In 1956 contractor E.O. Clarkson took out the building permit to construct this house and by 1959 the residence appeared in the city directory occupied by Mrs. Bennie C. Lee, a librarian. It was rare in suburban America during the 1950s for a single woman to purchase her own home, but in McCrorey Heights there were more than a dozen women who attained that goal.
Samuel Woodard filed the permit to construct this house in 1954 and moved in about 1956. He worked as a Boy Scout executive and managed the large Brookhill Village low-income apartment complex. As the Civil Rights movement began to open civic leadership positions to African Americans, Woodard served on the board of Charlotte’s Community Development agency and also on the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. His wife Elsie Woodard taught English for three decades at Johnson C. Smith University.
Built 1953-54 for Robert Person, Jr., a counselor at Mecklenburg County Juvenile Court and his wife Dorothy H. Person, an assistant librarian with the Charlotte Public Library system. In the late 1960s, Mr. Person took charge of the Charlotte Area Fund which managed local grants under the various anti-poverty programs. In the 1970s he directed the Charlotte office of the Manpower Program, a federal initiative to train and employ jobless youth.
Edwin M. Barrett, a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, took out the permit to build this house in 1952. He was a career employee in the U.S. Railway Mail Service. His wife Miriam Sampson Barrett was a nurse at Charlotte Memorial Hospital when the couple moved into this house, then worked for a decade as a teacher in Sumter, South Carolina.
Built in 1956-57 and first occupied by William C. Covington, who lived there for nearly six decades. Covington was a Civil Rights pioneer, one of Charlotte’s first African American policemen. His wife Johnsie Jackson Covington was a longtime educator in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.
Built 1952 – 53 by Walter W. Twitty, Charlotte representative of the black-owned North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company, and his wife Samella, a longtime teacher in Charlotte’s public schools. Mr. Twitty ranked among the city’s most important black economic leaders. He worked to open opportunities in the wider society during the Civil Rights era, including taking part in one of the South’s earliest sit-ins in 1954 which desegregated Charlotte’s airport.
Built about 1956 for Rowe R. “Jack” Motley and his wife Alma Moreland Motley. Rowe “Jack” Motley became the first African American to win election to County Commission in Mecklenburg County (1974) and went on to serve in the N.C. Legislature. Wife Alma taught in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools for thirty years and with her husband raised five children here.
Built 1953-54 for Dr. Edwin Thompkins and his wife Roberta. Dr. Thompkins was a JCSU professor known for his academic attainments — he became the University’s Dean of Theology in 1960 — and for his Civil Rights activism. In September 1957 he accompanied young Dorothy Counts as she walked through an angry mob to desegregate Harding High School, a moment captured in photos that appeared in newspapers nationwide.
David Ed Holden took out the permit to build this house in 1957 for himself and wife Gladys. “For his entire working life he served as manager of Southside Homes,” noted his funeral program. Located on South Tryon Street, Southside Homes was built in 1952 as one of Charlotte’s public housing developments. Gladys was a school teacher who helped open York Road School adjacent to Southside Homes in 1955, then worked there her whole career.
Woodson G. Carson, Sr., took out the permit to build this house in 1951, making it one of the first post-World War II houses to go up in McCrorey Heights. Carson worked as a waiter on the Southern Railway. Railroad jobs such as porter and waiter were among the best employment open to African Americans in the mid-twentieth century, prized for their steady work and decent pay. Carson’s wife Willa M. Carson also held a desirable position as a teacher at Second Ward High School.
The house is architecturally interesting for its unusual mix of Colonial and Modernistic design influences.
Built about 1958, the longtime home of Alexander H. Byers, a pioneering black school principal in the era of integration, and his wife Rachel, also an educator in the public schools. Reported his funeral program, “Two distinct honors for Alex occurred when he was named the first principal of the newly opened J.T. William Junior High School, and later Ranson Junior High, where he became the first principal of a predominantly white school.”
Built about 1959 on Van Buren Avenue and first occupied by Louis J. Hughes, principal at the Morgan School in Charlotte’s Cherry neighborhood, and his wife Mary C. Hughes, who taught at West Charlotte High School. When the Brookshire Freeway took land along Van Buren Avenue in 1968, Morris G. Gillespie arranged with Widenhouse Movers to transport the dwelling up the hill to this current site at 1817 Madison Avenue. He lived here into the 1980s.
Built 1951 – 52 by brickmason Tony S. Jordan. He and wife Francennie, a teacher, resided here for over three decades.
Bricklaying was a trade dominated by African Americans in the South into the mid-twentieth century. That dated back to slavery times, when African Americans not only made much of the South’s brick, but also handled nearly every aspect of building construction. Tony Jordan was one of half a dozen brickmasons whose solidly middle-class economic achievements gave them the money to build in prestigious McCrorey Heights.
Built in 1963-64 for musician Calvin M. McKennie and his wife Dorothy C. McKennie, a schoolteacher. McKennie helped his relative Maurice Williams build a national career as an R&B musician, known for the enduring hit “Stay (Just a Little Bit Longer).” McKennie worked as a songwriter, horn player and ultimately business manager for Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs. His house has a full “walk-out” basement, a feature that is a rarity in the Charlotte area. It is possible that the basement provided rehearsal space for the band.