Rev. James Albert Harrell (1873-1948)
A conspicuous figure among the Baptist c’ergymen of Eastern Virginia is the Rev. Dr. James Albert Harrell, now pastor of the First Baptist Church of Suffolk, Va. Dr. Harrell is in the prime of his years, having been born at Corapeake, Gates County, N. C., on Nov. 15, 1873. His parents were Henry and Hagar Harrell. His paternal grandmother was Classie Hinton. His maternal grandparents were Abraham and Mary Parker. Dr. Harrell had the good fortune to be born long enough after the war to miss those terribly hard years immediately after the great conflict. The schools, it is true, had not then come to any great degree of perfection, but at least a fair start had been made.History of the American Negro. A. B. Caldwell (1921)
As a boy he took his turn on the farm. He recalls with pride that he was an exceptional cotton picker. The daily task was 180 pounds, and he frequently picked 325 pounds, putting the pay received for the surplus into getting an education. He feels much indebted to his faithful and prayerful mother for his educational success.
His first training was in the public schools, thence to St. Paul’s Norman and Industrial School at Lawrenceville, Va., thence to Virginia Union University at Richmond, Va., where he won the degree of B. D. in 1904. He supplemented his college course with courses in the Afro-American School of Correspondence. The degree of D. D. evidences both his work and attainments. He was licensed to preach by Zion Tabernacle Baptist Church, near his old home, Corapeake, N. C., in 1895, and duly ordained on July 30, 1896. So that he was in the regular ministry for eight years before receiving his first college degree.
His ministerial career has been extremely active. Beginning at South Mills, N. C., he spent years and repaired the church, then to Second Baptist Church, Edenton, N. C., for two years, then First Baptist Church, Roper, N. C., four years and repaired the church and at the same time and for the same term he was pastor of St. James, Elizabeth City, N. C.
At that time he also served as Dean of the Theological Department of Roanoke Collegiate Institute at Elizabeth City. In 1911, he was called to the First Baptist Church of Suffolk, Va., where he yet remains at this writing (1920) and where he has building plans under way for a new house of worship.
Like so many of our present day colored preachers he has found it necessary to spend much time teaching, and he figures that during his career he has put in twelve years in the school room and sixteen years preaching. He frequently carried along the work of both at the same time.
But his main work has not absorbed all his energy. Official positions have made extensive demands upon him. At this time he is Moderator of the Sharon Baptist Association; Treasurer Home Mission Board National Baptist Convention; Chairman Executive Board Sharon Baptist S. S. Convention, and Vice-President of the Phoenix Bank of Suffolk.
For four years he was President of Nansemond Collegiate Institute, a Baptist Associational School at Suffolk.
It will be seen that Dr. Harrell’s life is one of immense activity. He has traveled extensively in our own country. He gives credit to the Bible as the greatest factor in shaping his life and found his most profitable reading in his early years the Life of Booker T. Washington and works of Intellectual Science.
He is a Republican in politics and affiliated with the Masons, Odd Fellows, Good Samaritans and other orders.
Nov. 14, 1897, Dr. Harrell was married to Miss Mary A. Palmer of Palmer’s Springs, Va. Mrs. Harrell passed to her reward on Oct. 5, 1900, leaving him one son, James Edward Harrell, now a young man. On Aug. 3, 1905, he was again married, to Miss Ollie E. Graves, a daughter of W. P. and Caroline Graves. Mrs. Harrell was educated at Shaw University and, prior to her marriage, was an accomplished teacher.
Dr. Harrell is one of those valuable citizens and preachers whom the Old North State is in these days contributing to the Old Dominion. He would have been conspicuous in any line, for he has business qualifications which if devoted to money making would have made him rich – but preferring his present work who can doubt that he chose the better and more useful part?
During the nine years he has been the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Suffolk marvelous progress has been made. Being a man of culture, refinement, tact and ability as well as a man of God he has found a large place in the hearts of the people. He has the love, admiration and respect of the better element of both races, and is doing a work the import of which can only be revealed by eternity
Rev. Dr. James A. Harrell passed away on July 1, 1948. He was interred in Oak Lawn Cemetery on July 5, 1948, by undertaker T. E. Cooke.
Dr. William Thomas Fuller (1866-1921)
Dr. William Thomas Fuller was born in Caswell County, North Carolina, on January the twenty-fourth, 1866. Although a native of North Carolina, at an early age he went to Virginia. Here in the city of Danville he got his early training. He was a pupil in the public schools of the city for a number of years. He applied himself diligently to his tasks, and even as a boy gave promise of becoming a man of power. When he had completed the work of the public schools of Danville young Fuller went to Hampton Institute. Here he studied long enough to get the real spirit of the school. In all his after life the real spirit of service, of helpfulness to others, of making the most of opportunities, of improving ones self and ones surroundings, has been with him to spur him on to good deeds.National Cyclopedia of the Colored Race, 1919
Having completed the work of Hampton Institute, Mr. Fuller returned to his native State and matriculated in the Leonard Medical College, at Raleigh, North Carolina. Here he remained to complete the work of his profession. In 1895 Dr. Fuller opened his office for practice in Reedville, North Carolina. Finding the place not altogether to his liking he moved the next year to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Here he remained for five years. Still Dr. Fuller was not satisfied with his location, and the opportunity offered him for service and progress. So for a third time we find him removing his sign and journeying to another town. This time he left his native State altogether and returned to the State of his early adoption. Here in Suffolk, Virginia, Dr. Fuller stared out anew, and here he remained.
For the past seventeen years the practice and business of the subject of the sketch has grown steadily. In 1903 he opened a Drug Store. This he has maintained since that date with the help of his wife. Mrs. Fuller is a woman of unusual ability and she has done her part toward making the life of Dr. Fuller in Suffolk a success. Although Dr. Fuller is not affiliated with any church in particular he is a thorough believer in Christianity and gives of his means to the support of all denominations. He also gives liberally to all the movements for the uplift of his people. He is a public spirited man, according to the testimony of the local white bankers and is a credit to any community.
Dr. Fuller was among the men who made it possible for the late Dr. Booker T. Washington to go to Suffolk. This Dr. Fuller did in the interests of his own race, and in the interest of the people of Suffolk in general. The visit left a lasting feeling of good will and better understanding between the white and the colored people of that section. While Dr. Fuller will not take credit of this to himself, he is in a large measure responsible for it.
Dr. Fuller has been twice married. His first wife was Miss Alberta F. Boyd, of Asheville, North Carolina. They were married May 25, 1895. She died September 13, 1896. Eleven years later he was again married; this time to Miss Lavonia A. Carter, of Petersburg, Virginia. It is she who so ably administers the business of the drug store when Dr. Fuller is out making calls. There are two daughters in the family, Cory L. and Goler Mae. Both are young misses in school.
Dr. Fuller, with his family lives in one of the most beautiful homes in the country. Nor does the beauty of his home stop with the beauty of the structure. The home life is also beautiful. Mrs. Fuller makes a very charming hostess on all occasions and manages the home, along with the Drug Store and at the same time in no way neglects the young girls.
During the years Dr. Fuller has spent in Suffolk he has managed to save from his practice and from the business conducted in his Drug Store, enough money to invest in and around the city. He is rated as one of the very substantial citizens of the place. A conservative estimate of the value of his holdings is placed at $50,000.00.
Dr. William Thomas Fuller was the son of Norman Fuller (ca.1828-1883), of Hanover County, Virginia, and Frances Elizabeth Mason (ca. 1837-1883), of Richmond, Virginia. Both of his parents passed away in Danville, Virginia. Dr. Fuller married Miss Albert F. Boyd on May 2, 1895, in Buncombe County, North Carolina. They had two daughters: Caryl Lucille Fuller Teal (1901-1944), wife of Willoughby Thomas Teal, and Goldie M. Fuller. After Alberta’s decease in 1906, Dr. Fuller married Lavinia Alma Carter on September 18, 1907, in Petersburg, Virginia.
Dr. William Thomas Fuller passed away on February 5, 1921, from complications of chronic nephritis. He was buried in Oak Lawn Cemetery by the Baker B. Elliott Funeral Company.