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? For perspective, 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 our grandfather, Floyd Hill, was able to buy this farm so long ago — and was able to keep it!
He made history with the state 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 recently been sold to a Black man by the name of Floyd Hill. It was then that they decided it was time to get their farm back, and would stop at nothing to retrieve it! They had lost it during the Great Depression, sold at auction to L. Harvey & Sons Company, which kept it for 24 years.
My grandfather, 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 equal footing. The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, which resulted in the end of segregation in public schools, had not yet been heard by the Supreme Court.
The story of my grandfather’s momentous case began with his initial purchase 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 didn’t matter. He kept his dream alive until one day, he would find his own part of the earth to own. His desire and 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 al., conveyed the 227.2-acre farm to Floyd and Pearl Hill.
Real estate attorney Walton LaRoque knew of Pappy’s dream of owning a farm and he financed the tract to R. A. Whitaker, Trustee, as security for the payment of a principal indebtedness of $4,000 to LaRoque. Our grandparents were able to purchase the entire farm for only $6,363.50.
With a $4,000 deposit, Pappy paid without delay, and LaRoque transferred the farm to him.
Though he was able to purchase the farm, Pappy had a big fight on his hands. His family was terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan, which burned crosses in his yard and terrorized the family.
Working together, 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.
Chief Justice William H. Bobbitt ruled in Pappy’s favor, citing: “By deed dated October 17, 1945, Floyd Hill and wife, Pearl Hill, conveyed the tracts to R.A. Whitaker, Trustee, as security for the payment of a principal indebtedness of $4,000 to Walter D. LaRoque.”
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, 74 years later, 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.lyndiagrantshow.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 240-602-6295. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.