K. B. & Ethel
Five of the children of Kater Brown Booker and Ethel Louise Jones Booker shared their life and memories in a video dated 2018. Their father came, with his mother, back to the Holly Springs area from Johnson, South Carolina where he was born. Their mother’s family lived in the area. Both parents are buried among her family in the Jones-Turner Cemetery
on Sunset Lake Road.
K. B. and Ethel also had a brother and sister who married each other, so that their children grew up with double first cousins all about the same ages. They described themselves as a big happy family, who got along well together and still do. Evelyn characterized it as, “We are always here for each other.”
They teasingly called themselves “the magnificent seven” as children. All of them were born at home in Needmore. Actually, the couple had nine children; however, a set of twins, which none of them remembered, were lost at birth. Dorothy Booker (Killian) the eldest, spoke of being the family baby sitter. Ralph K. Booker is deceased. Elijah, Harold, Evelyn, and Lee all recorded their thoughts on their life, while Brenton preferred not to speak.
K. B. was described as an astute businessman, who bought two farms in the Needmore area and another in Apex. The children recalled the good white friend who helped their father, a black man who could not generally buy land, purchase his first farm. Thereafter, hard work enabled K. B. to teach them land was a valuable asset. Consequently, he was able to provide a piece of land for each of his children when they were grown.
Discovering a need for workers in the tobacco re-drying plant in Varina, K. B. extended the store and garage he owned into a cafe. All the Booker family pitched in to get the cafe ready to serve lunch to the workers. Dorothy came home from college to assist her mother with the cooking.
The importance of education was instilled by both parents. Ethel had only finished the 7th grade and K. B. the 3rd, yet every child got a college education. Dorothy and Harold described walking to Providence School, three miles there and three miles home. Sometimes they could stop off at the minister’s home to warm up on cold days. Once they were abused by some white boys. Elijah noted the respect given their father, who when he went to see the father of the white boys, was assured that that would never happen again. It did not.
The later children attended the Fuquay Consolidated School and all graduated from high school there. Dorothy graduated from Shaw University and taught school in Hickory, North Carolina. Ralph chose a degree in chemistry from A T & T in Greensboro and a career with the postal service. Elijah worked as a tobacco grader and a magistrate, but also taught math at Fuquay Consolidated and Cary. His alma mater was also A T & T. Harold graduated from NCSU and was an engineer for IBM. Evelyn Booker (Wicker) took her nursing degrees from the Lincoln School of Nursing at NCCU and a PHD from Duke University. Her career was as Director of the Hospital. Brenton got his education at Shaw University and Lee is a graduate of NCCU.
The Booker home was a Christian home. K. B. served as a deacon at New Providence and taught Sunday School. Ethel served her church as deaconess. Dorothy recalled that after Sunday lunch, her father. would talk to the family about the day’s sermon. All the children noted that having Christ was foremost in each of their lives.
Ethel was called “Queen of the House.” Quiet and unassuming, she was a “sharp lady” who supported her husband and put in time with her children. Dorothy described her as telling the best stories, from ghosts and haunts to Cinderella. She worked in the field, leaving to go prepare lunch for the family. She played the piano for family hymns and made sure the children memorized their poems or speeches for church and school. They recalled her saying “feel good, look good, and be good.”
Family time together was important. At lunch the children had an hour off to go swimming in the pond. Recreation was riding into the country to look at the fields or a Sunday drive to the Raleigh airport. On the way back from farming in Apex, K. B. would stop and buy honeybuns as a treat. Every activity involved being together and helping each other because family was important.
Their first home was more sparce but the home place which remains today gave them running water, an inside bathroom, and heat. While T.V. was not yet available they recalled being entertained by the radio show “Stella Dallas.”
Finally, the delightful recalling of memories summarized their father as a good husband, a good father, a good provider, and a role model for the community. He was termed God fearing, hardworking, loving, and kind. K. B. “made life better for everybody.”
These five siblings emphasized something every parent would envy. They expressed such pride in parents who did so much from a humble beginning. They are indeed “children who are the image of what they were taught.” as Elijah phrased it.
Source: Video disc of five Booker siblings, 2018; Interview Evelyn Smith Booker and Lee Booker, January, 2023. Pictures courtesy of Evelyn and Lee Booker.