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elected county official and Macon, Georgia, civil rights leader, was born in Valdosta, Georgia, the fourth of six children of Harry and Carrie Randall. He was reared in Macon, where his father, formerly the Valdosta manager for the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, had returned to work for his own mother's grocery wholesale and retail business. William P. Randall graduated from Hudson High School and Beda Etta Business College in Macon before going to work as a carpenter. He worked for a large construction company but after World War II went into business with his brother, a bricklayer. Eventually he became one of the major black contractors in the Southeast, working on large-scale commercial and residential projects.

In an era when Jim Crow custom forced African Americans to step aside when a white approached on the sidewalk Randall s father taught him not to give way As ...

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Shennette Garrett-Scott

undertaker and insurance executive, was born Robert Crafton Scott in Richmond, Virginia, to Alpheus Scott, a skilled, self-employed shoemaker, and homemaker Angela Wilson Scott. When a teacher asked seven-year-old Robert Scott what he wanted to be when he grew up, he surprised the class by saying that he wanted to be an undertaker. Undertakers represented one of the most lucrative, highly respected, and socially significant professions in the African American community, rivaled perhaps by the ministry. Undertakers’ essential role in the burial rite reflected the critical cultural and spiritual importance blacks placed on the transition to the afterlife. The class was likely surprised at young Scott's choice because, despite advances in mortuary science necessitated by the Civil War, at the turn of the twentieth century undertaking remained a gruesome mix of science, ritual, and mystery.

In 1897 Scott's mother died, and his father sent his sister Cleopatra ...

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Edward J. Robinson

stonecutter, porter, educator, funeral director, and preacher, was born a slave in Shreveport, Louisiana, the son of Zed and Betty Taylor. When Preston was one year old his parents moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where at age four young Preston heard a sermon in the First Baptist Church of Lexington and subsequently stated, “Some day I'll be a preacher” (Clement Richardson, The National Cyclopedia of the Colored Race [1919]). In 1864, at age fifteen Preston enlisted in Company G, 116th U.S. Infantry, as a drummer. He was present at the sieges of Richmond and Petersburg in Virginia, and at the surrender of Robert E. Lee. Taylor's regiment also served in Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana, before exiting the army on 17 January 1867 (Simmons, Men of Mark).

After serving in the military Taylor became a stonecutter and was skillful at ...