Alexandria, Virginia World War I Veteran – One of the First to Fall: Remembering Private William Thomas

Private William Thomas

Private William Thomas
Alexandria Gazette, Friday, December 27, 1918

Private William Thomas was the first African American and possible the first Alexandrian to die from Alexandria, Virginia during World War I. In death, he was remembered not as an American Negro Veteran but as one of the first  Alexandrian Veterans to die in combat in France.

Mr. William Thomas was born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1886. In 1910, William and his wife, Mary Coleman Thomas lived at 710 Gibbon Street. He worked for a fertilizer company in Alexandria. Mr. Thomas enlisted in the United States Army in 1917; he was shipped off to France in 1918. By late 1918, Private Thomas was died; he was killed in action in France.

Unfortunately, little is known about Private Thomas’ parents, but his wife, Mary Coleman Thomas on the other hand has more family history to share. In the 1910 census, William and Mary stated that they had been married for six years. Also they had one child that had died.

Mary died on April 25, 1934. She was 51-years-old; she was listed as a widow to William Thomas. Mary’s parents were John Coleman and Laura Lyles. Mary and her parents were born in Alexandria, Virginia. Based on her death certificate, her last address prior to her death was 614 St. Asaph Street. Mary’s brother, Henry Coleman was the informant on her death certificate and his address was the same as Mary.

Henry Coleman married Grace Massie. Henry died prior to 1970 and Grace died on May 5, 1971. She was a retired government worker. In researching Private William Thomas, I found that Mr. James E. Henson is the nephew of Grace Massie Coleman. Mr. Henson lives in Alexandria.

Private William Thomas would have been forgotten in history if it was not for the

1956 – Mr. Nelson Greene, Sr with the Boy’s Scouts

American Legion. In July 1931, the “First Alexandria Negro American Legion” was named American Legion William Thomas Post No. 129. The National American Legion headquarters’ records show the permanent official charter date for Post No. 129 was October 1932. The first officers of this Post No. 129 voted to name their Post after Private William Thomas. The officers were L.O. Broadneck (Commander); Sherman Majors (First Vice Commander); James McCallant (Second Vice Commander); Richard Hollinger (Adjutant); George Wilson (Finance Officer); William Dixon (Chaplain); and William Tibbs (Sergeant in Arms).

Today, William Thomas Post No. 129 has a low membership. At one time, their members exceed over 200. Mr. Cordell Credit is the Adjutant/historian for this Post.

For Private William Thomas, the African Americans of Alexandria never forgot about your supreme sacrifice – you will always be remembered as the American Legion William Thomas Post No. 129. May you rest in peace!

Update to Private William Thomas’ story can be read in the Alexandria, Virginia Gazette Newspaper at http://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2019/090419/Alexandria.pdf.

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Update – Life and Times of the Livery Man

Moses Stevens – 1902 Business Listing

Update to my post on, “Life and Times of the Livery Man.” During the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries when a person was in the business of using their stables, horses, buggies, wagons and carriages for picking up people and delivering goods, they were known in some circles as the “Livery Man”.

For Moses Stevens, he was known in his community as the “Livery Man”. See the 1902 listing of Moses Stevens in the Alexandria City Directory.

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The Life and Times of the Livery Man: Moses Stevens

Moses Stevens’ Deed of Trust

Behind the scenes of the Alexandria Gazette Packet’s article on, “The Life and Times of the Livery Man: Moses Stevens,” August 22, 2019.

Moses Steven was a man on a mission. He was born in 1843 in Orange County, Virginia. He was in Alexandria during the Civil War working as a laborer for the railroad. After the Civil War he married Charlotte Hedgeman. They had one son, William Henry Stevens.

Moses became wealthy in his own right. He amassed a lot of real estate and he owned his business. After the death of his wife, he married again to a widower name Carrie.

You can read the article, “The Life and Times of the Livery Man” in the Alexandria Gazette Packet on page 8 at http://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2019/082119/Alexandria.pdf.

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Making History – The Dream Team

Earl Lloyd-
First African American NBA Player

Parker-Gray School was a school that gave African American children a chance to achieve their goals and to dream what they wanted in life. The teachers groomed their students to be the best in whatever they wanted to be. For many of their students, they dared to dream but Parker-Gray made them dream and showed them how to make those dreams come true.

The basketball team was called “Dream Team.” Between the years of 1944 – 1947 the Dream Team put the City of Alexandria on the map. This team was known throughout the United States when they won their 1946 title of South Scholastic Basketball Championship. The City was put on the map again in 1950 when one of their players, Earl Lloyd was the first African American to play on a NBA team.

For more about “Making History: The Dream Team,” check out the article dated August 8-14, 2019 on pages 9 and 11 at
http://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2019/080719/Alexandria.pdf

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