Martha Hartway was one of the black pioneers of Columbus, Ohio. She was born a slave in Powhatan County, Virginia she believed in September 1858 (the exact date of her birth is unknown). Her parents were her white slaveowner and her enslaved mother, both names unknown.
Martha’s grave marker states that she was born in 1854. It is believed that the listed date is an estimate as no birth records have been uncovered. She had an older brother, John and sister, Pearl. Their white half brother (name unknown) set them free after their white father died. The siblings, urged by their mother, were encouraged to travel north. Martha, however, was unable to continue the journey due to illness and often hid in bushes on her journey north until she was discovered by Sophia Kelton in 1864. Pearl would eventually reach her final destination, Chicago, but it is unknown as to what happened to her brother John.
Sophia Kelton was the wife of Fernando Kelton who had migrated to Columbus, Ohio from Vermont in the 1830s. Both were prominent figures in Columbus. Fernando had built a prosperous business and in 1841 married Sophia Stoner, the daughter of the man who first employed him upon his arrival in the city. The Kelton family later become involved in the abolitionist movement. It is thought that their residence, built in 1852 at 586 East Town Street was a stop on the Underground Railroad. (Historical Marker pictured) The Keltons helped a number of fugitive slaves passing through Ohio despite the risk of Ohio’s black laws.
Sophia Kelton discovered Martha hidden in the bushes of her garden and noticed she was very ill. The Keltons decided to take Martha in and raise her as their own. This proved beneficial as Martha became a playmate to their own children and as a domestic worker to assist in the home with cooking and various other chores. Martha would remain at the home of the Keltons until 1874 when at the age of sixteen she married Thomas Lawrence from Cadiz, Ohio. Martha and Thomas were married in the parlor of the Keltons home. Lawrence, a carpenter, also worked for the Keltons.
Thomas and Martha Lawrence stayed with the Keltons until they purchased their own homes in Columbus in 1880. However, prior to purchasing their own home, they had a son and daughter; Arthur Kelton Lawrence born October 12, 1875, (whose middle name would reflect Martha’s love for the Kelton family) and Sarah Lawrence, born February 17, 1877. Arthur Kelton Lawrence become a prestigious black doctor in Columbus while his sister married and became a homemaker.
Martha Hartway Lawrence died on February 29, 1924 in Columbus, Ohio possibly at the age of 70. Her burial site can be found at Greenlawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio.
Historian Rita Fuller-Yates shares more on the life of Martha Lawrence
William Karnet Willis was an American football defensive lineman who played eight seasons for the Cleveland Browns in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and the National Football League (NFL). Known for his quickness and strength despite his small stature, Willis was one of the dominant defensive football players of the 1940s and early 1950s. He was named an All-Pro in every season of his career and reached the NFL's Pro Bowl in three of the four seasons he played in the league. His techniques and style of play were emulated by other teams, and his versatility as a pass-rusher and coverage man influenced the development of the modern-day linebacker position. When he retired, Cleveland coach Paul Brown called him "one of the outstanding linemen in the history of professional football".
Willis was one of the first two African Americans to play professional football in the modern era, signing with the Browns and playing a game in September 1946 along with Marion Motley, a contest which took place months before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, October 5, 1921. Willis attended Ohio State University, where he joined the track and football teams. He was part of a Buckeyes football team that won the school's first national championship in 1942. After graduating in 1944, Willis heard about a new AAFC club in Cleveland led by his old Ohio State coach, Paul Brown. He got a tryout and made the team. With Willis as a defensive anchor, the Browns won all four AAFC championships between 1946 and 1949, when the league dissolved. The Browns were then absorbed by the NFL, where Willis continued to succeed. Cleveland won the NFL championship in 1950.
Willis retired in 1954 to focus on helping troubled youth, first as Cleveland's assistant recreation commissioner and later as the chairman of the Ohio Youth Commission. He remained in that position until his death in 2007. Willis was inducted into both the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame in the 1970s. He married Odessa Porter and had three sons, William, Jr., Clement and Dan.
He died November 27, 2007
William Willis changed the NFL
Name any great Columbus entertainer in the past decade and the name Madam Rose Brown will ring a bell. Years ago, Madam was the town’s top performer. Today she still has firm hold on her star studded crown by singing and swinging in the area’s night clubs and plush cocktail lounges.
The young clique will remember Madam more vividly from her weekly TV show a few years ago over WTVN-TV for a segment of “The Rose Brown Show” was devoted to introducing fresh talent.
Born in Savanah, Georgia, Rose Brown came to Columbus to visit relatives. Out on the town one night she did several guest numbers at a couple of popular night haunts. With soulful blues, sexy torch songs and energetic swing style, she had the town’s nightlifers in the palm of her hand. Since then, this has been Rose Brown’s town.
Wasn’t so long ago that Rose rose (and I’m not tongue tied) to the pinnacle of Broadway success, when she costarred with the late Bill Robinson as Katisha in Mike Todd’s “The Hot Mikado.”Her Broadway appearance was in a featured role in “My Dear Public,” starring Willie Howard and a long list of today’s top stars.
Rose has added other musical triumphs and flattering press notices to her scrapbook with top billings with The Page Cavanaugh Trio. Louis Jordan’s Band, the Page One Ball, sponsored annually by the Columbus Chapter of the American Newspaper Guild and many others.
Norman Nadel, Columbus Citizen’s celebrated theatrical editor and big voice in show business recently penned a lengthy feature on Rose Brown. Nadel said, “I thought of shows I’d seen, singers I heard in Manhattan nightspots where the cover charge would buy food for a family of six. Once in a blue moon you might hear a singer like Rose. People from Columbus go to those New York clubs when they travel east. They could do as well or better, listening to this handsome dark-skinned woman singing in a little club on High Street.”
James G. Jackson served three years in the United States Marine Corps before being honorably discharged. In March of 1958, he entered the Columbus Division of Police as a patrolman assigned to foot patrol and cruiser duty. Following his promotion to Sergeant in March of 1967, he worked in Patrol and Vice. He was promoted to Lieutenant in February of 1971, serving in Patrol and Community Relations where he was allowed to start the first Minority Recruiting Unit. In July of 1974, he was promoted to Captain and placed in charge of “B” Company Patrol.
In June of 1977, Jackson was promoted to Deputy Chief. He was in charge of the Investigative Subdivision for six years, the Patrol Subdivision for one year, and the Special Operations Subdivision for six years until his appointment as Chief. As Chief Jackson ascended the ranks, he achieved the distinction of being the only person in the Columbus Division of Police to place first on three written promotional examinations (Sergeant, Captain and Deputy Chief). He was the first choice of the Public Safety Director and a five-member selection committee that evaluated all four deputy chiefs for the position of Chief of Police.
Chief Jackson was promoted to the position of Chief of Police on June 15, 1990, and has the distinction of being the only Civil Service Chief of Police of a city with a population of 500,000 or more in the United States. Chief Jackson has been the longest serving chief in the Division’s history, which will never be matched due to a change in the City’s charter, and is the longest serving chief in the history of Major City Chiefs organization in the U.S. and Canada.
Chief Jackson has also been an active proponent of equal opportunities for all. In federal court cases in 1973, 1975 and 1984, he testified at his own peril about discrimination in hiring, assignments and promotions within the Columbus Division of Police. His testimony weighed heavily in the three separate trials that brought about federal court findings from which over 75% of the black and female sworn personnel at the time had benefited by either being hired, promoted, assigned, given financial compensation or some combination thereof.
In 1996, the Columbus Division of Police became the focus of a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation, in which false allegations were made accusing officers of a pattern and practice of violating citizens Constitutional Rights. Confident in its innocence, the Columbus Division of Police is the only police agency in the nation to stand-up to fight the DOJ allegations, and prevail.
“Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly…” Chief James G. Jackson reminded Division personnel of this at almost every ceremony and promotion during his tenure. March 16, 2009 marked Chief Jackson’s last day with the Division, after a 51-year career. He was recognized for his service to the City and the Division by the dedication and renaming of the Division’s training academy to the James G. Jackson Columbus Police Academy.
During his 19 years as Chief, James Jackson changed the make-up of the Division. 37 recruit classes have gone through the training academy. Of the 1,558 officers currently on the Division (as of 2018), 1,186 came on after he became Chief. The supervisory ranks have changed as well. In 1995, Chief Jackson promoted the first female to the rank of commander, and the majority of the current supervisors were promoted, including all 5 of the deputy chiefs, 16 of the 18 commanders, 52 of the 56 lieutenants, and 204 of the 228 sergeants.
During Chief Jackson’s tenure, the Columbus Division of Police was voted the “Best Dressed” Police Department in the nation, is one of few large agencies in the U.S. or Canada to be accredited, and is one of only a few departments in the world with an accredited crime lab. The Division was involved in the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) re-accreditation process and was awarded four accreditations, proving that the Division and its personnel are committed to following the best practices and policies found in the law enforcement community. Chief Jackson supplied each officer with a CALEA nametag and a whistle engraved with the Division’s patch. He never wavered in his policy that officers shall wear their hats while outside or working special duty. The hat is the only part of the uniform that is easily recognizable to the public to identify officers from any direction or from a 360 degree viewpoint, and he would hold officers accountable when they violated that policy.
In July 2005, Chief Jackson received the Lloyd Sealey Award for outstanding service or accomplishments in the field of criminal justice from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. In 2012, he was inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame for making significant contributions in support of civil rights and cultural awareness.
He has attended Harvard University, Ohio State University, Northwestern University, the FBI Academy, and has taken management courses offered by the Secret Service and other management organizations.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Chief James G. Jackson continues to maintain his residence within the city he is sworn to protect. He is married to his wife, Mary, and has two sons, James and Jason, a daughter, Michelle, nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Over the past 138 years, a small business in Columbus, Ohio, has persevered through the Great Depression, two World Wars, the Great Recession and 25 presidents.
But E.E. Ward Moving & Storage's crowning achievement is that it has remained the oldest continuously operating black-owned business in the United States, a distinction recognized by the Department of Commerce and mentioned in the Congressional Record.The company, which started off with just two horses and a wagon, has endured and evolved over the decades. Today, E.E. Ward operates a fleet of about a dozen long haul trucks and two warehouses in Columbus and Charlotte, North Carolina. It is also an agent for the moving company North American Van Lines .
E.E. Ward's legacy traces back to the 1840s, when John T. Ward served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. He used his horses and wagon to help slaves escape to freedom through a network of hiding places and safe houses.
During the Civil War, Ward scored government contracts to haul supplies and equipment for the US Army. His son, William Ward, eventually took an interest in the business and learned the ropes. In 1881, the two launched the Ward Transfer Line. In 1899, after the company added storage to their offerings, they renamed it the E.E. Ward Transfer and Storage Company, after Edgar Earl Ward, John T. Ward's grandson who was running the business by then.
he business started using motor vehicles in the early 1900s, phasing out their last horse-powered moving team in 1921. By 1925 it had expanded to more commercial clients, including Steinway Piano Company, for which it transported nearly 900,000 pianos.
William's grandson, Eldon Ward, joined the family business in 1945. He would become the last Ward family member to own the company.
Charles William Bryant, Jr. was born in Dayton in 1882, and from his start as a young farmhand with a third grade education, he would go on to become a prominent African American businessman, a self-taught engineer, and the owner of one of Columbus’ largest construction firms. At the age of only 16, Bryant made good use of the logs and equipment that he received in payment for his farm work, and leveraged them into his own business that originally used logs and horses to move structures from one site to another. As his business grew, he moved on to using railroad ties and trucks, and later designed his own dollies with rubber wheels.
The C. W. Bryant Rigging & Moving Company (variously referred to as the C. W. Bryant Company, C. W. Bryant and Sons, and other similar names) was involved in major projects throughout Columbus, including the construction of a temporary Broad Street bridge following the 1913 flood (seen above) which earned him respect in the local construction industry early in his career. Other notable work by the Bryant Company included the removal of lighting arches from High Street, partial demolition and renovation of the Ohio Supreme Court Building, renovations at the Ohio Statehouse, construction of South High School in 1923, and the dismantling of Hanford Village in 1962 for the construction of I-71 through town.
James Mitchell "Jim" Cleamons was born September 13, 1949 in Columbus, Ohio. He attended Linden-McKinley High school.He played collegiately at the Ohio State University and was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 13th pick of the 1971 NBA Draft. He had a nine-year NBA career for four teams. In 1976, Cleamons was selected to the NBA All-Defense 2nd team.
Cleamons worked as an assistant coach for the Chicago Bulls from 1989 to 1996. He was the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks for slightly over one year, from 1996 to 1997. He was then the head coach of the Chicago Condors of the American Basketball league, a short-lived women's professional basketball league in the mid Nineties. He also served as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. For a few games during his tenure with the Lakers, he served as acting head coach while Phil Jackson was absent.In 2011, Cleamons became a coach in the Chinese Basketball Association. In 2013, he became an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks.In 2014, Cleamons joined the New York Knicks coaching staff under Derek Fisher.In 2017, Cleamons accepted a position as an assistant coach for the Yeshiva University of Los Angeles (YULA) high school boys basketball team.
Cleamons currently lives in Columbus, Ohio
Historian Rita Fuller-Yates sat with Jim Cleamons to talk more about his life.
Discover Columbus' Rich African American History