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William R. Pettiford
*William Pettiford was born on this date in 1847. He was a Black minister, educator and business entrepreneur.
From Granville County, North Carolina, William Ruben Pettiford’s parents, William and Matilda Pettiford, were free, and, according to the law of the land, their son was free. His parents sold their farm and moved to Person County, where he had the advantage of private instruction, and obtained a very fair knowledge of the English language. Being the oldest child, he had to bear a part of the responsibility of the family; the hard, toilsome work he was compelled to do was a school of preparation for his life work.
At age 21, Pettiford converted religiously in 1868, and was baptized at Salisbury, N.C., by Rev. Ezekiel Horton. This was the beginning of the life that made him an earnest disciple and minister of Christ. In 1869 he married Miss Mary J. Farley. He moved to Selma, Alabama, and worked there both as a laborer and teacher. In March 1870, after being married eight months, his wife died. Deciding to pursue a further course of training he entered the state normal school at Marion, Alabama. He remained there seven years, paying his expenses by teaching during vacations. He was connected with the church at Marion, where he attended and conducted prayer meetings and revivals. The church licensed him to preach in 1879.
In 1873, Pettiford married a Mrs. Jennie Powell, of Marion, who died in September 1874, leaving him for the second time a widower. As principal of the school at Uniontown Mrs. Florence Billingslea and Rev. John Dozier assisted him. Three years later Pettiford, wishing to take a more extended course of study, he resigned his position as principal, 1877, and entered Selma University. The following year the trustees appointed him a teacher at a salary of twenty dollars per month and permission to pursue the theological studies.
He married Della Boyd on November 23, 1880; was ordained at St. Philip Baptist Church in Selma; moved to Union Springs; then, in 1883, accepted a call at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. At this time the church had a membership of one hundred and fifty, were worshiping in a store in the low part of town, and five hundred dollars in debt. A year later, the debt was retired and a new edifice costing more than $7000 built. He was president of the ministerial union of Birmingham, a trustee of Selma University, president of the Baptist State Convention.
During that time the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon Rev. Pettiford by Selma University. In 1890 Pettiford founded and became president of Alabama Penny Savings Bank. It was Alabama’s first bank for Blacks one of the first three for Blacks in America. William Pettiford died in 1914.
North Carolina Free People of Color