Looking Back: Parade honors veteran soldiers, sailors of European War

Published 4:23 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2019

By Clyde Parker

July 12, 1919

The homecoming day for the colored soldiers and sailors of Southampton who have returned home following their service during the European War was held in Franklin last Saturday. Although the war ended with the signing of the armistice on Nov. 11, 1918, Southampton’s homecoming celebrations were delayed due to the fact that many servicemen have experienced delays in their terminations of military service. On June 26, last, we celebrated the return of the white soldiers and sailors with a parade and other ceremonies.

On Saturday, notwithstanding the almost constant downpour of rain, there were between two and three thousand visitors, from all parts of Southampton and adjoining counties, on hand to welcome home the veterans and celebrate their military service. As well, we memorialized and honored those who did not return to their native soil. A grand parade took place.

Saturday’s parade and exercises, which were under the direction of W.B. Holland, chairman, and W. R. Thomas, secretary-treasurer, were most creditable in every detail. The parade was formed at noon, starting from Barrett Avenue and traversing the principal streets of the town, and was led by the Premier Brass Band of Norfolk. The band was immediately followed by 285 marching soldiers and sailors commanded by Captain Jesse Joyner.

Following the soldiers came the Uniform Rank Knights of Pythias attended by a brigade of boy scouts. Then came the Hampton Institute Marching Band of Newport News, Virginia, which performed in a glorious manner. A large victory truck, loaded with about 30 singing school children, moved slowly through the streets. An American Red Cross float and several decorated motorcars, carrying committee members and special guests, completed the parade.

Following the parade, the soldiers, their families, and their friends enjoyed a delicious luncheon held at Barrett’s Grove, right next to Cool Spring Church. Honorable Frank Story welcomed the assembled group and spoke on behalf of Mayor Joe Bynum Gay who, due to an earlier injury, was not able to attend. Reverend S.T. Cook, D.D., spoke briefly following Mr. Story and Dr. F.N. Harris, of this town, introduced the orator of the occasion, Attorney J.J. Newsom of Newport News. He is one of the most prominent and successful colored lawyers of the South. His eloquent address, timely and appropriate, was replete with much good advice and well-deserved praise of and for the assembled veterans.

Paul Scarborough, editor of The Tidewater News, just received a card from the homecoming committee:

Please allow me, through your columns, on behalf of the Welcome Home Committee to thank our white and colored friends of both town and county for their generous aid in helping us to make the celebration a grand success. First of all, we want to thank Honorable Frank Story, who represented His Honor, the Mayor of Franklin, in extending to the soldiers, sailors, and general populace a hearty welcome to the town and its beneficence.

We would like to thank each individual for his or her contribution, but we fear it would take too much of your valuable space. However, we do desire to make special mention of the Camp Manufacturing Co., the Pretlow Peanut Co., and the Rawls Garage. Not only did they contribute financially but they also furnished us with motor trucks on which to carry our floats without which our parade would have been incomplete. The interest manifested on the part of our white friends as well as their contributions encourage us to believe that the most kindly feeling between the two races still exist in old Southampton County. Co-operation in the provision of foodstuffs for the luncheon was beyond measure. More than 200 chickens laid their lives on the altar to make the soldiers happy, and the “fatted-calf” was literally slain.

We are glad to say that at least 85 percent of our returned soldiers and sailors from Southampton County were in the parade line when the order was given to ‘forward march.’

We thank The Tidewater News for kindly mentioning from time to time the place, day, and date of the celebrations thereby keeping the general public informed. We shall henceforth, as in the past, demean ourselves as true American citizens, loyal, and true to the great democracy of which we form a part.”