We promised a week ago we would give a follow-up on the big homegoing celebration in far off St Louis, Missouri, for Bermudian Mrs Doris Agatha Cholmondeley Webster. When she passed away on January 19 at age 105, she was the last survivor of the Founding Members of the Bermuda Workers Association with Dr EF Gordon (later MAZUMBO) had spawned.
As this is Black History Month we felt moved in the meantime to seize the opportunity to put in historical perspective the generational struggles of Freedom Fighters like Doris Webster, her parents before her, and others throughout the 20th Century, and continuing against diehard newfangled oligarchs.
Beginning with Charles Vinton Monk. Check that name ‘Vinton’. He was the AME Clergman/publisher who was appointed in 1898 to take charge of the AME circuit embracing Mt Zion Church at Port Royal and Allen Temple on Sound View Road, Somerset.
When Monke arrived, surveyed the overall social, political, economic and ecclesiastical scene, he concluded there were so many things wrong with Bermuda that he would stand on one end of this little island and trip the other end up right if he had to in order to get things right. What ensued proved he nearly did just that. The details are fully covered in the book ‘Freedom Fighters From Monk to Mazumbo’.
At the turn of the century Bermuda was booming. In any case that was a period when the “Walkers Works” were underway modernising the Royal Naval Dockyard. Hundreds of workers were recruited in Jamaica and St Kitts and brought here by the ship load. There was serious unrest, leading to the enactment of The Riot Act when the workers discovered they were being paid far less that promised when recruited in their island homelands.
Arriving from St Kitts was Henry Irving Douglas with his wife Mary. They eventually made their home at Heathcote Hill, Somerset. Doris was born on January 1, 1909, the third of eight children of the Douglas union. She was forced to abandon her formal education at age 15 when her father was blinded in an explosion on the job at the Dockyard. James had set a dynamite charge during excavation of the site directly west of the old Casemates Prison, where a number of oil tanks are now located. When it failed to go off he went to check. It exploded in his face and also resulted in the loss of a couple of fingers.
That was in 1924, the same year that Trinidadian-born Dr Gordon arrived in Bermuda. He had been persuaded to come here by one of the island’s leading black entrepreneurs, William H Robinson, to fill a void left through the death of Dr Arnold Packwood.
Dr Gordon was then in his late 20s. He spent his first night in Bermuda at the Robinson’s Somerset Bridge home. He eventually established his own residence and surgery at Heathcote Hill. His nearest neighbours were Henry and Mary Douglas. Across the street was Allen Temple, Monk’s old charge.
Also on Sound View Road in Ely’s Harbour was one of Robinson’s largest shops. It was located in a close-knit community, where the burning issue of the day was the lack of a secondary schooling for blacks. Among the activists were Sarah Scott, the Todds, Simmonses. Atop Sound View Road was the residence of Fanny Ratteray, and that of the Cholmondeleys. They all had been ardent supporters of Monk during his historic trial and imprisonment of Monk and were sarcastically labelled as his ‘Monkies’.
The Berkeley Institute after an 18-year struggle had opened. But there was no high school in Somerset. In 1927 Sandys Secondary School was established in the Todd Building, with the prime movers being the Scott Clan, Fanny Ratteray, William Robinson and others newly fired-up by Dr Gordon.
The same year Sandys Secondary opened, a scion was born, July 11, 1927 to be exact into the family of Fanny Ratteray, she was his aunt and guardian. He was promptly named Vinton Randolph Anderson, and she engrossed him in her activities at Allen Temple Church, and happily found a place for him at Sandys Secondary. He qualified for a Dockyard Apprenticeship and became a skilled carpenter.
Meantime at the other end of Sound View, the five daughters and three sons of Henry and Mary Douglas were making significant impacts as achievers on a variety of fronts in the community at large. as educators and in the AME Church. Socially Doris at age 21 became the wife in 1929 of Kingsford Cholmondeley, a top dance band musician. Three sisters Beryl, Maude and Elsie had gone to Teachers Training in Jamaica and returned to good jobs teaching at schools in the West End. They followed in the mould of their eldest sister, Gladys who for years was on the staff of Southampton Glebe School. Brothers Wilmot and Henry qualified as Dockyard Apprentices and training in the school at the Yard. Gladys, Doris and their bother Robert were the only Douglas siblings who did not attend high school.
Three daughters Viviene, Gloria and Madge were born to Doris and Kingford.
Vinton Randolph Anderson was born atop of Sound View Road, Somerset July 11, 1927. Historian Ira Philip was born at the other end of Sound View on December 16, 1925. We grew up together, playing cricket, attending Allen Temple AME Church. His guardians were among the primary founders of Sandys Secondary School, where he attended, qualified for an apprenticeship at the Royal Naval Dockyard, and became a highly skilled carpenter.
Ira attended the Berkeley Institute and later worked at the Dockyard. We were activists, becoming intensely involved in the social and educational issues of the day, getting our motivation as ‘Sons of Allen’ at Allen Temple.
Vinton’s journey in the ministry began on a Palm Sunday in 1946. We both attended the closing of the 60th Session of the Bermuda Annual Conference when the Presiding Prelate.
Bishop RR Wright offered full scholarships to young men desirous of training at Wilberforce University. There were four respondents, Anderson, Cyril Butterfield, Wesley Wharton and myself. Becoming aware that the training was for the ministry, Ira backed out, feeling he would have missed his calling, being well on the road as a young Parliamentary Reporter for the Bermuda Recorder newspaper.
The others stayed the course, both Wharton and Butterfield eventually becoming outstanding Presiding Elders in their respective regions. Anderson equipped himself academically at Wilberforce University, graduating with a BA Honors Degree. He went on to Payne Theological Seminary where he gained his Master of Divinity and a MA in Philosophy from Kansas University. He was then pastoring St Mark’s AME Church in Topeka, Kansas. He continued his postgraduate studies at Yale University Divinity School and gained honorary doctoral degrees from Quina College, Wilberforce University, Payne Theological Seminary, Temple Bible College, Morris Brown College, Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) and Eden Theological Seminary.
In 1972 Vinton was elected and consecrated the 92nd Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where he supervised the 9th and 3rd Episcopal Districts. He served as the Ecumenical Officer for the church, where he chaired in a magnanimous manner the AME Bicentennial Celebrations. Notable among his appointments was Presiding Bishop for th 15th District in South Africa, in a church named for him as the Cathedral of Vinton Anderson AME.
He was cited as a man of great intellectual power, and celebrated globally as a writer and scholar. He preached and lectured all over the world. His travels taking him to the Caribbean, South and West Africa, South America, Canada, Taiwan and Australia.
As a member of the General Commission of Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns from 1984 to 1988, Bishop Anderson became first vice-president of the World Methodist Council for the North American region and a member of the executive of the World Council of Churches. He became vice-chairman of the Faith and Order Commission, and a member of a peace pilgrimage of ecumenical leaders that went to the Middle East in 1990. He had served as a member of the Site Visit Team to New Zealand and Australia for the programme of the Historical Team to combat racism.
Bishop Anderson was elected President of the World Council of Churches meeting in Australia in 1991. The Council headquartered in Geneva, had over 560 million members and represented 322 denominations. He served seven years in that office.
The wind beneath his wings in his notable progression over the decades, has been his childhood sweetheart and close Somerset neighbour, the former Vivienne L Chomondeley. She was a highly accomplished lady in her own right. They married in 1952 and are the proud parents of four sons, Vinton, Jr, Jeffrey, Carlton and Kenneth. Three grandchildren are Natina Louise, Carlton, Jr, and Jordan Isiah Anerrson. The Anderson homestead is in Missouri.
Many organisations have honoured the Andersons. He was recognised by the Historic Calendar in 1993. The same year he received the scroll of Merit Award from the US National Medical Assoiation. The Daniel A Payne Award for Ecumenical Leadership in the AME Church in 1992. He received the American Black Achievement Award in 1991; and was the distinguished alumni honoree of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. The Bishop’s name appears in Profiles in Black under the heading of ‘100 Living Black Unsung Heroes’; and he’s listed in Who’s Who in America. He has made regular appearances in the media, with two most memorable moments being on Face the Nation and Tony Brown’s Journal.
When Vinton and Vivienne realise the extent they would travelling around the world in their high offices they invited Mother Doris to leave Bermuda and take up residence with them in the Midwest. She became a most endearing grandmother to the four Anderson sons; and was admired by neighbours and friends at the Anderson church community, becoming President of the Missionary Society. She was deemed to have a spicy but loving personality and great sense of humour.
She kept abreast of happenings on the Bermuda home front. Visiting periodically as well as receiving visits from siblings and their offspring.
In 1954 Doris married Henry Webster of Philadelphia. He passed away in 1958 when the Andersons were residing in Lawrence, Kansas.
Doris is survived by two sisters Mrs Maude Bassett of Southampton and sister Mrs Elsie Weir, whose home is in Kent, England; both are in their 90s. And her only surviving sister-in law. Mrs Izola Cholmondeley Harvey and her husband Gerald of Scaur, Somerset, also daughter Madge Daniels and son-in-law Arthur of Crawl Hill, Hamilton Parish. He daughter Gloria Mills and the latter’s daughter Patti predeceased her.
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