Our Girl Friday- 1741 White Street

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March 16, 1916

John Henry Edwards was born in Louisiana in 1872 and at the age of 31 he married 33 year old Sallie T. Donald in Bellville, Alabama. He brought her to his hometown of Alexandria, Louisiana. According to the 1905 Alexandria City Directory the couple was boarding with his newly widowed aunt, Mrs. James Mathew (Ellen Wynn) Edwards, on Polk Street. They were blessed with a baby boy in 1908 and they named him after his father. In the years on Polk Street, the couple had two more boys Daniel and Donald. John Henry worked as the manager of the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company located in the Albert Building at 1128 Second Street. The couple remained on Polk Street with family until about 1916 when we find mention of Mrs. J.H. Edwards entertaining her Woman’s Bible Class from the First Methodist Church in her 1741 White Street home.

The young family was mentioned frequently in the Alexandria Town Talk newspaper as hosting events and having out-of-town guests to stay with them even up till the month before an article states that “a fine daughter” was born to Mrs. J.H. Edwards on Saturday, October 12th, 1918.

Page 4 of Weekly Town Talk, published in Alexandria, Louisiana on Saturday, October 12th, 1918

Just two days later, the newspaper ran a notice of Mrs. J.H Edwards passing. We do not have record of the cause of death, but must imagine that it was related to the childbirth of her only daughter Miss Nettie Elizabeth Edwards.

Sallie Donald Edwards

In the 1920 Federal Census, J.H. Edwards has the help of his late wife’s parents at 1741 White Street raising his four children. J.H. Jr, Donald, Daniel, and Nettie. At this time, J.H. is working in real estate. Over the next five or so years, this three generation family continued to pull together and make it the best of the situation. John Henry’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth Kennedy Donald, filled the void left by her daughter and hosted church events in the home and ran the family.

In 1930, eleven-year-old, Nettie Edwards, is living in Conecuh, Alabama with the family of her mother. We don’t know exactly how long she stayed there, but is recorded as having attended Alexandria Business College from 1936-37.

Alexandria Business College

In 1940, Nettie is twenty-one and living at 1737 White Street with her aunt Nettie Brown. We assume she must have been named after this aunt. She worked as a clerk for the Standard Printing Company. Nettie worked very hard to succeed and became a reporter for the Alexandria Town Talk during the wartime years of 1942-45.

After the war she moved to Birmingham, Alabama and accepted a position as a staff writer for the Birmingham Post. Her hard work paid off and she was noticed for her skills in public relations and her talent as a photographer.

After 4 years at The Post she became the Public Relations Director for The Community Chest, the precursor to the United Way of Central Alabama. This organization was organized in 1923 with 31 agencies and a goal of $450,000. Even in 1929, the year of the stock market crash, the goal was met as more than half a million dollars was raised-a remarkable amount, considering the economic conditions. In 1943, during World War II, the Birmingham Community Chest campaign raised more than $1 million for the first time. In 1956, it changed its name to the United Appeal.

Her long career in work for nonprofit organizations in Birmingham also included the American Heart Association, the Alabama Association for Mental Health. In her final position before retiring, she was acting director for development at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

She married Frank Edwards Spain of Birmingham and Greensboro in 1974. Their interests included philanthropy and travel before he passed in 1986. Nettie lived on to be 83 years old and passed away in Greensboro, Alabama in 2002.

Frank Spain

In my research, it was difficult to find traces of where Nettie’s father, John Henry Edwards or brothers Donald or Daniel went to after 1920. If anyone has information on the family, please share.

Published by historichousehunt

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