The Way It Was: Calvin D. Terrell

Sitting down talking to Calvin D. Terrell was like going back in time to the 1940s. Although I wasn’t born for another 15 years later, Mr. Terrell took me back to his world when he was a child living in the Seminary section of Alexandria.

He was able to tell me what Seminary Road, Quaker Lane, Bailey Cross Roads and King Street looked like from the time he was a child. He named the families that were up and down one side of the street to the other side of the street giving me the family ties to different family members who lived in the area.

Mr. Calvin D. Terrell has a wealth of knowledge about the days gone by. You can read more about him in the Alexandria Gazette newspaper on page 8 dated March 4, 2020 at

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Black Women’s Suffrage Movement and Mary E. Dorsey

Laura, Mary and Hannah’s headstone

Mary Dorsey was the youngest child of Clem M. Dorsey and Hannah V. Lyles. She was born in 1882 in Alexandria, VA. In today’s world, it would have been unheard of for a single black woman who was a domestic and hair dresser to command the lifestyle, prestige and political involvement as Mary in the late 18th and 19th Century.

Mary and her sister, Laura M. Dorsey made their impact on history in Alexandria, Virginia in the Black Women’s Suffrage Movement. In future articles this year, I will continue telling the stories of other black women who took advantage of the 19th Amendment.

You can read more about Mary Ellen Dorsey in the Alexandria Gazette newspaper on pages 6 and 18 dated February 19, 2020 at

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Clifton D. Wanzer: The View from the Air Traffic Controllers’ Tower

Clifton D. Wanzer

Clifton D. Wanzer is the oldest son of Daniel Wanzer and Viola Williams. He grew up in the Seminary (West End) of Alexandria, Virginia. A great deal of Clifton’s life has been in the years of segregation, but that period did not stop him for sketching out a better life for himself and his family.

Clifton D. Wanzer
1950s Air Force –
Air Traffic Controller

Although Clifton does not know whether he was the first Alexandrian African American to be an Air Traffic Controller, but it is clear that he was one of the first from his home town to have a view from the Air Traffic Controller’s Tower.

You can read more about Clifton D. Wanzer in the Alexandria Gazette newspaper on page 11 dated February 5, 2020 at Also you can read on page 10 a letter to the editor from Frances Burton.

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Lewis Funeral Home – In the Business of Caring

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

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.

Lewis Funeral Home
311 N. Patrick Street

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.

Winona Morrissette-Johnson

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.

Check out this article, “In the Business of Caring: Bell and Johnson Funeral Service, from the Alexandria Gazette Packet on pages 8 and 14 at

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