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Blacksmiths, Cobblers, Farmers, Eateries, Hotels, Mortuaries, Barbers, Beauticians, etc...

Black Businesses of Houston County 

(in memory of Ms. Ruby Boone Tharpe)

          In Houston County the Black communities played the ultimate role in their own development and progress. The late Ruby Boone Tharpe kept Black Houston County abreast within the pages of The Houston Home Journal with her articles on our communities. In 1979 she printed a "progress report of the Black businesses from emancipation to the then present. Below are some excerpts from her writings and some updates.

Ruby Boone Tharpe

Ruby, Tobe and Osceola Tharpe


           Tobe Boone Tharpe was considered one of the finest blacksmiths in Houston County. He wore out three shops at Houston Lake before retiring. He traveled as far as Kentucky to shoe race horses and was known as "Mr. Fix It" by the people he served. Tobe was fond of animals and became a self taught veterinarian too. He was born 1851 in Perry, Georgia and died in 1945.

           Henry Green, a farmer and worked a blacksmith shop in the Houston Lake area. Believed to have worked with Tobe through the years. Henry was born in 1867 and died in 1941.


          The Holt brothers near Elko were also progressive farmers. Other ancestors of ours who farmed and did well around Perry were Charlie, Lawrence, John and Gus Bannister, who farmed the King Chapel area. Charlie and Hattie Ross also farmed in the Kings Chapel community along with Ernest Norwood, W.T. Flowers, Tom Knight, Bratch Holmes, Eugene “Geanie” McKenzie, who farmed in the Minerva area also.

          The late James Williams had a keen foresight. He brought truck farming to this county or town more than 70 years ago. People were happy each morning to see the produce man coming. He raised all of his produce about 3½ miles out on the Hawkinsville Highway. His son J. O. Williams and Mack Fluellen carried on the farm later.



Cornelius Scott (1864-1944) and Wife

Cornelius Scott was one of the most well-known and prosperous farmers in the county. He was born around 1864 in Byron Ga, He died January 26, 1944 in Perry, Georgia.

       Milton Thomas was a small-time farmer and an employee at Robins Air Force Base during its formative years.   He had a cafe on Houston Lake Road where he sold snacks and moonshine, while serving up the music of the time.   He grew food to help feed the community. After taking a portion of his crops home to his wife and family, he graciously gave the rest of his crops away to families in need.   

He was well known around  many communities in his day.   After retiring, from farming, you could look up on any given day, and see him sitting on the back of his truck selling peaches at fifty-cents a basket in the mid to late 70's. 

Milton Thomas (1899-1982)


Oemler Collins

Fred Collins

Clifford Williams Nelson (1909-1999)


       Emanuel Collins a life long resident and ex-slave of Perry, made shoes for the soldiers of Houston County during the Civil War. His son,  John Collins continued the business after his father's death and they remained one of Perry's well known shoe repairers. He wore out several shops in his effort to give service to the community. Back in the day, there was a need for a good shoe shop because people did more walking than they do today.       

Russell Collins, son of John & Viola Collins continued the business of shoe repair, and their son Amos Collins owned an upholstery shop. 

Samuel and Amos Collins worked diligently to improve conditions in Perry for tourist and tenants. He built Ebony Court, and later the Ebony Guesthouse and a Trailer Park. 

 Olmer (O.M.) Collins operated a café and  Fred Collins continued to operate an upholstery shop on Swift Street. 

Mr. Connie Jones and his wife Annis Collins Jones made quite a prosperous and helpful business with a washerette and dry cleaning establishment in their own backyard. 


John Collins and his wife Viola owned a cafeteria on Jernigan Street. The late Ms. Clifford Williams Nelson was famous for her cooking there. There was a juke box in the cafeteria and it was the favorite gathering place for many young people.   

Willie Strawder King, after working for Sam Nunn, she started her own business in the early 1950’s known as Willie King Café. She enjoyed cooking, one of her best talents. Mrs. King stayed active in her business until sometime around 1984 when her health failed.

Ebony Motor Court

James Ragin provided for many years Dry Cleaning services with his business on Commerce Street. W. F. Ragin  operated a restaurant in the 1913  near the corner of West Carroll Street.  He also made outstanding contributions to the political world of Perry.

Mr. Isiah “Ike” King was well known in many black neighbors – he walked our streets shouting “laundry Man” for all to hear, and people came out in droves to hand over their laundry for cleaning.

Isiah "Ike" King


        There were many black undertakers from the late 1800’s to the early 1950’s that took charge of the deceased. During this time, the deceases were laid out in their homes until the day of the funeral, because there were no mortuaries or funeral homes to take the bodies to lie in state. Some of these earlier undertakers were: J. T. THARPE, FRANK COOPER, FRANK RAGIN, H. E. TALTON, CHARLES GRAY, H. C. JONES AND JOHN T. NOBLE.

           John T. Noble was born in 1860 according to the 1870 census records. If that holds true, John started his undertaking business of caring for and burying the dead at the age of 16 and was teaching school at the age of 18.  John served the black folk of Houston County for over forty years. He placed several ads weekly in the Home Journal. The one shown below was the last one that he ran on Oct 5, 1911.  


The Toomer Brothers Mortuary was Perry's oldest mortuary establishment.  A few years after the death of her husband, Walter Toomer (1842-1902), Amanda Toomer (1850-1920) purchased the property on Carroll Street in 1905 and was the first black person to open a grocery and pharmacy. She also purchased stock in the Georgia Southern Railroad and several acres of land.   

  Amanda's sons, Fred and Henry Toomer opened a Grist Mill and later, a Sawmill business and made lumber and shingles.

 In 1914, the Toomers  ventured into the undertaking business in 1914. The bodies of the deceased would be displayed in the large windows. This business continued to thrive for many many years with the help of a grandson,  Walter Rollins. The business was handed down in the Toomer family throughout generations, today it is no longer in business, but it is listed on the historical registry in Perry.


          Pierce Funeral Home was established in the early 1940’s by William Mart Pierce  (1894-1982). Mr. Pierce also transported people to and from Dr. Gallemore’s office.  In the early 1970’s he partnered with George C. Nunn & Son, to open the Pierce & Butts Funeral Home which was located in the Old Field Community at 1515 Houston Lake Road. Both catered to the needs of the community.                                                                                     


           Rayfield and Ruby Richardson, founded RICHARDSON FUNERAL HOMES INC. They started in the mortuary industry with partnership in Warner Robins, GA, in 1958, as R.N.T Funeral Home with partners, Charlie Nelson and Daniel Thomas. (the latter partnership was bought out by Tilmon Wilson).  While in partnership, Ruby and Rayfield Richardson branched out and opened their first location on Swift Street in Perry, Georgia, in 1971. The Director of both was Mrs. Ruby Bryant Richardson. If there was no burial insurance or funds to bury loved ones; that did not stop the Richardson Funeral Homes from extending the same first-class service awarded to those who could pay. This business was a prime example of giving back and taking care of the community’s deceased. Mrs. Ruby Richardson was the first black Female Licensed Funeral Director in Houston County, Georgia and the first black female Notary Public.  The partnership dissolved and R.N.T. is now known as Richardson and Son Funeral Home today.

          Charlie Nelson died in 1968 and his son, Sammie Lee Nelson took over for him.   In 1985, the partnership of R.N.T dissolved after SAMMIE LEE NELSON sold his interest in RNT to the Richardsons, who changed the name to Richardson & Son Funeral Home. Sammie went on to open the Nelson Memorial Mortuary located at 501 Elberta Road in Warner Robins, where it continues to thrive today.

Sammie also served on the City of Warner Robins Housing Authority as a commissioner, as well as, on the Executive Boards of the SCLC, NAACP and the American Legion Post #594.  

          Bobby E. Glover Mortuary , another black mortuary business located in the New Hope area at 1006 Creekwood Drive.   Bobby E. Glover began his career in Funeral Service with Poteat Funeral Home in Albany Georgia while a student at Albany State College. He also apprenticed with the Edwards Funeral Home in Fort Valley Georgia. In 1968, he became co-founder of Glover and Albritten Funeral Home in Dawson, Georgia.

His wife, Lossie A. Glover, became a licensed Funeral Director in 1968, she served with her husband Bobby E. Glover in the business which they both initiated in 1971. Mrs. Glover continues the family business today with their sons.

Toomer Brothers Mortuary

Wm Mart Pierce 1894-1982

Pierce & Butts Funeral Home

Lossie Glover and Bobby E. GLover

John M. Jackson, III 1872-1921

Aubrey "Patty" Daniels, Sr 1928-1994


              John Jackson III, was highly respected and was the only barber in Perry for many years late in the 1890's and for 22 years in the 20th century.  John patrons were only the white Perry citizens and had given many of them their first haircut. According the Houston Home Journal, Mr. Jackson had a quiet good humor and patience. He groomed youngsters, businessmen, and farmers in the shop that he operated at several different locations in his lifetime.

           John was taught the barbering business by Mr. William “Bill” Russell, Sr.  Who was the Barber in the county for years.  He taught John the trade when he was a small boy.  John was so small when he started barbering, Mr. Russell had to stand him on a box to be high enough to work. 

           William "Bill" Russell, one of the most reputable black men ever known in Perry. He was strictly upright, devoting himself to business, avoiding politics. Bill was about 75 years old when he died and was a barber in Perry continually except the four years of the war, from 1842 to the time of his death.

Being a slave during the civil war, he was sent to war with his young owner and went through the entire four years. After the war he resumed the barbering business, and soon purchased the furniture of the shop, and continued the business on his own account. He was frugal, and accumulated some property, and owned a home in New Hope.

           Other prominent barbers were  WILLIE “Bro Taylor” JACKSON on Sunshine Avenue, and FREEMAN ROBERTS were well-known barbers in Houston County Black communities, as well as, SAMMY JAMES FELDER, WILLIAM “BILL” MILLER, AUBREY LEE “PATTY” DANIELS, SR., and JAMES ARTHUR “SCOBEY” FELDER who were owner/operators/barbers at the New Hope Barber Shop located on what was Spring Street, today known as W. F. Ragin Drive.

Eddie Solomon (1915-1991) owned and operated the Solomon Barber Shop in Warner Robins. He was noted as a local Civil Rights Activist and also managed the Perry Red Sox Baseball Club.

              HAIRDRESSERS in the county had beaten paths to their shops all over town. Many of these women through their businesses were enabled to assist in the college education for several deserving students in their communities.

         CHRISTINE B. MILTON (1929-1986) was a stylist at Dukes Beauty Shop in New Hope, along with VIVIAN WEST. She also was the Recording Secretary for the Georgia Beauty Culturist League Inc. and a member of Lambda Chapter of Theta Nu Sigma Sorority of the National Beauty Culturist League Inc.

         MRS. BERNICE VIVIAN ROUNTREE NORWOOD (1932-2016) was a graduated from Macon Technical College's Cosmetology program. She was the owner/operator of the Bernice Beauty Shop in Perry, Georgia for over 20 years. She was also employed at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia as a Civil Servant, retiring in 1990 after over 25 years of service. She then was employed with the Thomas Proud Child Learning Center in Perry as Director of the after school program for years.

          The Kurly Top Beauty Shop that was located near downtown Perry with hairdressers MRS. ETHEL BYNUM, MRS. PEARLIE DIXON, and MRS. CORA WILLIAMS. Oldfield Hairdressers, MARGIE NORWOOD, SHIRLEY THOMAS, who managed to plait the shortest of hair and make a hot comb press look like a perm.

           DORA JACKSON CLARINGTON (1947-2007) received her License from the Macon Technical Institute. She and her husband, Floyd Clarington opened the Clarington Barber/Beauty Center in Warner Robins Georgia in 1972.

Christine Buckles Milton (1929-1986)

Bernice V. Rountree Norwood (1932-2016)

Dora Jackson Clarington (1947-2007)

       Henry Milton Thomas, along with one of his sons, Milton II “Nick”, opened a pool hall and auto repair shop near Houston Lake and Swift Street for a brief period.

Buddy (as he was called by many) was also a well-known bail bondsman in the middle Georgia area.

People knew that they could count on him for bailing them out even if they did not have any money. For those who could not pay, Mr. Buddy (as he was called) would barter crops, mechanical work, small arms, house repairs, etc, whatever his clients offered in exchange to pay off their debt to him.

In his earlier years, he, along with his life-long friend,             

           Mr. Augustus Hodges, known to many as “Gustus” sprung a many spring of fresh water, by digging water-wells in backyards of homes. Mr. Hodges was also known for his candy making.  As a matter of fact, he was the best candy maker in the county.  Mr. Hodges was also a veteran and  He and Henry were both retirees from Robins Air Force Base.

Henry M. Thomas 1922-1993

Augustus Hodges (1918-1991)

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