Behind the Scene – Annie Withers’ Losses: Influenza Pandemic Article

Annie Johnson Withers
(b. 1850 – d. Aft. 1920)

Sammie Shanklin, a fourth generation Alexandrian on his paternal family side migrated to Alexandria from King George, Virginia prior to the Civil War. On Sammie’s grandmother side of the family, the Withers and Johnson came to Alexandria during the Civil War.

Sammie and his cousin, Helen Shanklin Coles remembered family members telling them about the death of their grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Withers Shanklin and her sister, Annie Maria Withers Gray who both died in 1918 from the Influenza Pandemic.

These two sisters’ parents, Archibald and Annie Johnson Withers migrated from Culpeper, Virginia during the Civil War. Archibald and Annie got married in Alexandria in 1869. After their marriage, they continued to live in Alexandria, Virginia with their four children, Preston (b. 1874), Andrew (b. 1883), Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) (b. 1886) and Annie (b. 1893).

By 1890s, Archibald was a landowner. On the 1900 census, Archibald stated that his house at 706 South Columbus Street was mortgaged. In 1906, Archibald Withers died leaving Annie Withers a widow.

You can read more about Annie Johnson Withers in the Alexandria Gazette newspaper dated September 16, 2020 at http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2020/sep/18/other-alexandria-annie-withers-losses-influenza-pa/

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Grandfather and Us: Wilmer Benjamin Henry

Backstory of the article that was in the Alexandria Gazette Newspaper on September 2, 2020, gives insight into Wilmer Benjamin Henry and his grandchildren.

Wilmer Benjamin Henry at Virginia Episcopal High School

Wilmer Benjamin Henry was born on February 22, 1898 in Accotink, which is located in Fairfax, Virginia near Fort Belvoir. His father was from Bedford, Virginia and his mother was from Fairfax, Virginia.

Wilmer had several careers including janitor, barber, waiter, and a mail carrier for his community. He loved his family and especially his grandchildren. Two of his grandchildren shared their memories of their grandfather with me.

Rita Murphy Harris was one of his grandchildren. She is the

Left to right: Rita Harris and Toniette Duncan

daughter of Elrich Murphy and Marie Elizabeth Henry Murphy. She grew up in her grandfather’s house. Toniette Henry Duncan is the daughter or Corrine Idella Henry and John Sydney Holland, Jr. She also grew up in her grandfather’s house. Both women talked about the adventures they experienced in their grandfather’s house

Also in their grandfather’s house on Johnson Lane prior to urban renewal, they experienced life in the rural area of Seminary. The women enjoyed the closeness of family members and friends in their community.

“Our friends were like family,” stated Toniette. “We all were very close like family.”

Life in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s in the Seminary area include extended families and friends who looked out for each other and enjoyed the simply life.

Rita is the only child of Elrich Murphy. Her mother Marie Elizabeth Murphy-Spinner remarried and had two sons, Blair Spinner and Albert Spinner, Jr. Toniette is her mother’s youngest child, but she has an older sister, Sylvia Delores Henry. In addition, Toniette and Sylvia have other siblings through their father and they are Ceyonne, Deborah, Leslie, Lisa and Lynne.

Grandparents are special human beings. For Rita and Toniette, their grandfather found his youth again through his grandchildren raising them and providing for them.

Wilmer Benjamin Henry died at the age of 83 on December 16, 1981. Up until he died, he was employed at the Virginia Episcopal High School as a janitor and he was the neighborhood barber.

You can read more about “Grandfather and Us: Wilmer Benjamin Henry,” in the Alexandria Gazette newspaper dated, September 2, 2020 on page 6 at
http://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2020/090220/Alexandria.pdf.

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From Firefighter to Poet: Kendall Thompson

Behind the scene of the article “From Firefighter to Poet: Kendall Thompson.”

Kendall Thompson

Kendall Thompson is one of our successful Alexandrians who became a firefighter in 1986. He climbed up through the ranks at the Fairfax Fire Department to Fire Captain. He also had a strong childhood passion in writing poetry. During his pre-retirement years, he wrote his poems on his IPAD’s note application. He kept writing one poem after another. Now as a retiree, he is free to be a full-time poet.

Kendall comes from a large family. His parents Clayton Thompson, Sr and Irene Drayton had eleven children. Kendall’s siblings are:

Brenda Thompson Laster is a beautician who still practice in Alexandria, Virginia.

Clayton Thompson, Jr is a retired firefighter, currently employed by Homeland Security/Assistance Firefighters’ Grants

Jeffrey Thompson is deceased but he was a U.S. Army and laborer

Iris Thompson is retired from Alexandria City Public School as a Teacher’s Assistant

Marsha Thompson Smith is retired from Alexandria City Schools (Headquarters/School Board)

Lisa Thompson Mountain is a beautician in New Orleans, Louisiana

Norma Cheryl Thompson Blackmon deceased was retired from the U.S. Courts

Christopher Thompson is a retired firefighter and is now the Civilian Assistant to the Fire Chief of Alexandria City

Victor Thompson is a Sous Chef at a country club in Chantilly, Virginia

Michele Thompson is a paralegal in Fairfax, Virginia and she performs network marketing

Kendall is now making up for lost time he has published several books of poems. His books are:

“Why We Walk in the Street” – This book is about poems that give thoughts about these times that we are living in from the writer’s perspective. (Released June 21, 2020)

“Angry Black Man,” is a book of verse of the author’s thoughts. The book is to make you think. It is a black man’s thoughts. (Released July 7, 2020)

“Hearing Whispers,” describes the feelings that the author gets as his thoughts turn towards the loss of a loved one. Will we hear the whispers of our ancestors? Will we hear the whispers of those who have taken the journey, before us? Hearing Whispers is a part of our journey. (Released July 17, 2020)

“Revered,” is a book of verse about the author’s thoughts while this nation is trying to make sense of tumultuous year of 2020. This book will make you think. (Released August 6, 2020)

You can read more about Kendall Thompson in the Alexandria Gazette’s newspaper dated August 12, 2020 on page 8 at http://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2020/081220/Alexandria.pdf.

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First Principal of Parker-Gray School

Mr. Henry T. White is on the right third roll.

Mr. Henry T. White was the first Principal of Parker-Gray School. His tenure as school principal was from 1920 – 1927. Then he stayed at Parker-Gray as a teacher from 1927 – 1934. The requirements had changed in Alexandria, Virginia for principals. Principals were required to have a Bachelor’s degree. Mr. White had a three-year teacher certificate from the Wayland Seminary in Washington, DC.

When Parker-Gray School first open in 1920, the school went from primary to eighth grade. Mr. White had a double role in Parker-Gray. He was the principal and he taught the seven and eight grades. His 1920-1921 students were:

Bell, Thomas age 13 – seventh grade
Bell, Margaret age 15 – eighth grade
Butler, Llewellyn age 13 – seventh grade
Byrd, Corrine age 13 – eighth grade
Carter, Ellen age 12 – seventh grade
Colbert, Ida age 15 – seventh grade
Contee, Elizabeth age 12 – seventh grade
Dixon, Rosena age 13 – seventh grade
Ellis, William age 13 – seventh grade
Gaddis, Rosier age 13 – seventh grade
Gaines, Anna age 15 – seventh grade
Gilliam, Ruth age 12 – seventh grade
Hill, Eva age 15 – seventh grade
Hopkins, Norris age 13 – seventh grade
Jones, Marie age 14 – seventh grade
Lewis, Gladys age 15 – eighth grade
Lucas, Charles age 12 – seventh grade
Lumpkins, Patrick H. Jr age 13 – eighth grade
Majors, Lucille age 15 – seventh grade
Martin, Willrowe age 15 – eighth grade
McGee, Edgar age 12 – seventh grade
Norton, Elbert age 15 – eighth grade
Parker, Nannie age 14 – seventh grade
Redd, James age 13 – seventh grade
Russell, Mildred age 14 – seventh grade
Shanklin, Samuel age 15 – seventh grade
Speaks, Esther age 12 – seventh grade
Stewart, Florence age 15 – eighth grade
Strange, Richard age 15 – seventh grade
Strange, Wallace age 12 – seventh grade
Turner, Ernest age 15 – seventh grade
Washington, Edmonia age 15 – seventh grade
White, Kathleen V age 13 – seventh grade
Whitmore, Eliza age 15 – seventh grade

You can read more about Mr. Henry T. White in the Alexandria Gazette newspaper dated July 29, 2020 at http://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2020/072920/Alexandria.pdf.

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