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TYLER EDWARD HILL


Theory and agitation have their place, but theory and agitation without a constructive program are fruitless. There is a group of colored men in West Virginia who understand this and who, by their practical planning and organizing have secured results which the leaders of the race in every State would do well to study. Active and prominent among these is Hon. Tyler Edward Hill, now (1921) Director of the Bureau of Negro Welfare and Statistics.

Mr. Hill is a native of the Old Dominion, having been born near Martinsville in Henry County, Va., on April 23, 1883. His father, James D. Hill, manager of Express Company, was the son of Sarah Hill, his father was his master. The mother of our subject, before her marriage, was Caroline Virginia Harris, she was the daughter of Levi and Alsie Harris, who were first cousins and grandchildren of one Nathan Harris, a native African chief, stolen in Africa and brought to Virginia between 1780 and '90. He was purchased by Dolly Harris, white, who became the mother of his five children. Under the Virginia Statute which provided that the condition of the children, when either parents was slave, followed that of the mother, these children were free born or "issue free," as the legal term went. The family owned real estate as early as 1835.

As a boy young Hill attended the public schools of Reidsville, N. C., and of Henry County, Va. He also went to the Presbyterian Parochial School of Martinsville. He was under the necessity of contributing to the support of his mother and three younger sisters after he was twelve years of age. Accordingly, he worked in the day and dug out most of his schooling at night. He studied law privately in Washington and has been admitted to practice in the courts of D. C., W. Va. and Va. He has been a hard worker all his life, and his work, whatever the task, has been characterized by thoroughness.

In 1904, he opened a cafe in Washington, D. C., which he ran till 1908, when he moved to W. Va., and began the practice of law. Two years later he bought a half interest in the McDowell Times, a struggling weekly newspaper, worth about a thousand dollars. With characteristic zeal and energy he went to work and has helped to make the McDowell Times the leading Negro publication in the state. He admits that in those early days, he, at times, went hungry, but he stuck to it and now the Times has a circulation of 11,000 and plant and good will, worth $50,000.00 From 1918-21 Mr. Hill was Publicity Director and Adjuster for seven of the biggest coal interests in the State, employing fifteen thousand men. This is perhaps, the most confidential and important position ever held by a negro with the big industrial interests.

In politics Mr. Hill is a Republican and since coming to the State has been active in the councils of the party. He is a member and Secretary of the McDowell County Republican Executive Committee, and was four years (1916-20) elected in primary alternate delegate to Republican National Convention from Fifth Congressional District over white opponents in 1912, 1916 and 1920.

He was President McDowell County Colored Republican Organization, 1916 to 1921, the largest colored political organization in the country, has 9,000 members; 19 of its members hold elective officers in the county of McDowell and 47 hold appointive offices in the county and state. He was corporation clerk in the office of the Secretary of State, Charleston, 1917-'18, resigned to give more time to private business. He was printing clerk West Virginia State Senate 1914-'15; bill editor 1917; assistant clerk, 1919-'21.

He is president West Virginia State League, clearing house on all matters relating to the well being of the entire Negro population of the State, for all Negro religious, fraternal, civic, political and welfare organizations in this State. This organization secured the enactment in the 1921 session of the West Virginia Legislature of the Capehart Anti-Lynch Law, admittedly the most severe law of its kind ever enacted anywhere; the passage of the law creating the State Bureau of Negro Welfare and Statistics and providing for a Director with a salary of $3,600.00 per year, the highest salary ever paid a Negro in the State, and the most important office. The Director is a member of the Governor's Cabinet, appointed by the Governor for term of four years and confirmed by the Senate; the passage of laws creating a Girls' Industrial School and a Boys' Industrial Home-reformatories of Negro youth.

Mr. Hill has been director, Colored Bureau of the Republican State Committee since 1920-and assessor of the City of Keystone since 1918-In 1922 he was made a member of our board of Directors of the National Federation of Colored Farmers. The law creating the Bureau of which he is now the head is one of the most progressive and constructive pieces of legislation, dealing with racial matters, yet put upon the Statute books. The original act was written by Mr. Hill and is as follows:

"Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the bureau of Negro welfare and statistics be hereby created as follows:

Section 1. There shall be created the "Bureau of Negro welfare and statistics." Said bureau shall be in charge of a director who shall be a member of the Negro race, to be appointed by the governor by and with the advice and consent of the senate, and shall hold office for four years, unless sooner removed according to law.

Sec. 2. The duties of the director shall be to study the economic condition of the Negro throughout the state; to inspect Negro hotels. restaurants, pool rooms and barber shops and to report to responsible officials conditions that are not conductive to the health and morals of the community; to encourage the ownership of homes and farms in this state by Negroes, and to furnish such information to persons and corporations interested in securing homes and farms for Negroes in this state as may be required; to stimulate and encourage thrift, industry and economy among Negroes and to promote the general welfare and uplift of the Negro race in this state; to consider all questions pertaining to the Negro that may be referred to said director by any and all departments of the state government and recommend a solution of any and all problems so submitted; to prepare and keep records of the number of Negroes employed in the several industries, trades, professions, and upon the farms of the state, of the number and location of industries, businesses, plants, homes and farms owned and operated by Negroes, with the number and sex of persons employed by them; to promote and encourage friendly and harmonious relations between the white and Negro races, and to report to the legislature, through the governor, all his acts and doings, and to make such recommendations for the solution of any problem or problems affecting the Negro that they may deem advisable."

Out of 124 Senators and Delegates in Legislature only one Senator and four Delegates voted against the passage of this law.

The program he has laid out is at once comprehensive and exhaustive, having to do with such fundamentals as farm movement, home ownership, thrift industry and economy, cooperation, inter-racial relations, etc.

On April 23, 1914, Mr. Hill married Miss Sallie Stovall, daughter of Marshall and Mary Ella Stovall, of Bramwell, W. Va. She was educated at Bluefield. They have three children, T. Edward, Jr., Carolyn D. and Helen S. Hill.

Among the secret orders he is identified with the Odd Fellows, Pythians, Golden Rule, and the Masons. He is treasurer of the Odd Fellows Mutual Endowment Association, and a member of the Board of Directors and attorney for the Odd Fellows Building and Investment Society. He belongs to the N. A. A. C. P. and is secretary of the West Virginia Negro Bar Association.

He has travelled in this country, Canada and the West Indies and through his reading also has kept in touch with Negro literature, so his opinion as to the progress of the race is of value. He believes it depends on cooperation between the races, honest and efficient work in every occupation, education of both races, thrift, industry and economy, clean honest, fair and fearless Negro leadership, confidence and cooperation in the Negro race.

During the war Mr. Hill was chairman of four minute men for McDowell County, assistant food administrator for McDowell County, publicity agent for the Fuel Administration for the purpose of increasing the production of coal by Negro miners in the State of West Virginia, director of the United War Work campaign among Negroes in West Virginia.

Mr. Hill is the only Negro member of the West Virginia Editorial Association, and in 1922 was elected a member of the board of directors.


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