nd_Infantry_Division_(United_States)