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Lewis Adams (1892-?)
Lewis Adams was born on July 8, 1892 in Miami Township, Yellow Springs, Ohio, the seventh child of Charlie and Lavinia Lawson Adams. His father was injured at a young age, lost his sight, but became a broom maker selling to the local merchants in order to care for his family. Leis was educated in the public school system of Yellow Springs, but also worked at a very young age to help supplement the familiy income and united with the First Baptist Church where he served as a Deacon for over fifty years. He also worked as custodian at the original Mills Lawn House that housed the Antioch School.
In 1946 he was employed at Vernay Laboratories, Inc. and retired on August 25, 1961. During these years he became active in civic affairs serving as a member of the Village Council where he authored the 1947 Yellow Springs Accommodations Ordinance which outlawed racial segregation and discrimination in public places in Yellow Springs.
Lewis Adams served on the executive Committee for Racial Equality at its original organizational meeting at Central Chapel AME Church.
Sources: Yellow Springs News, November 6, 1947, Vernay Laboratories Newsletter. Isabel Adams Newman
Mary Julia (Adams) Alexander, (1937-2014)
Mary Julia (Adams) Alexander was born in Xenia, Ohio on 25 April 1937. Affectionately known as Mary Julia to her family, she was one of four children born to Ivanora and Richard Adams. Raised in Xenia’s East End, Mary graduated from East High School in 1955.
Following high school graduation Mary attended Bowling Green State University, returning to Xenia after two years of study. It was in Xenia that Mary met, and later married, William Alexander, a Central State graduate from Louisville, Kentucky.
Being attracted to the village’s high quality school system and diverse community, the young couple moved to Yellow Springs in 1963 to raise their family - Noreda (Class of 1976), William (Class of 1979), Norman (Class of 1981), and Ivanora (Class of1985).
During the early years in Yellow Springs Mary was a stay-at-home mom. As the children grew and became involved in various activities, Mary grew with them, serving as a Den Mother for the local Boy Scout Troop, assisting with various girl scouting adventures, horseback riding events, stamp collecting, music lessons, and more.
In the 1970’s, Mary’s entrepreneurial spirit resulted in the birth of MJ’s Typing Service. This home business provided the Yellow Springs community and surrounding areas with a professional publishing service. During this time Mary developed many relationships as she had a wide array of regular clients - students, a horticulturist, an attorney, a health organization, an environmentalist, a newspaper editor, psychologists, a retired college professor, realtors, universities, and public and private schools. It was during this time Mary was also actively engaged in the community, working at the Yellow Springs Library as library assistant; in the Yellow Springs school system as assistant to the school treasurer; and as substitute secretary for Mills Lawn, Morgan Middle, Yellow Springs High School, and in the school board office. In 1985, Mary expanded MJ’s typing service and began traveling to various business offices in the area to provide assistance with word processing and typing needs.
In 1987, Mary was hired by Dr. Gary Klein of Klein Associates (Yellow Springs) where she eventually became the office supervisor. In 1994 Mary returned to college full time. In 1996 she achieved a lifetime goal when she graduated from Antioch University’s McGregor School with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management.
Mary loved Yellow Springs, and at an age where most people would have taken advantage of retirement, Mary chose to give back to the community that had given so much to her family. This was evidenced in 2003 when she completed the Yellow Springs Leadership Institute, and was appointed and later elected to the Yellow Springs Village Council. She was committed to, and faithfully represented, community interests. Mary was a liaison to the Yellow Springs Library Commission, the Cable Panel, and the Planning and Coordinating Commission of Greene County. She was instrumental in revamping the Library Commission and writing revisions to its responsibilities; recognizing the many village volunteers at a recognition program; and was involved in the origination and approval of a Village Council ordinance giving a thoroughfare the memorial name of James A. McKee Way.
Mary’s reach into the community was further extended through her volunteer experiences with the Yellow Springs Men’s Group -- researching the cost of living in Yellow Springs; assisting with the publication of “Celebrating Women: The Women’s Park of Yellow Springs”; as secretary of the Yellow Springs Library Association, Membership Chairperson, and a member of the Art Committee; at Friends Care Center as the medical records clerk; and at Mills Lawn Elementary School as a third grade reading partner.
Mary had a social life in Yellow Springs that included her love for entertaining. She opened her home to many, hosting friends and family.
Crocheting, playing bridge, genealogy research, and staying connected to her four grandchildren (Michael, Inda, Hunter, and William) were her passions. In addition to her grandchildren, a tremendous source of pride for Mary was that all four of their children graduated from Yellow Springs High School and went on to obtain Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees in science and engineering.
Mary was past member of Zion Baptist Church (Xenia), First Baptist Church (Yellow Springs), Second Missionary Baptist Church (Springfield), and Broadway Baptist Church (Louisville, KY) – actively involved in each. She was also an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated (Wilberforce Alumnae Chapter, Spring 1998), a public service organization; the Wilberforce Chapter of The Moles, a family oriented social group; and the Twentieth Century Club of Xenia, a literary organization.
In 2008, Mary and her husband Bill relocated to Louisville, Kentucky – Bill’s childhood home. There she continued doing what she loved starting a bridge club in their new home; supporting the community service and scholarship related functions of her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, Incorporated; enjoying trips with the Louisville Moles; and relishing visits with and from her children, grandchildren, family members, and friends. Mary was active until her death in 2014. She is buried, along with her husband, at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Source: Noreda Alexander
William Edward Alexander, Sr (1934 -2014)
William Edward Alexander, Sr., physicist, aerospace engineer and professional magician, was born on 12 November 1934, the third of four children born to Jesse Wilson and Reella Odessa Alexander in Louisville, Kentucky. He was affectionately known as William Ed to his family and Bill to his friends. Bill graduated from Central High School in Louisville in 1952 and moved to Ohio to attend Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.
In 1953, while at Central State University, Bill became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (Delta Xi Chapter) and was an active, life-member of this public service organization. In 1956, Bill graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics. Having been a member of ROTC, Bill was commissioned and served his country in Korea first as a Lieutenant in the Army Corps of Combat Engineering where he rose quickly in the leadership ranks serving as the Corps’ youngest Company Commander. In 1960, Bill resigned from the Army Corp of Engineers and became a civilian physicist with the Flight Dynamics Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB).
Bill met and married Mary (Adams) Alexander of Xenia, Ohio. Because of the quality educational system and the diversity of the community, in 1963 they chose Yellow Springs as the place to settle and raise their four children – Noreda, William Jr., Norman, and Ivanora.
Soon after arriving in Yellow Springs, Bill became involved with the Yellow Springs Community Children’s Center – an organization he continued to support over the years. As a member and previous officer of The Yellow Springs Men’s Group, Bill arranged for magicians to perform in the “Festival of Magic” scholarship fundraisers and, in 2002, Bill served as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Leadership Institute of Yellow Springs.
In 1977, based on his continuing education, work experience, and accomplishments, Bill was offered the opportunity to enter the field of engineering business management and took on responsibility for managing the Aeromechanics Division of the Laboratory and the Mission Adaptive Wing development program at Wright-Patterson.
Bill’s professional accomplishments range from workplace to educational and social involvement. These accomplishments include over twenty published research documents, two United States patents, and 13 inventions. Some of Bill’s advanced studies included Advanced Strain Gage Techniques (University of Arizona, 1963), Laboratory Procurement Management (The Ohio State University, 1975), Radiation Heat Transfer (Louisiana State University, 1976), and Program Management (American Graduate University, 1982). As the Flight Dynamics Laboratory focal point for the Historically Black Colleges (HBC) program, Bill’s efforts resulted in the expansion of both the research and recruitment aspects of the program, as well as an increase of the laboratory’s HBC budget. Bill initiated and planned a program that reversed the declining trend in minority and female aerospace engineer employment at Wright-Patterson. For these efforts, he was presented with the Air Force Award for Notable Achievement.
After retiring in 1990, Bill continued to work as a private consultant to the US Air Force on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), participating in high impact ballistic studies for the improvement of military armor, and test facility instrumentation.
Bill had an extensive career as a magician. He began magic as a hobby while in junior high school and by the time he reached the 11th grade his magic performances had become semi-professional. At the age of 19, Bill became a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. During his years at Central State University, Bill performed magic shows at hospitals, schools, colleges, churches, in private homes, and occasionally in nightclubs. Though his magic performances after graduating from college were fewer due to his career at WPAFB, when Bill retired from WPAFB he was averaging over 100 magic shows per year. Bill performed in many locations including the states of Ohio and Kentucky; Belize, South America; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Bill was a life member of Society of American Magicians; Dayton Magic Club; and Louisville Magic Club, where he served as Sergeant-of-Arms; and a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians Order of Merlin.
Bill was past member of Centennial Baptist Church (Louisville, KY), First Baptist Church (Yellow Springs, OH), Second Missionary Baptist Church (Springfield, OH), and Broadway Baptist Church (Louisville, KY).
After moving to Louisville, Kentucky in 2008, Bill continued to be active in church, with the Louisville Magic Club and, with great enjoyment, spending time with his children, grandchildren, family, and friends. William died on May 12, 2014 and is buried with his wife at the Veterans Cemetery in Fort Knox, KY.
Sources: Noreda Alexander
Walter F. Anderson (1915 - 2003)
Walter F. Anderson was a marvelous addition to the Yellow Springs community when he and his wife Dorothy and young children Sandra and David arrived by bus in 1946, a glass jar of goldfish on Sandra’s lap. He had accepted the position of chair of the Antioch College Music Department where he served for the next 22 years. That “Music Department” initially consisted of a local woman who gave piano lessons when hired. By the time Anderson left in 1968, he had amassed a String Quartet and a music faculty of perhaps five others. He was soon noted all over campus for his popular “Music for the Listener” classes (among others), the Antioch Chorus, and for being a major faculty presence on a number of college committees.
He was born in Zanesville, Ohio May 12, 1915, the sixth of nine children in a low-income family, and the grandson of freed slaves, with a red-haired Irish great-grandfather who had himself been a slave owner. His father was a foreman in a Zanesville glass-blowing factory, and his mother a housewife and a Zanesville Welfare Department worker during the Depression.
Andy (as he was fondly called by nearly everyone) was a child prodigy, and started piano lessons at age seven. He began playing the organ at twelve and graduated from Zanesville High School in 1932 in three years instead of the usual four. He won a full scholarship to the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, where he had a double major in piano and organ. He later earned a Doctoral degree in 1952 as a “Fellow” of the American Guild of Organists, especially noteworthy as there were a limited number of them in the U.S. Later in his career, he was commissioned to write a concerto for harmonica that was performed by the Cleveland Symphony in 1947, and at the suggestion of Eleanor Roosevelt, wrote a cantata based on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words in his D-Day Prayer. This was performed on a CBS telecast for the sixth anniversary of WW II in 1950, and performed yearly thereafter on the radio to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day.
Between his Oberlin College days and his Antioch professorship, he spent his summers and later several years at Karamu House, a Cleveland settlement house known for its commitment to interracial theater and the arts. Then he began his academic career, teaching briefly at Wilberforce College and the Kentucky State College for Negroes before moving on to Antioch.
His initial hiring by Antioch made it to the pages of the New York Times as the first African American to chair any department in any non-black institution of higher learning in the United States. In addition, he and his wife helped to integrate the local Presbyterian Church.
Andy was also very active in a number of local civil rights demonstrations and efforts in the village. One particularly memorable one was leading a group of 600 marchers, side by side with Arthur E. Morgan, the 85 year old former president of Antioch, on a ten-block silent walk around the village. At the conclusion, Andy led the crowd in singing “Freedom, Freedom”, “We Shall Not Be Moved”, and We Shall Overcome”.
These activities were flanked over the weeks by a number of other demonstrations, including a sit-in in front of a local barbershop owned by Lewis Gegner (who refused to cut the hair of blacks). At this near-riot, students from Central State University, Wilberforce College, and Antioch College participated, with some actually being jailed. Lengthy details of these Civil Rights activities, with Andy being an integral part of them, have been written up elsewhere.
Meanwhile, even while teaching at Antioch, Andy managed to tour all over the United States and Europe as a professional composer, conductor, pianist and organist, giving concerts and participating in an American-Yugoslavia Seminar, as well as working with the International Quaker Seminar in Yugoslavia.
In addition to all this, he initiated an Apple Butter Festival in the village, a tradition that continued for six falls. His love of gourmet cooking was also reflected in the toothsome dishes at both faculty parties and community-wide events. This effort led him to start a bakery and candy production company as a sideline in Yellow Springs that was ultimately forced to close when it was discovered his featured “bourbon balls” had too high an alcoholic content to be sent through the mails to shops wanting to sell them.
Among his students at Antioch was Coretta Scott King. They kept in touch over the years, even after he left Yellow Springs. Well after his career there, and after Anderson had died, King was invited to give an address at an Antioch College Reunion. There she said of him, “…not only a superb musician and a brilliant educator, but also one of the kindest and most caring human beings I have had the privilege of knowing. A man of extraordinary compassion and generosity, he was one of those rare people who enriched the lives of everyone who had the privilege to know him.”
In 1968 he moved to Washington, D.C. to assume the post of Music Coordinator of the National Endowment for the Arts. By then, his children were pretty well grown and Andy had divorced his wife. He eventually moved in with Richard Price who was his partner for the final 25 years of Andy’s life.
For the final part of his career at the NEA, Andy created grant guidelines that became a model for other programs and for establishing a challenge grant concept used to leverage private-sector support for the arts. One of his special efforts was to plan and coordinate 134 concerts to celebrate Jimmy Carter’s inauguration.
In 1994 the American Symphony Orchestra League named “Dr. Anderson as one of the 50 people whose talents and efforts had touched the lives of many orchestras in a significant way.” He died on Nov. 24, 2003 at the age of 88.
His people skills were legendary, no matter where he lived, how old he was, and what he did. His music enhanced his interactions with everyone around him. He welcomed African American students into his home in Yellow Springs to support them and counsel them about difficult situations they encountered. When living in Cleveland, he would walk home in the dark in the downtown area, and as he passed houses, he would call out to people he knew, and soon he would start singing, and the porch-sitters would join in. A wave of music would follow him wherever he went.
So from playing a calliope at a car show in Zanesville when he was twelve, to having the Zanesville mayor proclaim November 10, 2015 to be the Walter F. Anderson Day with two hours of comments from townspeople there on that occasion, Walter Anderson has left a significant and indelible imprint on everyone who ever knew him.
Sources: Playing On All the Keys: The Life of Walter F. Anderson by Joan H. Horn
Jane Lee Ball (1929-2011)
Jane Elizabeth Ball was born on June 2, 1929 in Springfield, Ohio to Dr. Henry and Mary Lee. In 1935 the family moved to Wilberforce, Ohio where Jane lived until she graduated from Central State University, in Wilberforce, with a Bachelor of Science in Education with majors in English and Art. She received a Master of Arts degree in English from Howard University. Her career as an educator began at Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA. She also taught at Alcorn Agricultural and mechanical College (now Alcorn State university), North Carolina Central University, and Ohio State University. She married Wilfred Ball and in 1966 returned to Wilberforce to teach. As a Professor of English she guided students through the rigors of freshmen composition and technical writing, helped them navigate the intellectual challenges of world literature, and opened the horizons of mass media and communication.
Her publications include book reviews, scholarly articles and fiction. Her article titled “The Abandoned Culture of America’s Black People” published in The Humanist has been regularly shared with a variety of college students as a stimulating reference work. She has authored articles and reviews on current fiction authors/works such as Jackie Collins and Toni Morrison. Her quiet humor was also showcased in newspaper articles in The Akron Reporter.
During her thirty-year tenure at Wilberforce, Jane Lee Ball’s experience reflected the same commitment and involvement as her professional writing. In addition to serving as Professor of English, she served as the chair, Humanities Division, and acting chair, Social Science Division. She designed the commemorative medallions for the University’s 125th and 130th Anniversary celebrations. Additionally, she served as the director, Freshmen Composition Program; chair, Non-Western Studies program Committee; and provided outstanding leadership on numerous University committees.
Jane Lee Ball died on March 28, 2011. She was survived by her husband Wilfred, children Janet, Carol, Wendy, and Cris; grandchildren Blakely, Courtland, Chloe, Justin, Drew, and Jasmine; great-grandson Shan; nephew John P. White, Jr. nieces Denise Wilkins and Dale White, and many great nephews and great-nieces.
Sources: Adapted from Wilberforce University Mirror, Census of 1930, Springfield, Clark County, Ohio
Andrew Spencer Benning (1926-2010)
Andrew Spencer Benning was born on January 10, 1926, the third son born to Chester William Benning, Sr. and Helen Lucille Cassell Benning of Yellow Springs. He was active in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. To earn pocket change he would collect, cure and sell black walnuts, and also work at a local grocery store. Andrew was drafted by the Naval Reserves Seabees during World War II and shipped out on May 30, 1945. He was stationed in the Philippines, where his first assignment included building a hospital at Subic Bay. In the fall of 1945 he was assigned shore patrol duty in Manila. He was discharged in June of 1946. His discharge papers listed the requirement to complete his high school education which he did by becoming a member of the Yellow Springs High School Class of 1946.
Back in Yellow Springs, in 1948, at the urging of his Uncle Rufus, Andy obtained employment with the Village of Yellow Springs reading meters. He was particularly proud of his role each winter helping to distribute the Wheeling Gaunt bequest f flour and sugar to area widows. In 1950 he worked with Yellow Springs Little League managers and umpires. Andy worked for the Village of Yellow Springs for 43 years.
In 1951 Andy married Janet Shelton of Indiana, and with their children Gary, Andrea, and Tracy, they enjoyed trips to Indiana and Colorado, and local drive-in movies in the summer. Andy held part time jobs at the Little Art Theatre, the Page Manor Theatre, and also wired local homes. In 1950 he joined the Miami Township Fire Department rising through the ranks, where he became assistant chief in 1965, and chief in 1971 until his retirement in 1981.
Andy and Janet divorced in 1979, and in 1980 he married the former Judy May Erwin, the mother of Talitha and Maria. The couple divorced in 1982. Andy was continually active in the Yellow Springs community, supporting the Yellow Springs Public School Bulldog athletic teams, the Yellow Springs Historical Society, the Senor Citizens Center, Bryan High School Alumni Association, of which he was vice president, Yellow Springs Men’s Group, Glen Forest Cemetery Board, and the Miami Valley African American [need to check name] Genealogical Society. He also enjoyed league bowling, golf, bike riding, reading, history, and photography. In June of 1991 the Village of Yellow Springs declared Andy Benning week.
Andy Benning died on October 29, 2010. He was survived by his former wife Janet, children Gary, Andrea, and Tracy; his former wife Judy, and former stepdaughters Talitha Greene and Celia M. Prether, brothers Charles Benning, Donald Benning and sister-in-law Kume Benning.
Source: Adapted from Yellow Springs News obituary, November 4, 2010
Deborah Benning (1947-2009)
Deborah Benning was born on September 12, 1947 to Etta Belle Harris Benning, a descendant of the Perry family, and Chester Benning.
She was a fixture in the community and an active participant in a number of civic activities. She was an appointed member of Yellow Springs Village Council for approximately two years. She was clerk for the Yellow Springs Council for several years.
She died on November 24, 2009 after a courageous battle with cancer. Deborah Benning was survived by her daughters Cheryl Williams of Chandler, Arizona, and Asara Martin of Dayton; siblings Gail Ballard of Dayton Peter Benning of Toledo, Byron Benning and Faith Murphy Knight of Atlanta, grandchildren Noah Watkins and Jacob Allen of Chandler, Arizona, and her great grandchild Arla Watkins, and her longtime partner Ron Robinson, and daughter Ashanta Robinson of Yellow Springs.
Sources: Adapted from Yellow Springs News, obituary, November 24, 2009
Ernestine Martin Benning (1928-2016)
Ernestine Martin Benning was a longtime employee of Antioch College, and for several decades served as the volunteer secretary and administrative assistant of Central Chapel AME Church, Yellow Springs. Born in the Rhodes Chapel Community of Greenville, Kentucky, Ernestine Martin was the second of seventeen children born to Herbert Martin and Beatrice Tutt Martin. She was raised on a farm, Martin Acres, Inc that is still owned by her siblings, and in her youth joined the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Rhodes Chapel where she sang in the choir and taught youth Sunday school. She was a 1947 graduate of Drakesboro High School, and continued her education at Tennessee State University, in Nashville, Tennessee, studying Business Administration. In Nashvilleshe was employed as a waitress and also worked in a tomato packing plant.
Ernestine Martin moved to Ohio in 1953 and worked at several jobs before finding work as a secretary at Wilberforce University. In November of 1954, she began work at Antioch College as a chemistry stockroom clerk, but was soon hired to fill a secretary position for James Corwin who was Dean of Science at Antioch College. Ernestine’s thirst for learning and competency were her motivation for attending many work related training and related classes. Being abreast of current information and procedures also insured her tenure at Antioch. Ernestine’s people skills and caring attitude enabled her to have positive interactions with college administrators, faculty, and students. She retired in 1992 as an administrative assistant in the Master’s program.
In the early 1950s Ernestine Martin met Charles W. Benning, a native of Yellow Springs, who was employed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. They were soon married and the couple joined Central Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in 1956 during Dr. Gilbert H. Jones ministry of the church. After the church secretary, Rachel Hull Dawson became ill, Ernestine voluntarily assumed the part-time church secretary duties and later became Administrative Assistant for the church. In this capacity she did whatever needed to be done, had a no nonsense attitude and was always prompt. Family and church members called her our “Earth Angel” because she was present where and whenever there is a need.
During her tenure, Ernestine mentored 22 young ministers many of whom were first-time appointments to lead Central Chapel. During their assignments, in many respects, she really was their supervisor. She helped newly assigned ministers with church financial matters, supporting management of congregational boards and coordinated secretarial support for staff meetings. Ernestine contacted and scheduled reputable contractors once maintenance needs had been identified. She was particularly helpful to Rev. H. Mason Brown (1969-1974) whose management skills served the church very well as the new Central Chapel Church was being constructed in the early 1970. During the 50th Anniversary Celebration for Ernestine in 2006, former pastor (1986-1991) Rev. John S. Gaitawe, said, “Ernestine is the best secretary he has had during his pastoral years.” Ernestine during the planning and construction of the Central Chapel Education and Family Life Center, a fellowship hall addition to the church that was built during the tenure of Rev. John E. Freeman (1992-2007).
During Rev. John Freeman’s 15 years as pastor of Central Chapel, the Martin-Benning and Freeman families developed a special relationship. Pastor John sought her advice regarding difficult church matters because Ernestine was straightforward. Ernestine told him she would help a good pastor to realize his maximum potential. She always spoke to him as a parent. Indeed, Rev. Freeman officiated funeral services for her deceased Martin family members and the Freeman family attended one of the Martin Family Reunions.
Ernestine Martin Benning passed away on June 1, 2016 after a long illness. She was survived by her husband of 62 years, Charles Benning, sons Vernon W. Hines, III and Danny Benning, sisters and brother: Unita, Naomi, Barbara, Howitt and Shirley. She was preceded in death by her son Ronald “Butch” Benning.
Sources: Alyce Earl-Jenkins. “Ernestine Martin-Benning,” Yellow Springs News, June 2, 2016; “Homegoing Celebration, Earnestine Martin Benning”
In the 1920s each evening as the street lights came on in Yellow Springs an African American man was standing somewhere in the Village with his eyes on them, and with the first flicker, his head would turn as his eyes checked the lights as far as he could see in either direction.
Ralph “Rufus” Benning, six feet four inches in height and 218 pounds, could be seen riding through the dusk in a yellow truck marked “Village of Yellow Springs No. 5,” still checking. He had been doing this since 1923 and it all began on a now and then part-time basis back in 1914 when he was 17 years old and began repairing transformers for C.H. Ellis who was the superintendent of Yellow Springs utilities. Rufus was devoted in his service. On black, stormy nights when winds were tearing wires and lightning had ripped lines inactive, you could always find Rufus in the midst of it “looking after” Yellow Springs utilities. It had been a dangerous business for him over the years. He was seriously burned three times. His brother Chet who also worked with him was injured and a third brother Doc was killed while working on a pole in 1948, but through it all Ralph been was loyal. Almost everyone in town knew him and hailed “Rufus” as their own personal friend in the more than 20 years that he also read meters throughout the Village. He was acknowledged by th e Village during the Centennial Celebration with keys, and plaque, and was also made Village Man of the Year in 1956.
Rufus was the son of Cora Mae Thompson and Andrew Benning, born in March of 1897. He was married to Eizabeth Gillim with whom he united in wedlock in May of 1926. They resided at 130 E. South College Street until Rufus passed on November 3, 1973. Rufus Is pictured in a photograph on a wall in the Village offices, giving tribute to the remarkable and famous “Benning Brothers” whos oerall contribution to the Villag of Yellow Springs remains outstanding.
Doris Frances Blake
Doris Blake was born on January 28, 1920 in Philadelphia to James Arnold and Jesse Vine. She spent her early years in Pennsylvania. In 1947, Doris married Walker Blake II. He was a young army Lieutenant who promised to show her the world. They immediately moved post-WWII Philippines. They had five children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Doris Blake passed away in April 21, 2018 98 years old. Mrs. Blake was preceded in death by her husband and eldest son, Walker M. Blake. She is survived by Cassandra Blake Zarkades and husband, Nick; Aurelia Blake; Philip Blake and wife Janice; James Blake and wife, Vanetta; her grandchildren Nicole Blake and Darby Blake, Talia Blake, Matthew Wallace and Hyacinth Wallace, Zoe and Blake Zarkades, James Blake II and Walker M. Blake IV; and myriad sons and daughters of Yellow Springs and the Yellow Springs Baha’I community.
Adapted from Yellow Springs News Obituary, April 26, 2018
Barrett Eugene Blackwell
Barrett Eugene Blackwell was a long time resident of Georgia originally from Yellow Springs, Ohio. In his early years he was an excellent athlete in track and field, swimming and weightlifting. He attended Bowling Green State University and obtained his degree in Biology. He obtained his master’s degree in Counseling from Wright State University. Mr. Blackwell had a long, varied and successful career before retiring in 2014. Mr. Blackwell was a lifelong entrepreneur and family man.
Barrett was a family man and always placed his family before him. Barrett Blackwell passed away when he was 66 years old on January, 2018. He was survived by his wife, Hazel (Sacares); sons Foluke, Hashim and Barrett isidro; and daughter Abigail. He is survived by his mother, Anna Clara (Oliver Hagans) Gee Blackwell- Hagans, of Springfield, Ohio; brother Harold B. (Cindy) Blackwell Jr., of South Pasadena, Calif.; sisters Nisa D. Blackwell-Turner and Valerie A. (Buck Truitt) Blackwell- Truitt, of Yellow Springs; and Cynthia L. Blackwell of Framingham , Mass. Mr. Blackwell was also survived by his nephews , Elliott Blackwell, Steven Blackwell, Adam J. Truitt, A. Justin Truit, and Kyle M. Truitt, along with a host of cousins, aunts and uncles.
Adapted from Yellow Springs News obituary, February 1, 2018
Greene, Therese Evelyn Marie Thomas
Smith, Shelbert L.
Anna Clara Blackwell- Hagans
Anna Clara Gee was born in Springfield, Ohio in 1928, a daughter of Barrett (Buck) Gee and Letha Cowans Gee. Anna graduated from Springfield High School at the age of 16 and took courses at Wilberforce University. She met, fell in love with and married Harold Benson (Jerry) Blackwell Sr., to whom she was happily married for 59 years. Anna and Harold had six children — Harold, Jr., Barrett, Nisa, Valerie, Cynthia and Michael. She was an incredibly loving, patient, kind, generous, empathetic mother. She taught her children many life lessons and how to treat others, and she led by example. She instilled the value of helping those less fortunate, the value of independence, asking for help from others, the value of education and the value of self worth, standing tall and proud and advocating for oneself and for others.
She worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, retiring in 1984 as a budget analyst with 34 years of service. While at Wright-Patterson, she received numerous outstanding performance awards and honors.
Anna was blessed with the gift of music. She began playing piano at the very tender age of 5. Her music career was greatly influenced by her father, a tap dancer and teacher, and her mother, who would sing to her. As a result of their nurturing and encouragement, Anna flourished. Her piano teacher, Ms. Madge Grandson, traveled to Springfield from Dayton every week by bus during the Great Depression to give her lessons at the cost of $.25. Her father, Buck Gee, wanted her to learn to play various styles of music. He would have his friends, who were local artists, come to their home and teach Anna. At the age of 16 she was encouraged by Mrs. Edith Worley of Springfield to memorize music, playing the 31-page George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue”. Anna was in her father’s tap dance troupe “The Gees” as a young teen along with her sister, the late Beulah Stevenson, her brothers, the late William Gee, Barrett and Robert Gee and her cousin, Lebron Hale. Anna and her sister Beulah performed together on a radio show as young women and in other venues singing duets.
Anna was the accompanist for the Wright State University Chamber Singers in the Department of Music. She performed numerous solo concerts during her career and performed with her daughters in operas, talent shows, weddings, church programs, community dance concerts, community programs and the like. Anna taught dance, voice, organ and piano to thousands of young people over the past 51 years in her homes in Yellow Springs and Springfield, retiring in October 2016. She was also instrumental in providing children opportunities to participate in the Springfield Youth Orchestra. She held annual concerts for her students, providing them with a venue to perform.
Anna was a philanthropist as well. During her 51 years of teaching, she provided yearly scholarships to students who were unable to afford lessons. Her kindness and generosity enabled many students and their parents the opportunity to learn piano and the study of music. This was her way of giving back to her communities and helping children. In Anna’s 51 years of teaching, she taught several generations of students from the same families including her own. She had the pleasure of teaching her five children and three of her grandsons; Adam, Justin and Kyle.
Anna was a concert pianist, soprano, composer, organist, author, teacher, choir director and accompanist, as well as a recording artist. She was an adjudicator for the National Guild of Piano Teachers and a former member of the American College of Musicians. She is the author of the books Twenty-Three Days of Music in Europe (1977) and He’s All I Need: My Life Story! (2013). Her CDs include “Oh Give Thanks” (2003) and He’s All I Need: My Life Story! (2013). She is the recipient of many honors and awards, and is listed in several national and international publications including The World’s Who’s Who of Women, Continental Who’s Who, Who’s Who in Music, Biographical International, Who’s Who of American Women and National Association of Professional Women. She was a member of numerous organizations over the years including the American College of Musicians, National Council of Negro Women, The Frontiers, The Wilberforce Chapter of the Links, The Retirement Set and Historically Disadvantaged Businesses Minority and Female Owned Business, to name a few.
Anna was baptized at St. John Missionary Baptist Church (Springfield) in 1942 and began playing piano for the Senior Choir in 1943 at the age of 13. She played a total of 74 years for church choirs (St. John, Central Chapel AME of Yellow Springs, and Mt. Zion). She held several positions during her career as Minister of Music and Director of the Male Chorus. In 1969 she produced an album titled St. John Sings with all of the church choirs on the album. In 2013 Anna invited her St. John Family to sing on her CD “He’s All I Need.” As composer, one of her children’s favorite compositions was “Boogie Woogie Breakdown.” They asked her to play it over and over again throughout their lives and she was more than happy to comply. Her composition “Let Everything Praise The Lord” was performed on her first CD as a trio. The St. John Choirs performed this work under her direction several years later.
Mrs. Anna Blackwell-Hagans held a degree in Business Management from Park University, Parkville, Mo., which she earned in 1984. At the age of 60 she went back to school to earn her Nursing Degree as an LPN from Clark State Technical College, Springfield, Ohio. Anna received her master’s degree in music performance (piano) in 2005 from Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, at the age of 76. For her thesis, from memory, she played a 65-page composition by Russian composer Dmitry Kabelevsky. In 2011 Anna returned to higher education one last time to earn her Master of Education in special education from Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Ariz., at the age of 82. She said God’s spirit spoke to her, telling her to teach children. She knew there was more God wanted her to do. She felt it was her obligation to do as much as she could for children.
In 2015, Anna married Oliver Wendell Hagans Sr. of Springfield, Ohio. They lived happily together for almost three years. Oliver was a loving, devoted and kind husband and great companion to Anna during the last three years of her life.
Ana passed away on January 31st of 2018.
Adapted from Yellow Springs News obituary February 8, 2018
Leonora DeVeaux Brown
Leonora Brown was born in Virginia to John Allen DeVeaux, a minister in the A.M.E. church, and Della Phillips DeVeaux. She had two brothers, John Allan and William Phillips. When Leonora was still a baby, her family moved to Pennsylvania because her father had the opportunity to join the Army. He became a chaplain in the Army and his base was in Georgia. He left for Georgia, while she Leonora and her family stayed in Pennsylvania because of segregation laws in the South. After a few years, the family moved to Arizona when her father was transferred there. Her youngest brother William was born in Arizona. In a 2014 interview, she recalled that her experience in Arizona was good. Leonora’s family left Arizona at the beginning of WWII. She was not directly affected by the war. Her father was not home but no one close to her family died. During WWII she lived in Jacksonville, Florida with her grandmother, Leonora Alum Deveaux. The consequences they suffered from the war was the rationing of the food and the departure of men that were drafted. While living in Jacksonville, the family lived in a segregated area.
After living in Florida, Leonora and her family moved to Kansas when her father was transferred to Fort Riley. Leonora’s experience in Kansas was enjoyable but she noticed the subtle segregation there. She and her brothers attended an integrated school but she remembers that the racial division was clear. In the cafeteria, black people did not sit with white people. Black students were involved in sports but they were not included in any social events or plays. She graduated from Johnson City High School. After she graduated, she attended Hampton Institute and majored in Sociology. She described life on campus was being really nice. It had a country setting but with strict rules.
During Leonora’s time in Kansas, she met Orlando Brown, a soldier who was at Fort Riley training. After graduation from Hampton they were married in December of 1953. After they married, her husband was stationed in Germany, and she joined him there. She remembered that during the time there were a lot of poor people in Germany begging for food. When her husband ended his duty in Germany, they came back to the United States. They didn’t have a specific plan of where they would live. Mr. Brown had some relatives in Chicago so they were driving to Chicago. While driving, they stopped in Yellow Springs where’ Leonora’s uncle lived. He convinced Mr. Brown to get a job in Yellow Springs and he did. He hired at Vernay’s, a precision rubber manufacturer in Yellow Springs, and he stayed there for 11 years. Her husband went back to school and got his degree in Education. Leonora started teaching four years after her husband was hired at Vernay’s.
Leonora’s teaching career started in Dayton and most of her years as a teacher were in 5 grade. She remembers that integration started with the teachers. Even though she had mostly white co-workers she never suffered any kind of hostility. She recalls that during the 1950’s there were no black teachers in Yellow Springs. During the civil rights movement, she remembers Antioch students protesting. Mr. Brown built their house in Yellow Springs when he was working in Vernay’s. Leonora’s uncle, Richard Phillips helped him in building their house. The Browns had three sons, Orlando Vernon, Allen, and Martin, and when they were growing up Leonora was an active Scout mother of Boy Scout Troop 78.
Leonora joined Central Chapel AME Church in Yellow Springs one week after coming to Yellow Springs. She really liked the people in church and noted that the people were nice, kind and friendly at the church. Her husband became a trustee of the church and he was involved in the construction of the new building of the church. She indicated that her husband went to a bank and asked for a loan in order to construct the building. Mr. Brown put their house as a guarantee until they church paid the loan of the church. Leonora was a proud to be a member of Central Chapel. There she served on the Steward Board for many years, was a member of the Senior Choir, the Stewardess Board, and the Lay Organization.
Leonora was also a member of Friends for Payne Seminary, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., She passed away in 2018.
- “Leonora Brown Interview”, 2014, WYSO Civil Rights Oral History Project
- Maude Leonora DeVeaux Brown Funeral Program, March 17, 2018
Myrtle Marie Brown (1901-1995)
Myrtle Brown was born in Yellow Springs, Ohio on August 12, 1901 to Allen and Charity Brown.
Myrtle was a lifelong resident of Yellow Springs and attended school in Yellow Springs. As a child she and her friend Louella Baber (Logan) occasionally skipped school. One day she and Louella dutifully walked to school, hung their coats in the hallway of the school and then proceeded out the back door of the school to go fishing. Myrtle attended high school in the building that would later become the Yellow Springs Police station on Dayton Street near the United Methodist Church.
Myrtle later worked as a cook at Antioch College. She worked at the college for 50 years. After retirement Myrtle continued to cater meals for friends and family. She had a knowledge of wild greens and could even spot greens while riding past a farmer’s field. She explained during a 1988 interview that she began organizing dinners through the First Baptist Church of Yellow Springs where she was a member. One Sunday a member of the church became ill during the worship service. Myrtle wanted to show gratitude to the paramedics who attended the sick member. She, with the aid of fellow First Baptist church members had a fundraiser for the paramedics. Myrtle made what would become her famous chicken pies for the event.
Myrtle enjoyed helping others and received the Black Leadership Award for her community service from a local sorority.
Myrtle lived with her sister Susie Brown during the last several decades of their lives. The sisters lived in their childhood home on Marshall Street. Myrtle survived Susie by approximately ten year. Myrtle eventually moved to Friend Care Community Nursing facility where she passed away on May17, 1995.
Susie A. Brown (1894-1984)
Miss Susie, as she was referred to in the village of Yellow Spring, Ohio, was born in 1894 in a small house situated on Marshall St., number 131. This would be her residence for most of her life except for when she spent almost 20 years in Jacksonville, Fl. She shared her home with her sister Miss Myrtle Brown. She never had any children nor did she ever marry. Her life was devoted to working for her community and her race.
In 1920 at age 26 she joined the First Baptist Church of Yellow Springs, Oh. She belonged to many organizations. In an article in the Daily News when interviewed for her nomination as one of the “Top Ten Women” for 1971 in the Dayton area she is quoted as saying “she did everything but preach.” She served as Sunday School Superintendent and Sunday School teacher. She was a member of the Senior Choir; many choir members can attest that she and her sister would compete for who had the better voice.
She belonged to the Missionary Society and as Chair of the Sick and Shut-in committeeshe was responsible for sending cards to members who were ill or couldn’t get out to attend church or other events. She held the position as Pres. of the Baptist Young People Union or the B.Y.P.U. an organization that provides guidance to young people by offering activities that inform and teach about life. She was Financial Secretary for the church; a position that required the trust of church members. In the community, she was a member of the Yellow Springs Council for Religious Corporation
Yellow Springs and her race where important to her as evidenced by her involvement in the community. She oversaw the Senior Citizens’ Thrift shop. When money was short, because of losing a federal grant, Miss Susie continued to work five days a week from 9 to 5 and half days on Saturday while receiving a check for part time work. She was concerned about Antioch Students and when they shopped at the Thrift store she was known to give merchandise to those in need. She was responsible for donating clothes, furniture and books to needy families and to the Salvation Army. She donated to the Delta Ministry a Civil Rights organization in Mississippi founded by the National Council of Churches. Another civil rights group she donated to was the Mississippi Project an organization that sent students from Northern colleges to Mississippi to help them register to vote, help with legal problems and other needs.
25 years before desegregation Miss Susie was a banner barer for Civil Rights for her race. In Yellow Springs and the surrounding area, she was involved in organizations that acknowledged civil rights issues and would fight for the rights of people. She belonged to the Greene County Community Action Committee an anti-poverty agency. More personal was her membership in the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women.
In addition to her philanthropic work and her volunteering for important organizationsshe held regular jobs. For six years, she served as House Director at the Westside YWCA in Dayton, Oh. In Delaware, East of Columbus, OH, she spent two years as the House Mother at the Ohio Girls Industrial School. Other than her hometown Miss Susie lived in Jacksonville, FL where she held the position of President of the Peoples Burial and Insurance Company of Jacksonville, FL and was an editorial writer for the Florida edition of the Pittsburgh Courier. This was for a brief period before returning to her hometown.
Per the article in the Daily News Miss Susie took great delight in recounting something that took place while she was in Denmark in 1970. She explained that there weren’t many people of color in Denmark and her skin color was of the darker hue. There was a young Danish boy who kept tugging on his mother’s sleeve and when he got her attention he said to her while pointing to Miss Susie “they kept her in the oven to long.” Miss Susie had a good sense of humor and understood her oddity in this foreign country and she found the incident humorous.
Miss Susie passed away December 6, 1984 at the age of 90. Members of First Baptist Church still fondly recount stories of Miss Susie. She is well remembered and missed.
Sources: Robin Jordan-Henry. 1971, The Daily News, Staff writer Diane Koehler, December 10, 1984 Obituary, Miss Susie A. Brown, First Baptist Church. Yellow Springs, Oh, December 10, 1984Resolution submitted by First Baptist Church Missionary Society Yellow Springs, Oh