Behind the scenes of the article titled, “A 150-Year history of the Contee-Gibson Family School.”
Myron Contee had no idea about the history of his ancestors in Alexandria, Washington, DC and Maryland. His Contee and Gibson families were early property owners in Alexandria. The Contee family migrated from Prince Georges, Maryland around the beginning of the Civil War to Washington, DC. They stayed in Washington, DC until after the Civil War. Myron’s second great-grandfather and his children migrated to Alexandria after the civil war leaving other relatives in DC. They became property owners of not just one house but several homes in Alexandria.
Mr. James Thomas Ford was a hardworking man. He was determined to make a better life for himself. At the age of 17, he knew the value of supporting a family. He along with his other siblings help earn money to support their mother and his younger siblings.
James was the second child of eleven siblings. His parents were Thomas Osborne Ford and Rosa Ellis. Thomas, his siblings and parents, Osborne and Elizabeth migrated from Fairfield, South Carolina to Richmond, Virginia.
Prior to 1930, Rosa and her children returned to her birthplace, Victoria, Lunenburg, Virginia. James spent a short time in his mother’s birthplace. Eager to have a better life, James Thomas Ford migrated at the age of 17 to Alexandria, Virginia.
James will make Alexandria his home and become a federal employee, cab driver and after retiring from the federal government, he became an entrepreneur. You can read more about Mr. Ford in the Alexandria Gazette Newspaper, “The Cigar Man Made a Better Life – James Thomas Ford,” on page 5, dated October 28, 2020 at http://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2020/102820/Alexandria.pdf.
Behind the scenes of the Alexandria Gazette Packet’s article on, “In the Business of Caring Bell and Johnson Funeral Service” January 22, 2019.
Grace Bell like so many African Americans in Alexandria decided to have her child in Washington, DC at the Freedmen Hospital. During the years of segregation, the Alexandria hospital had few colored beds and the condition of treatment was not the same as others for Blacks. So Grace decided in 1932 to have her son, Phillip Bell at the Freedmen Hospital.
Phillip Bell grew up surrounded with a loving mother, grandparents, Sebron and Teresa Anderson-Bell and his aunties and uncles. One of Phillip’s aunts was Alice Christine Bell Lewis who was the wife of Lloyd Lewis who got Phillip started in the funeral business. After Lloyd Lewis died in 1967, his widow Alice married Ferris Leonard Holland. Alice and Ferris worked at Parker-Gray School during the segregation era. Alice was an administrator and Ferris was the science teacher. Today, Lloyd and Alice Lewis’ son Lloyd still lives in the area.
When Phillip decided to attend the funeral home academy in New York, he did not leave his family behind. He took his wife and children with him while he was obtaining his degree in mortuary science.
Prior to Phillip moving his funeral business from Wolfe Street to 311 N. Patrick Street, he obtained Richard H. Poole’s funeral home that was located at the same address. Richard H. Poole died on August 7, 1987. He was born between 1891 and 1893 but his birth was reported by the Nursing Home as being born in 1900. Other documents showed he had an earlier birth. Phillip Bell took care of Richard’s funeral. Phillip’s signature was on Richard’s death certificate and the name and address of the funeral home: Lewis Funeral Home, 311 N. Patrick Street, Alexandria, VA.
Although, Phillip and Winona moved their business into 311 N. Patrick Street they hung out the sign for their business as Lewis Funeral Home. Phillip never forgot the generosity of his uncle who got him started in the Funeral business.
Phillip Bell and Lloyd Lewis made their mark on Alexandria’s African American History. They indeed provided a needed service in the African American community.
Dr. Charles F. West was a high achiever. Few African Americans who were born in the late 1800s achieved the types of accomplishments as Dr. West. He was a man of many talents who was liked by many.
After returning from the 1924 Olympics in Paris, he made a decision to pursue an academic career in medicine. After completing his undergrad degree, he applied to Howard University Medical School. He graduated in 1928. He practice medicine in Alexandria, Virginia for fifty-years. If you want to know more about Dr. West, please read the Alexandria Gazette Newspaper article dated September 25, 2019 on page 10 at, The Alexandria Gazette Newspaper.