“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” — Proverbs 13:22
An African American farmer purchased 227.2 acres, a farm in Dover, North Carolina, in 1945? A time when racism was in full bloom with nothing being done about it? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was only a teenage boy at the time. Just outside Kinston, North Carolina, this true story may be difficult for some to believe. It is the story of how my grandfather, Floyd Hill was able to buy this farm at the end of the Great Depression, and was able to keep it!
It all happened before any of us were born. He made history with his Supreme Court Case #161, DeBruhl v. L. Harvey Son Co.
The DeBruhls, a white family heard about their old farm lost at auction back in 1921 and how it had changed hands, and had recently been sold to a Black man by the name of Floyd Hill. It was then, they decided, here is our chance to get our farm back, and would stop at nothing to get it! They had lost it due to woes of the Great Depression, sold at auction to L. Harvey & Sons Company. The Harveys kept it for 24 years.
My grandfather, Floyd (affectionately called “Pappy” by family and friends), knew he would own a large farm someday. Born March 26, 1907, he disregarded Southern racism. Pappy, in the early years of “freedom,” was educated, though education offered to Blacks was not on an equal basis. The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case had not been heard by the Supreme Court, ending segregation in public schools as unconstitutional.
Highlights of the story of my grandfather’s momentous North Carolina Supreme Court Case, #161 decided by Chief Justice, William H. Bobbitt, 250 N.C. 161 (N.C. 1959), begins with the initial purchase made by my grandfather in 1945, ending with a win 14 years later! You’ll agree, it’s worthy of its own place in history once you hear these details.
Although racism loomed large in the south, my grandfather decided it doesn’t matter; he kept his dream alive until one day, he would find his own part of the earth to own. He carved out his desire, and his will, mixed with determination and unstoppable effort, caused him to win. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” My grandfather did exactly that.
On Oct. 17, 1945, Mary Heartt Harvey, et a.l, conveyed the 227.2-acre farm to Floyd and Pearl Hill.
Real estate attorney Walton Lero knew of Pappy’s dream of owning a farm and he financed the property, the 227.2-acre tract to R. A. Whitaker, Trustee, as security for the payment of a principal indebtedness of $4,000 to Walter D. LaRoque. Our grandparents were able to purchase the entire farm for the amount of only $6,363.50.
With a $4,000 deposit, Pappy paid, without delay, attorney LaRoque transferred the farm to him.
Though he was able to purchase the 227.2-acre farm, Pappy had a big fight on his hands. His family was terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan; they burned crosses in his yard and terrorized the family!
Working together, Walter LaRoque, L. Harvey & Sons and a team of dynamic attorneys, all stuck by my grandparents. They fought court after court to defend Floyd Hill. Victorious, history will forever reflect these records as cited in the North Carolina Supreme Court records.
Judge Bobbitt ruled in Pappy’s favor citing: “By deed dated October 17, 1945, Floyd Hill and wife, Pearl Hill, conveyed said 227.2-acre tracts to R.A. Whitaker, Trustee, as security for the payment of a principal indebtedness of $4,000 to Walter D. LaRoque.” [“DeBruhl vs. L. Harvey & Son Company, U.S. Library of Congress]; the facts in the case documented the judge’s declaration that no living DeBruhl or any unborn DeBruhls could ever again file suit for possession of the Hill Farm.
Today, 77 years later — encompassing all of my 68 years — the Hill Farm thrives and its great legacy lives on!
Lyndia Grant is a speaker/writer living in the D.C. area. Her radio show, “Think on These Things,” airs Fridays at 6 p.m. on 1340 AM (WYCB), a Radio One station. To reach Grant, visit her website, www.lyndiagrant.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 240-602-6295. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.