Halifax County’s ‘good trouble’ warriors

The recent death of the Rev. Jeremiah Webb (March 30, 1930 — Sept. 14, 2020) has led to an absorbing reminder of the struggles with some of the most enduring critical problems and racial conflicts, injustices and the struggle for liberation in Halifax County; let alone the engaging band of brave and intriguing activists, including the Rev. Webb who now joins in that heavenly jubilee.

The late Congressman John Lewis (D-Alabama) characterized his historic and much celebrated life-long activism beginning with his near-death experience on Alabama’s Edmund Pettus Bridge as “Getting into good trouble.”

An attempt to name all the worthy individuals who rose to the challenges and dared get into “good trouble” and to exploit their sacrifices, and their controversial influences on black consciousness and achievements would be too much in this format, so a final assessment will be relegated for another time and medium.

• The Rev. Jeremiah Webb

• Willie Lowe Jr.

• The Rev. James M. Johnson

• Attorney James R. Walker

• Augustus Cofield Sr.

• Jettie Purnell

• G.T. Young

• Rep. Doc M. Brown

• Myrtle Knox

• Barbara Bell Jones

• Joe P. Moody

• The Honorable Bell Frye

• The Rev. Cleveland Deloatch Sr.

• Luliah Francis, poet/activist

• Taylor Marrow, community activist

• William Taylor

• Matthew and Florenza Moore Grant

• Ruth Johnson

• Troy Lassiter

• Woodrow Harvey

• Leroy and Joanna

Northington Harvey

• Dr. Clarence Shoffner

• Dr. Salt Cochran

• Doris Mack

When you love a place called home and you want the best growth and opportunities for your children and for all its citizens, it hurts and is deeply depressing when the settled reputation of your Halifax County is defined by other powers as “backwards, ignorant, low achieving schools,” and consumed by psychotic racism.

Yet, with just a brief recall in the early history of the Halifax County African-American community, we produced some of the most successful farmers, funeral home establishments, and legends like the late Raymond and Claymon Moore, the first harness horse racing brother-team owners and competitive winners up the eastern seaboard; among some of the living legends is Willa Cofield Johnson an outstanding public school teacher who lost her job with the Halifax County School System, later won a defamation lawsuit; Florida Moore Jacobs, along with Sylvia Manley (deceased), in 1959 made a much delayed attempt to integrate the Scotland Neck High School; Paul Walden, the first black stock broker on Wall Street from the area; Evangeline Grant Redding, the first published author and first television producer/host in the state (1971); Joseph Whitaker, the first reporter for the Wall Street Journal; and Michael Davis, the first commercial airline pilot.

Again, neither list here is meant to be complete, but hopefully representative of the warriors who risk their lives and treasure to make a difference. Rest in peace the Rev. Webb and all praise to the others. We won’t forget.

Gary R. Grant, President/CEO

Concerned Citizens of Tillery Inc.

(Contributors: Marilyn Harris, Gracie Cofield and Evangeline Grant)