Dr. W.D. Joyner, a prominent physician and businessman of Emporia, Virginia, passed away suddenly in late January of 1950. His death, funeral, and the business implications of his passing were documented in several newspaper articles.
What genealogical information can we glean from these important historical notices related to Dr. Joyner’s loss?
Beginning with the Times Dispatch article dated three days after the death of Dr. Joyner, we learn:
Dr. W.D. Joyner (1906-1950) was 43 years old and a practicing physician in Emporia, Virginia.
His widow, Mrs. Nellie Holmes Joyner (1903-2003), survived him.
Dr. Joyner’s son and daughter survived him, as well, and were named in the obituary as Willie D. Joyner, Jr. and Kay Sandra Joyner.
Dr. Joyner’s mother, Mrs. R.E. Joyner (née Betty Sudie Lewis) (1886-1953) also survived him.
Additionally, Dr. Joyner was survived by four sisters: Mrs. Anna J. Deal, Mrs. Sudie J. Bradley (both of Emporia), Mrs. Viola Oliver (Washington D.C.), Mrs. Eugene Finkle (Kinckle) Jones of NYC.
Here is another newspaper article concerning the funeral of Dr. Joyner:
Dr. and Mrs. (Violet) A.B. (Alger Bernard) Harrison: Dr. Harrison became the first Black mayor of Franklin, Southampton County, Virginia.
Dr. W.P. Richardson: Dr. Richardson is credited as being one of the founders of New Hope Baptist Church in Franklin, Southampton County, Virginia.
Mr. & Mrs. (née Mabel Webb ) Predell Hardy: Per 1940 U.S. Census, Mr. & Mrs. Hardy, residents of Franklin, Southampton County, Virginia, owned property and lived with their daughter, Gladiola (named after her paternal grandmother), and lodger, Marveise Hall.
Dr. Joyner’s father, June 1949: R.E. Joyner, Richard E. Joyner
The Times DispatchRichmond, Virginia 17 Jun 1949, Fri • Page 35
Dr. Joyner’s brother: Edward Sheldon Joyner (1922-1949), passed away in Oct. 1949
Funeral Director: Walter Riddick, of Norfolk
On February 4, 1950, Norfolk Journal and Guide published a very detailed article on the sudden death of Dr. Joyner:
Dr. Joyner was funeralized at his own establishment, Joyner Theater, in Emporia, Virginia. Three years later, Norfolk Journal and Guide would include Joyner Theater in its coverage of Emporia enterprise and growth:
Dr. Joyner was interred in the family plot at Rising Star Baptist Church in Branchville, Southampton County, Virginia. Sadly, this historic building was destroyed by fire in late August 2017. Efforts are underway to rebuild.
The list of pallbearers includes the name of a certain Dr. Braswell. That doctor was Dr. Leon M. Braswell (1904-1958) my maternal great-uncle and fellow Meharry Medical College alum of Dr. Joyner’s. As another example of the interconnectedness of families in various ties, Dr. W.D. Joyner was my Joyner/Turner 3rd cousin, three times removed.
Two very high-profile luminaries were mentioned in this obituary. Dr. Joyner’s sister, Eunice J. (1914-1979), was married to Atty. Eugene Kinckle Jones, leader of the National Urban League.
Additionally, Dr. W.D. Joyner’s aunt, Laura (1873-1951), was married to North Carolina Congressional Representative, Henry Plummer Cheatham (1857-1935).
The Norfolk Journal and Guide 21 Feb 1953 article that covered Emporia, Virginia included a very important segment on the business ventures of Dr. Joyner. Three years after his death, writer Joseph A. Shephard detailed that seemingly every facet of Dr. Joyner’s businesses landed and operated in new hands outside of the family.
On Sunday, September 21, 2019, Dr. W.D. Joyner was honored with a portrait and his legacy was discussed. According to a 25 Sept. 2019 newspaper article by Emporia Independent Messenger:
The showing of a memorial wall built for Dr. Willie D. Joyner took place Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Greater Shiloh Baptist Church.
“The church’s pastor, Reverend Dr. James A. Carey, and the co-pastor, Dr. Carolyn S. Carey, were in charge of the project.
The community learned about Joyner at the event.
“He was a great physician and businessman and no one knows him too much,” Carey said.
Joyner owned Joyner Theater, one of four African American theaters in Virginia, which is no longer there. He advocated for race advancement and fought in World War II.
“I think people need to know who are some of the greats in the city of Emporia,” Carey said.
Joyner built his office, a medical building, the offices of two doctors, the office of Dr. C.W. Cartwright, a drug store and several apartments throughout Emporia.”
What a wonderful tribute and service to the community in sharing about the life of Dr. Joyner and his important economic and social impact on those around him.
As the historical newspaper articles show, Dr. Joyner was a man of influence and his passing away had reverberating implications for many.
Here’s to learning more about the positive change makers of our past, with the hopes of inspiring the same for our present and future.
Our history influences everyday. This is our situation.
The Genealogy Situation Room