Family Trailblazers

What fuels your interest in genealogy? What drives my passion is the excitement of discovering new ancestors and relatives and learning their life stories and how they connect with history.

This past week I was sad to learn of the passing of my Cumbo cousin Jacqueline “Jackie” Majette Carson.  Fortunately, I had the honor of meeting her for the first time at our Cumbo Family Reunion this past summer.

Trailblazer.  Jackie Carson was a pioneering black woman in the field of science.  She was born in 1934 in Franklin, Southampton, Virginia to Vinton Majette and Magnolia “Maggie” Long of Northampton, North Carolina.  She graduated first in her class from high school at age 16.  She possessed an aptitude for science and went on to graduate from the Howard University School of Pharmacy at age 20.  While at Howard she was the President of her senior class and Student Council Secretary.  She would go on to enjoy a successful career in pharmacy, becoming the first black woman to be head of the Virginia Board of Pharmacy.  Her career would inspire many, women and people of color in particular, to enter the field of pharmacy. Her first pharmacist job out of college happened to be with Suffolk Professional Pharmacy which was owned and operated by James “Doc” Richards Sr. who was my grandfather.

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Jacqueline Majette Carson

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Jacqueline Majette Carson at our 2016 Cumbo Family Reunion in July

Community Man.  My grandfather James Edward Richards Sr. was born in in 1920 in Suffolk, Virginia to James Lee Richards and Annie Biggs, of Suffolk, VA.  He attended South Carolina State College graduating with a degree in chemistry in 1942.  He went on to serve his country in World War II.  After his military service he discovered that his race made it difficult for him to pursue a career in his chosen field of chemistry so he attended Howard University to train as a pharmacist. While at Howard he served as President of his senior class.  Upon graduation in 1950 he returned home to Suffolk VA to open its first and only black pharmacy so his community could get their prescriptions filled by walking in the front door. In the south prior to integration, black customers were forced to use the back or alley door entrances of white owned businesses, sill with no guarantee of being served.  You could characterize my grandfather as an entrepreneur, but he was much more of a community man.  He was part of a group of medical professionals who practiced in an area of Suffolk called The Fairgrounds.  They were committed to serving their community.  Many young people earned their first jobs at Suffolk Professional Pharmacy.  Sick community members were never turned away for prescriptions even if they didn’t have the money.  People could count on Doc to fill their prescriptions at any time of night if needed.  The pharmacy has since closed but its legacy continues to this day.  My grandfather died in 2009.

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James Edward “Doc” Richards Sr.

Cumbo Connection.  Now here’s the wonder of genealogical discovery.  It turns out that my grandfather James “Doc” Richards and Jackie Majette Carson were related and I had the pleasure of discovering it.  I uncovered it as I built out our Cumbos of Northampton, NC Family Tree.  My cousin Corrine whom I’d met doing Cumbo family research pointed out to me that her aunt Jackie had worked for Suffolk Professional Pharmacy.  Turns out Doc and Jackie worked alongside each other for many, many years, serving the community together, not ever knowing that they were third cousins.  They had so much in common.  He was a direct descendant of Junius Matthias “Bug” Cumbo, she was a direct descendant of Matthias’s brother Hezekiah Thomas Cumbo. Julius and Hezekiah were the sons of Britton and Mary Cumbo, free people of color of Potecasi, Northampton, North Carolina.  They were both Howard University School of Pharmacy graduates.  They were both accomplished, both trailblazers, both served their communities and both raised thriving families. I’m so proud and humbled to be connected to them both.

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James “Doc” Richards and Jacqueline Majette Carson relationship chart

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2 Comments

  1. Jackie is my first cousin on the Majette paternal side. We were always proud of her accomplishments and so we celebrate her life and legacy. Jackie was a beautiful soul who was dearly loved and will be greatly missed. Linda Kilby

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