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Ormond Beach Observer Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 5 years ago

Local recalls black history through memories of 'back in the day'


Former Ormond Beach resident Morris Henderson reflects on growing up in the city's African American community. 


Morris Henderson sat between rows of library books and reflected on growing up in Ormond Beach. He remembered figures from his past, several of whom are now featured in the book "Images of America: Ormond Beach," which he flipped through.

"We used to go to in his yard, sometimes we'd go without him knowing it," Henderson chuckled as he recalled living down the road from Essie Ramsey, a prominent community figure. "He had a big grape vine and a whole yard full of fruit. We would get his oranges and tangerines."

Henderson works as a librarian for the Ormond Beach Regional Library and puts together the displays for Black History Month. Though the library prominently displays national figures in African-American history, Henderson said there is quite a bit to learn in Ormond Beach.

Ramsey, who was known for being the caretaker at the Reynolds home on Halifax Drive and caddying for John Rockefeller, used to throw parties at the recreation center on Division Street. Henderson attended the parties and said everyone looked up to Ramsey.

"He was a figure to everybody in the community," Henderson said. "His wife used to make the best potato pies. We could buy them for 30 cents. He just looked after the community."

Henderson, who lived in Ormond Beach for about 40 years before moving to Maryland, attended St. John Missionary Baptist Church, where the Rev. Walter Wolfe preached. According to "Images of America: Ormond Beach," Wolfe was a devoted leader to his community. He and his wife, Bertha, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on July 30, 1998. Henderson attended that church for 25 years.

Minnie Wade was Henderson's second-grade teacher. "Images of America: Ormond Beach," states that she spent her life serving Ormond Beach, and that her volunteer affiliations were countless. Henderson remembers her as being one of the nicest teachers he and his friends ever had.

"She got us to go to church, even the ones who didn't want to go, like me, Henderson said. "She was just a nice figure in the community. She passed away three years ago."

Henderson said Officer Fred Powers was always at his house because Henderson's brother was in trouble all the time. In 1952, Powers joined the Ormond Beach Police Department where Henderson said he was the second black police officer in the city. According to "Images of America: Ormond Beach," Powers was the first officer to retire with 20 years of night-duty service. Henderson said dealing with the police was a lot different back then.

"Everything was nice back in the day," Henderson said. "This young generation is wild now but, back in the day, you could get in trouble, and one of the officers would see you and take you home and beat you. Then you'd get home, and your mom would beat you. Nowadays, you get shot if you do something like that. ... Back in the day, if you were 12 or 13, you were back in the house at 7 p.m."

Though now Henderson lives in Daytona Beach, he still spends quite a bit of time in Ormond. He said it's important to keep memories like his alive.

"It was an exciting time. If I could go back, I would. Keep the generation going. Keep the history going. Keep it going."

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