Friday, March 31, 2023

Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon

Courtesy of the Katie Geneva Cannon Papers, Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia PA

On this last day of Women’s History Month, I honor my cousin and kindred spirit, the Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, shown in a collage featuring a photo of her from the 1970s and one of her works of art from 2000. 

Cousin Katie was the first African American woman to be ordained in the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. at Union Theological Seminary, a renowned scholar, and a founder of the Center for Womanist Leadership. Her legacy includes many more honors and thought-provoking lectures, books, and articles. 

I never met Cousin Katie in person, but we corresponded, exchanging articles and sharing our deep admiration for our ancestor, Mary Nance Lytle, a strong-willed courageous woman who reclaimed her children who had been sold away during slavery.

Cousin Katie was born in Kannapolis, N.C., in 1950, and passed away in 2018. I regret I never got the chance to spend time with her and tell her how much I admired her.

The collage above is copyrighted and is used here with permission from the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Southern Tones and Southernaires

Second from left is Cousin James "Tunesy" Fletcher (1935-2012). He was a member of the Southern Tones of Philadelphia. Back in his hometown of Lancaster, S.C., he performed with the local group, Gospel Southernaires, along with his brothers, John Fletcher and Roosevelt Fletcher, who was the lead singer.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

George Lewis Russell, Sr.

George Lewis Russell Sr., first cousin, two times removed, was the first black Assistant Chief Clerk for the U.S. House of Representatives and served in that role for more than 17 years.  

He was the son of Joseph Samuel Russell (1886-1969) and Hattie McCauley (1887-1972). He was born in 1924 in Concord, Cabarrus County, N.C., and graduated from Logan High School in Concord and North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Cousin George died of a heart attack in 1991. Several members of Congress paid tribute to him, including Rep. Kweisi Mfume, (D-Md.), and Rep. Andrew Jacobs, Jr., (D-Ind.). This image from the Congressional Record is a tribute by Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally, (D-Calif.), on Oct. 10, 1991, in the U.S. House of Representatives. It reads:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to a man that many considered to be a Capitol Hill institution. For 17 years George Lewis Russell, Sr., graced these hallowed halls, with a dignity and sense of dedication that made him a friend to all that were fortunate enough to be touched by him.

“In his position as the Assistant Chief Clerk to Reporters, the man we affectionately referred to as George literally had a front-row seat as we conducted the Nation’s business. Yes, Mr. Speaker, when my friends on the other side of the aisle were in the well giving speeches, that moment was shared by George who sat directly behind whoever was speaking.

“Mr. Speaker, aside from his duties here in the House of Representatives, George was a dedicated family man, active in his community, his church, and the affairs of his college, North Carolina A&T State University.

“Mr. Speaker, George Russell always went the extra mile to help individuals seeking employment and was always encouraging to members and staff.

“Unfortunately, there will not be any statues or buildings here on the Hill named after George Russell. However, we can all rest assured that this noble man will never be forgotten on Capitol Hill or in his community.”




Tribute by Rep. Kweisi Mfume, (D-Md.), Congressional Record, Oct. 8, 1991, p25753.


Tribute by Rep. Andrew Jacobs, Jr., (D-Ind.), Congressional Record, Oct. 9, 1991, p26001.


Tribute by Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally, (D-Calif.), Congressional Record, Extensions of Remarks, Oct. 10, 1991, p26199.


Obituaries, The Baltimore Sun, Oct. 8, 1991, p38.