Raymond Cone: biological grandfather

Agatha (1902-1964) was my paternal grandmother.

Raymond Cone.family treeIn checking my Ancestry DNA results, I noticed that there were ten people in the database that could be my first or second cousins. One was a Yates (my mother’s mom’s people), two were Scanks (mom’s dad’s people), and three were Walker (dad’s mom’s people). But who were the other four?

As it turned out they all had two people in common in their family trees. Carl Lorenzo Cone (1915 -1992) and his father Raymond Cornelius Cone (1888-1947). It has long been our family secret that my father was born out of wedlock. The stories were sketchy and apocryphal, though. It involved a minister. There was a scandal.

My friend Melanie found this article in the Binghamton Evening Press dated Saturday, January 8, 1927, page 3. “Negro pastor Exonerated of Girl’s Charges.” This alleged event took place on January 6, 1926 at his home, 147 Susquehanna Street in Binghamton and resulted in the birth of a male baby on September 26, 1926.

The first newspaper story was on Tuesday, September 28, 1926 Press on page 1. “Girl Accuses Negro Pastor. Rev. Cone, Arrested on Statutory Charges, Says He’s A Frameup Victim.” He said “a certain element” at St. Paul’s A.M.E. “was trying to get him out of the church” less than a year after he had arrived. “He denies that he was intimate with the complainant.” Her testimony, as noted in an October 29 article, suggests sexual assault.

Shotgun marriage?

Raymond Cone and three church members said he was leading Wednesday prayer services at the time the young woman said the pastor had “vowed his affections.” That according to the Tuesday, November 3 newspaper, p.3: “Defense Tries to Prove Alibi for Negro Minister.”

Rev. Cone testified that “he first heard of the charge… when her brother came to his home and threatened him with a gun.” In a Wednesday, Oct 27, 1926, Page 5 story, there’s the curious sentence. “Efforts have been made, it is said, to settle the case by marriage.” “It is said”? In any case, the minister would have none of it.

Also, there were character witnesses. “I do not know anything of Mr. Cone but that he is a Christian minister in the gospel of Christ” That was from Rev. H.H. Cooper, secretary of African Methodist Episcopal Bishop H.H. Heard. “Complaint against Rev. Raymond Cone Dismissed by Judge [Benjamin] Baker. ESTABLISHED ALIBI. Jurist, in decision, Says That Evidence Was Insufficient.”

The ministry

How did this North Carolina-born tenant farmer become a minister? Between 1918 and 1920, or maybe earlier, Raymond Cone attended Kittrell College. It was a two-year historically black college located in Kittrell, NC from about 1886 until 1975. The school was associated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Kittrell is about 60 miles northwest of Wilson, NC, where he grew up.

Raymond, widowed in 1918, had been in Norfolk, VA as a photographer in 1920. His four children, Lessie, Mary, Albert and Carl were staying with Raymond’s parents-in-law in 1920 back in Wilson County, NC.

Rev. Cone entered the Philadelphia annual A.M.E. conference in May 1921. He served in churches in Salem and Worcester, MA in the New England conference before coming to Binghamton in the New York conference near the end of 1925.

And who was that “Negro Girl”? It was Agatha Walker, 24 at the time of the trial, and mentioned by name in the latter three newspaper stories. She was the superintendent of the St. Paul’s A.M.E. Sunday school.

Mind blown

Of course, Agatha (1902-1964) was my paternal grandmother, who I remember fondly. The child she bore was my father, Les Green. And the denials of Raymond Cone at the time notwithstanding, it’s clear that something happened between him and Agatha. He was my father’s biological father. Meaning he’s my biological paternal grandfather.

THIS IS HUGE. Ask my wife how many times I said, “Holy crap!” when I read that first story. It has been a mystery for so long that I had all but given up figuring it out.

I’m fascinated by how Agatha managed to stay at the church. While Raymond Cornelius Cone moved on to another city after the May 1927 annual conference, she remained at that church, arranging the flowers for special events, something my father did quite frequently.

Expect that I’ll have more to say on this topic. You can find four articles mentioned at Fulton History.com. Search for Rev. Raymond Cone, because searching for Agatha Walker will provide more hits that are less precise.

Leslie Green and Larry Graham

“Dig a little deeper”

Larry Graham.Leslie Green
May 2018
As you may recall, my sister Leslie had a terrible bicycle accident on June 4, 2018. In case I had forgotten, she recently sent me a picture of her, taken about day 12 of her month-long stay in the hospital.

After a few more operations and treatments, she is well on the road to recovery. She’s not 100%, but she is SO much better.

Besides the accident being all sorts of scary, that narrative all but obliterated the great time she and her daughter Rebecca Jade had just a couple week earlier. Rebecca was touring on a fortnight of cruises with Dave Koz and his band throughout Scandinavia, starting in Copenhagen.

Leslie participated in the “So You Think You Can Jam” talent contest. She has been singing about as long as I’ve known her, from the MAZET Singers in AME Zion Church in Binghamton, to various school choirs, to the Green Family Singers. She performed in a bunch of gigs in the Northeast – Crystal Ship! – and then for over a half dozen years in Puerto Rico.

She STILL sings in church and occasional local gigs. Every interview that Rebecca Jade has done, she’s rightly credited her mom to get her to sing harmonies as well as the melody.

When Leslie and Rebecca got to jam with Larry Graham, that was very cool. Larry, in case you didn’t know, was the bass player for Sly and the Family Stone. Then he fronted his own group, Graham Central Station.

So, for Leslie’s XXth birthday, I thought I’d link to some Larry Graham music. Happy birthday, sis. Enjoy the tunes.

Sly and the Family Stone

Dance to the Music, #8 pop, #9 RB in 1968 – “I’m gonna add some bottom”
Everyday People, #1 for four weeks pop, #1 for two weeks RB in 1969
Sing A Simple Song, #89 pop, #28 RB in 1969 – “I’m walkin’, walkin’ walkin’, walkin’, walkin’ in the street”
I Want to Take You Higher, #38 pop in 1970, #24 RB in 1969 – “Music’s gettin’ longer too”

You Can Make It If You Try – “Dig a little deeper”
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin), #1 for two weeks pop, #1 for five weeks RB in 1970
Everybody Is a Star, b-side, 1970 “‘Til the sun that loves you proud When the system tries to bring you down”
Family Affair, #1 for three weeks pop, #1 for five weeks RB in 1971

Graham Central Station

We’ve Been Waiting
Can You Handle It, #49 pop, #9 RB in 1974

Chart action per Billboard; RB = R&B/soul

Recovery of Leslie Green, post bike accident

One surgery that IS scheduled is to remove the metal hardware from Leslie’s left arm/wrist on October 1 as an outpatient.

lesliesbikeOne of the many things I’d been planning to write about has been the recovery of my sister Leslie. She wrote this on Facebook on September 30, and I have purloined some of it. OK, all of it.

“As many of you know, I was in a serious bicycle crash on June 4th and was in the hospital until July 4th. I was riding downhill, was only a block left to my destination, avoided traffic, lost control, hit the curb and flew over handlebars to face plant into a hillside. Certainly not one of the most gracious things I have ever done!”

Yes, I visited the crash site the week I was out in San Diego the week after she got out of the hospital. Her friends found some eyewitnesses who thought she wouldn’t survive.

“I broke my nose, left arm/wrist and the surgeons had quite a task of putting together the pieces. (ME). They did a great job and are amazed at how quickly and well I am healing!”

Yes, even in week two, she was almost unrecognizable, but a month later, she started looking like herself.

“I give thanks to God for healing and keeping me. I thank all of those who showed the outpouring of love, support and prayers. It has been amazing. Especially from my kid!”

Her daughter Rebecca Jade and her many friends, especially a tigress named Leilani (hope I spelled her name correctly!) were great, even by the time I got there. Also thanks again to my friend Carol from Texas, who was able to visit my sister a month before I was.

“When I am thankful for the medical team, and thankful for purchasing a bicycle accident two days before the ordeal. It truly was a ‘helmet of salvation’ and helped save my life.”

Without the helmet, she had about a zero percent chance of avoiding severe brain damage or, most probably, death. Not so incidentally, when I got back to Albany, I bought a new helmet, one that fit my large head better.

“I feel ok and am doing ok, thanks be to God.

“There are a couple of surgeries I may need, but MDs want to wait and see, as I may heal without surgery. Time will tell.

“One surgery that IS scheduled is to remove the metal hardware from my left arm/wrist. It’s on October 1 as an outpatient. It will be so nice to have an increased range of motion again!”

That’s today! She has, if memory is correct, three metal rods in her wrist area. Not incidentally, Leslie is left-handed so this will be extremely beneficial.

“Please keep me in prayer for a successful surgery and healing, which I trust it will be.

“Thanks for all your love, prayers and support. It means a lot.”

Spare a good thought for Leslie today, if you would.

H is for helmet: bicycle, motorcycle

Bicycle helmets cut the risk of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) by half.

helmetFor the longest time, I’ve been wearing a helmet when I ride my bicycle. Years ago, I used to take a lot of grief for it. “Whadja think you’re doin’, riding a motorcycle?”

That’s because in New York State, only bicyclists under the age of 14 years old are required to wear safety certified bicycle helmets when they are operators or passengers on bicycles. BTW, children aged 1 to 4 must wear certified bicycle helmet and ride in specially designed child safety seats.

Whereas, motorcycle helmets ARE REQUIRED in New York State. “It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or ride upon a motorcycle unless he wears a protective helmet of a type which meets the requirements set forth in section 571.218 of the federal motor vehicle safety standards as may from time to time be amended.”

I’ve read that protective headgear is designed to absorb shock and redistribute impact on contact, thus reducing the risk of traumatic brain injury. Specifically, despite some criticism of bike helmets for not being protective enough, they do cut the risk of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) by half when riders suffer a head injury, a U.S. study suggests.

I have this friend Donna who had a serious bicycle accident in July 2017. She recently showed me photos some days beyond her event, and she would agree about two things: 1) she looked pretty terrible in the after her event, though she looks quite like herself now; and 2) if she had not been wearing a helmet, at best, she would have had severe brain injury, and more likely, she would have died.

I sought her out because my sister Leslie had experienced a remarkably similar event in June 2018, with each flying over the handlebars. Having seen her helmet, which she bought only three days before the event, there’s little doubt she would have been dead or permanently injured without the “shell”.

Some people don’t like helmets because of vanity, or “freedom”, or wanting to feel the wind in their hair. My experience suggests those are meaningless trade-offs if you’re deceased.

For ABC Wednesday

Revisiting dad’s death with sister Leslie

What also helped me was the fact that I wrote Dad a letter when I was about 23.

Leslie Green, Roger Green, Les Green
When I was out in San Diego visiting my sister Leslie in July, we sat around and talked. A lot. Other than go to doctors’ appointments and dealing with visits and phone calls from nurses and hospital folks, there wasn’t that much else to do.

One of the topics was our dad’s death, back on August 10, 2000. The facts, of course, haven’t changed, but my understanding has.

I was the first child, the first grandchild on both sides of the family, after my mother had miscarried almost two years earlier. At some point, I always felt that I was a disappointment to him. Les Green was VERY artistic, in many ways, and I just wasn’t, and aren’t to this day.

Whereas Leslie was largely everything he was. Dad arranged flowers for debutante balls, family and church weddings, and the like. I had no eye for this but Leslie did. I was useful in that I could schlep stuff, but get Leslie, not me, to tie ribbons that looked aesthetically pleasing.

Dad tried, and failed, to teach me how to play guitar. Leslie got her own guitar on her 12th birthday and was competent on it in a month. When we’d sing together, the only instrument I ever played was the comb, which I WAS sorta OK at.

When adults came to visit my parents at our home, I would drag myself away from reading the World Almanac an encyclopedia, or the backs of my baseball cards to say hello, stay as briefly as possible and then retreat to my room. Leslie, on the other hand, would engage them in conversation, even gregariously entertain them. This made no sense to me, as I figured these folks didn’t come to see her, or me, or our baby sister Marcia.

So Leslie was dad’s favorite. I say this without malice or jealousy. I knew it, she knew it, Marcia knew it. Our mother knew it, and tried, in little, awkward ways, to try to balance the scales.

All of this is not in dispute. What I didn’t really recognize until the trip to San Diego was the weight of being Dad’s favorite, of being the little hostess, to be more his artistic collaborator, to be NAMED AFTER HIM.

What also helped me was the fact that I wrote him a letter when I was about 23, complaining about the fact that I was spanked unnecessarily as a child. I may have used the word “sadistic,” but I’m not sure. We didn’t talk, except through my mother, for six months.

I couldn’t stand it, and I wrote ANOTHER letter, expressing the joy I had singing with him; playing cards with him; getting lost with him in Speculator, NY on the way to Lake George; going to Triplets baseball games; him painting the solar system on my bedroom ceiling; et al. He started talking to me again.

I had the BEST time with him, one-on-one, when I was at an ASBDC conference in Savannah, GA in 1998, and he drove down from Charlotte to hang out with me, and, naturally, flirt with my female friends.

I almost certainly had an easier time accepting our dad’s death in 2000 than Leslie did. This is why she wanted the showy funeral, though nothing my father had said suggested he desired such trappings. This is why Marcia, my mother and I waited her out for hours at the funeral home until she agreed to let dad be cremated.

I really wasn’t picking up on the BURDEN of being Les Green’s favorite child until this summer.