Star Cab: Alexandria, Virginia First African American Cab Company

The picture in the blog banner is a picture of three men who owned their

1940s-1950s Star Cab Staff

cabs and drove for “Star Cab Company” during the 1940s and 1950s. These men were Mr. Ike Marshall, Mr. Clarence McKenney, Sr., and Mr. Norman Reynolds, Sr; this picture was taken in the 400 block of South Columbus Street. Some other drivers who drove under the Star Cab Company were Mr. John Galloway, Mr. Samuel Taylor, Jr., and Mr. William Charity.

Mr. William Charity’s cab number was 22. Mr. Charity started driving for Star Cab in the early

Mr. William Charity

Mr. William Charity


1940s part-time. He had a full-time job in the Federal Government. He soon realized that he made more money driving the cab than he did on his full-time job. He quit his government job and started driving full-time for Star Cab. Mr. Charity has fond memories of driving; “the drivers back then dressed in uniforms and we were well respected by the people who knew us”, Mr. Charity stated in a home visit that I made with Mrs. Wilson’s great-great niece, Ms. Shenise Foster to his home. Mr. Charity was able to buy his home on the salary he made from the cab business as well as provide a good living for his wife and children. Today, Mr. Charity is the last man standing who once drove for “Star Cab.” Mr. Charity is 101-years-old and he has been a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church for over 90-years.

Who was this extra-ordinary African American business minded woman who started the “Star Cab Company?”

Star Cab was owned by an African American female named, Madeline Morton Wilson who had a remarkable sense for business. She was born in Orange, Virginia around 1903. She and her brother, Clarence Morton migrated to Alexandria, Virginia and Washington, D.C., when they were young. Mrs. Wilson appeared to have stayed in Alexandria, Virginia with an aunt, Elmira Morton Matthews who migrated earlier to Alexandria. In 1926 at the age of 23, Madeline Morton married Wadsworth Wilson who was 44-years-old. Prior to her marriage, she was living at 408 Oronoco Street, in Alexandria, VA; but, she reported on her marriage license that she was born in Orange, Virginia. Prior to Mr. Wadsworth Wilson’s marriage, he was living at 617 St. Asaph Street; he reported on his marriage license that he was born in Washington, DC. They were married by Father Joseph J. Kelly at Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

In Mrs. Wilson’s short life, she was a woman that was on the move making independent business deals. She had her own business as a hairdresser. She purchased her family home at 700 North Patrick Street.  Mrs. Wilson, her husband, son, and several years her young niece lived in the two story home were her hair dressing and barber shop were operated in the front portion of the home. She independently purchased several other properties in Alexandria. Many of her business transactions were recorded only in her name. One of her biggest business’ deals took place in 1940, when she started the “Star Cab Company.”

John “Buddy” Wilson second person from the right

Although her son, John “Buddy” Wilson ran the day to day operations, Mrs. Wilson was the owner. In 1945, she obtained business partners and incorporated the Cab Company into “Star Cab Association.” Her partners were:

Mrs. Pearl M. Willis – 909 Princess Street, Alexandria, Virginia
Mr. John Galloway, Jr – 233 North West Street, Alexandria, Virginia
Mr. Samuel Taylor, Jr – 318 North Alfred Street, Alexandria, Virginia

In 1950, Mrs. Wilson had passed away. In the Alexandria Gazette Newspaper, her obituary stated that she had a long illness. She died at Freedman Hospital in Washington, DC. Mrs. Wilson was survived by her husband, Wadsworth Wilson, her son, John (Buddy) Wilson, her brother, Clarence Morton of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and her aunt, Elmira Mayetta Morton Matthews of Massachusetts.

Mrs. Madeline Morton Wilson was the business genius in her family. After her death, three-years later in 1953 her husband, Wadsworth Wilson died. He was survived by his son, John (Buddy) Wilson, brother, John Wilson, and many nieces, and nephews. Shortly after the death of Madeline and Wadsworth, their son lost everything. He could not maintain all the property that his mother acquired. John “Buddy” Wilson died as a lonely man without his relatives near him.

The niece of Mrs. Madeline Morton Wilson lives in Cape May, New Jersey. She and her granddaughter, Shenise are currently researching their family history.

I want to thank Mrs. Carolyn Phillips McCrae and her nephew, Norman Reynolds, Jr., for providing the pictures of “Star Cab”. Norman, Jr., is the son of Norman Reynolds, Sr., who drove for Star Cab. Also, Ms. Shenise Foster, great-great niece of Mrs. Madeline Morton Wilson, provided three pictures including the one of Mr. Charity.

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In 2015, we celebrated the 150th year anniversary of the end of the Civil War. Now, we are in the 150th year anniversary dates of the “Reconstruction Era”. The Reconstruction Era refers to the period in the United States history that immediately was instituted after the Civil War. This Era was a rebuilding of the Nation and a period of time that the federal government set conditions to include the rebellious Southern states back into the Union. But this also was a period of time for all African Americans to participate in their own destiny and to claim their rightful place among other citizens.

For the first time, all African Americans are recorded in Federal, State, and County records with first and last names. Since individual States and their people heard that the Civil War had ended at different times, one must note that certain Reconstruction records might not have started in those States until after 1865. Many scholars agree that the “Reconstruction Era” was from 1865 – 1877.

In celebrating the “Reconstruction Era” on this blog site, I will be posting many blogs that will have genealogy value. The blogs include research on African Americans in Alexandria during the Reconstruction Era.

Please visit my business web site at for my upcoming lectures and workshops that will include “Reconstruction Era” type lectures. Thanks!

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West End of Alexandria, VA

Clara Shorts Adams

Prior to the 1920s, the West End of Alexandria, Virginia was at one time or another considered to be in Fairfax, VA or in Arlington, VA. By the 1920s, West End was considered Alexandria, VA. In celebrating Alexandria’s history, this blog is on the West End of Alexandria.

A tribute to Clara Shorts Adams and her husband, Robert Adams for contributing quarter-acre land to the Falls Church School District in Fairfax County for an African American School in 1898. The one room school building was built on the land that the Adams gave to the Fairfax School system.

Clara Shorts and Robert Adams married January 2, 1886 in Fairfax County, VA. Clara was the daughter of Harriet Stewart McKnight Shorts and Burr Shorts. Her husband’s parents were George and Ann (Annie) Adams. It is believed that Clara’s parents were enslaved prior to 1865, but Clara’s husband, Robert’s parents, were freed people of color prior to 1865 living in the City of Alexandria.

This small act of kindness by Clara and Robert is still remembered a hundred and seventeen years later by their descendants in the West End of Alexandria.

Fort Ward (part of the West End) area of Alexandria, Virginia has a rich history of early African Americans owning their land and building their community as part of Alexandria today. Although the one room school is no longer there, the contribution made by Clara and Robert is still remembered in the Fort Ward and Seminary communities. In celebration of the end of the Civil War, I salute the Adams’ family for their commitment to education!

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Update – James E. Piper

Mr. James E. Piper's death obit - Tuesday, December 20, 1898, p8 - Evening Star (Washington, DC)

Mr. James E. Piper’s death obit – Tuesday, December 20, 1898, p8 – Evening Star (Washington, DC)

On January 25, 2015, a descendant of the Piper family, Richard contacted me. He has been doing researching his family history for more than a decade.

Though James E. Piper reported in the Southern Claims Commission records that he lost everything he had, Richard said that James owned a lot of real estate up till the time of his death. James continued to operate his brickyard business beyond the Civil War, and expended the business to Leesburg and Loudon Counties in Virginia.

Also Richard provided the information on James’ death. James E. Piper died in Washington, DC on December 17, 1898, while visiting his daughter, Ann Cornelia Piper Gray.

Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of James E. Piper, but I am glad to know that his descendant is planning on writing the Piper’s family history.

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