Black History in Morristown: William N. Watson, respected businessman, citizen and local NAACP founder

William Watson as he appeared ca.1933.

 

Jeffrey V. Moy, North Jersey History and Genealogy Center

William N. Watson was born in Virginia in 1884, and married Addie Daly when he was 19 and she was 20. After the young couple moved to Morristown, William found a job as a laborer and ashman before working his way up to general contracting, real estate, and finally, owning a successful trucking business[1].

Mr. Watson as he appeared ca.1933.

Not content to merely provide for his own family, Watson decided to give back to his adoptive hometown.

He became a charter member of the Union Baptist Church, member of the Chamber of Commerce, Tyrion Lodge member of the Improved Benevolent Protective Order Elks of the World, founder of the Morristown branch of the NAACP, Chair of the Booker T. Washington chapter of the YMCA, and a member of the Morris County Republican Committee[2].

The Morristown City Directory, a precursor to the phone book, often listed an individual’s occupation and the name of their spouse, along with their home address,  and phone number. In the 1931 Morristown Directory, William and Addie (third listing down) have a home on Spring Street, across from where Headquarters Plaza would be built.

William Watson owned a home at 47 Spring St. in Morristown, where, according to the 1930 federal census, he owned a nearby trucking business, and lived with wife Addie L. Daly Watson, and their children Clara, Nathaniel, Francis, Morton, Hazel, Gertrude, Evelyn, and Gilbert.

Addie worked as a restaurant manager, while two of their children, Clara and Gilbert, worked with their father; son Nathaniel was a law school caretaker.

The obituary for William N. Watson as it appeared in the November 2, 1933 Daily Record.

At the time of William’s sudden death of a heart attack on Nov. 1, 1933, at age 49, he was widely regarded by his fellow residents as a successful entrepreneur, an upstanding citizen, and well-rounded member of the community.

People like Addie and William Watson made Morristown a prosperous community that offered those willing to work a hand up.

[1] Morristown City Directories, 1903, 1916, 1930, 1933.

[2] William N. Watson obituary, The Daily Record, November 2, 1933.

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