News - from the past & the present

An ex-slave lived to the age of 121 in Alabama and died in 1976 [photographs of ex-slaves]

Interesting newspaper article from Rome News Tribune January 13, 1976, Rome, Georgia


Elba, Alabama –

Charlie Porter, born a slave 121 years ago and perhaps the oldest man in Alabama, has died in the tin shack where he lived for decades without electricity or a telephone.

Uncle Charlie Porter and Gov. George Wallace, on Courthouse square in Elba – picture taken by Sandy Bynum from Nell Gilmer

Uncle Charlie with Clive Collier, John Collier and Will Martin picture taken by Sandy Bynum from Nell Gilmer

Well-known in the town of Elba

“Uncle Charlie,” as he was known in the rural southeast Alabama town where he lived his entire life, was found dead in his shack by friends Monday afternoon. Authorities said he died of natural causes.

Porter’s age was based on a Medicaid card which listed his birth date as July 1854. A local funeral home is searching for relatives, and funeral services have been scheduled for Friday at Elba Zion Baptist Church.

Uncle Charlie Porter picture taken by Sandy Bynum Nell Gilmer

Active despite his age

Despite his age, Porter was active even in the last years of his life, routinely setting out for Elba each morning on foot. He usually picked up a ride along the way, and once in town, with knapsack over his shoulder, he would purchase a jug of city water and return home.

Front row seat with First Lady

Last September, when Gov. George C. Wallace’s wife, Cornelia, was honored in her hometown of Elba, Porter was honored also by being given a front row seat on the parade reviewing stand with the states First Lady.

 Uncle Charlie Porter picture picture taken by Sandy Bynum from Nell Gilmer

He was born a slave, whose name changed as he was sold to different families. He was owned by the Porters, and kept their name, at the time of emancipation.

Beloved black man

This information about Charlie Porter is on Elba’s city information page.

One of the most colorful residents in recent memory was Uncle Charlie Porter. He was a beloved black man who was born onto slavery and lived to be about 122 years old. He lived on Railroad Hill on the Old Samson Highway with his wife Quida Weedy. The couple did not have any children. This much loved, unique citizen walked to town everyday, wearing his overalls, black felt hat and brogan shoes. He always had a beard. Also, he carried a burlap sack over his shoulder, which held personal items and purchases of the day. His very loud, but pleasant voice could be heard for blocks.

Uncle Charlie Porter picture taken by Sandy Bynum from Nell Gilmer

NOTE FROM NELL GILMER:

His funeral program says that he is buried in the Evergreen, the city cemetery, but there’s not a marker and the funeral home has a new owner and there’s nobody around who knows exactly where Uncle Charlie is buried.  We are going to put a monument in an old section of the cemetery where many black families were buried before the new section opened up for all to be buried; not segregated.

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  2. The Mississippi Bubble Burst – how it affected the settlers
  3. Did you know that many people devoted to the Crown settled in Alabama –
  4. Sophia McGillivray- what she did when she was nine months pregnant
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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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74 comments

  1. Adam Walton

    What an intriguing story, as I am almost sure that would make him the oldest man to have ever lived.
    The oldest verified, was a French woman that chain smoked and lived to 122. Yikes.

  2. Barbara McGilvary Ross

    I remember seeing Mr. Porter in Elba.

  3. Katie Allred

    That new share bar blocks all the content on the left, making it difficult to read on an iPhone 5s. Redevelop?

  4. I would Love to be a part of any good group of people who are interested in locating the grave sites of Uncle Charlie Porter (Potter) and his wife Weedy. Charlie was always ready to share his story with anyone who asked. I feel that if the exact location cannot be found, then a fitting marker should be erected in the proper part of Evergreen cemetery in the City of Elba. It is with pride that I offer my help with time and money to bring closure to this lost and found matter. My heart felt thanks to Uncle Charlie.

    1. I am in the process of getting a landmark for Mr. Porter

      1. Erecting a monument in Elba honoring “Uncle Charlie” is a thoughtful, and kind gesture.It warms my heart to know there are individuals who truly care about others.Thank you.

  5. Fran Jackson

    Uncle Charlie was an icon in Elba.

  6. Kris Young

    Why do we have to keep talking about slavery after all this time? Don’t you think race relations would be so much better if we let go of what happened years ago that had nothing to do with anyone that’s alive today?

    1. Jason Dorsey

      True but the they couldn’t use political correctness and race as a tool…

    2. Sure! Let’s just forget about History altogether!

  7. Jimmy McCullough

    We had an old man who was adout that age, every one just loved him, he would talk to us young people about his pre war live and was so interesting.

  8. Interesting read.. However, I found fault in how it was written. He wasn’t born a slave, he was born into a system of disenfranchisement and was enslaved. He was not a slave nor born a slave. I wish people would stop writing these stories as if the term “slave” defined people back then. The term doesn’t apply to them because a “slave” is a person from a Slavic country. It doesn’t apply to the people of the Americas, especially so called black Americans of that era.

    1. Rhonda Tallant McCracken

      A slav is from Slavic heritage. Not slave. No “e”

    2. Gloria Parker

      Uncle Charlie was one of the best person I knew. He was a free man. I wish all people would let slavery, black, white issues go. We are all Gods children, love each other, and let it go. If we can’t live here together, we can’t expect to be in heaven together. Love, let God,and let go. This is 2016. None of us are repsonsible for what happened before us and I’m 65 years old. God help us all, and love to all!!

      1. And while you’re at it, tell the Jews to forget and stop talking about the holocaust. Tell the Native Americans to stop talking about the Trail of Tears. Tell the Asians to stop talking about the internment camps; lets just stop talking about and teaching history because it offends some people. Your too old, lady, to be so ignorant.

        1. “Your too old lady to be so ignorant.” I’d much rather have her ignorance than yours! Such a harsh put down because you do not agree with someone! You have the greatest ignorance, by far, when you don’t know how to disagree without attacking! And your ignorance extends to the King’s English—it isn’t “Your too old” but “You’re too old”. You need to meet the God who made you and the One who died for you. They are love, and will help you to walk in love if you just let Them.

    3. Rhonda Tallant McCracken the term slave was derived from the word Slav in reference to when the Slavic people were “slaves” in Europe. The only people that the word slave can refer to is Slavic slaves..

    4. Joel Gilbreath

      Right, Slavs in southeast Europe circa 900 A.D. is news to me – Thanks.

    5. Sandra Irvin

      Gloria Parker Thank you, Gloria! Your wish is my wish- would make a world of difference!

  9. Ralph McGee

    My wife is from there, she remembers him.

  10. Mary H Woodall

    Thanks for a story from southeast ALA.

  11. We included several photos of Uncle Charlie Porter in our recent history book about Elba. We devoted a full page to him in “Elba -Then and Now, 1853-2014”, page 108. He was born in 1854, one year after Elba was incorporated in 1853. Copies of this book are still available at Elba Chamber of Commerce; 175 pages, 8-1/2 x 11, spiral bound. email: [email protected], 334-897-3125

  12. Jerry Hopper

    WOW,,Jist think of all the things that he has seen change..

  13. Joanna Lowery Roulaine

    New the moment I saw the caption that this was the man my dad use to tell me about. My dad is from Elba and has told me stories of Uncle Charlie. He said there is a monument to him in Elba.

    1. I am from Elba and still return there frequently, but no monument to Uncle Charlie that I am aware of. But everybody over the age of about 45 remember’s him fondly.

  14. I remember Uncle Charlie walking past our house when I was A little girl in Elba, We lived in the big white house across from the pool, We always ran after him saying Hi, Can’t ever remember him not saying hello to us, what A great memory!!!

  15. Brenda Jackson

    My grandparents knew this Charlie Porter and was good friends with him i remember stories they told us about him . *Will an Eva Bell Holloway. They were from Elba Alabama

  16. I remember Uncle Charlie Porter’s coming to town every morning. He would go to Morris & McCollough’s Grocery Store and sit on the sidewalk, speaking to everyone who walked by him.

  17. Rebecca Peek

    I remember this man from my young years. I saw him in town many a time. I don’t know if anyone else recalls this but some used to scare their children into behaving by telling that Uncle Charlie would come get them and put them into his gunny sack. I always kept this in mind if I started being bad and straightened up really quick. The house he lived in could be seen from the Old Samson road and it was always very Erie to me. Its gone now, just as he is,but the memories still remain.

    1. Ha! I remember that. He was walking down Smith Avenue one day when I was a little boy. Mama yelled at him from the front porch and said, “Hey Uncle Charlie, tell him what you do to bad little boys!” He yelled back, “I puts’em in my bag!” LOL! I think he was all in on the game. :0)

  18. I am sure he is the same Uncle Charlie that came to our home on nearly a daily basic, as a child we lived down a road just on the other side of the Pea river a swimming pool on the right and a restaurant on the left that had a little monkey.I was always told to be good or would wind up in that sack. I remember telling my husband of the person we called Uncle Charlie. a good memory .My family lived there in late 40s to early 50s Thanks so very much for sharing this would love to know more about Uncle Charlie..

  19. Laura Rampey Downing

    After reading many comments about this legendary man, I know that the people in this community will miss him.

  20. these photos were priceless !! Keep sending them !

  21. It is amazing to me how whites can say let us move on from slavery. You can not and never can speak of a thing that had not trapped, or held you prisoner. You can not speak of discrimination from the point of view of the discriminated, unless it has happened to you. All I say, is let people have their feelings, and how things impacted them without your rhetoric. By speaking on it, many have been able to move on; some still have residue from their struggle. My point is, its theirs. Let us live, and let live.

  22. Commuted to Troy University from Samson, Al and we always took the cutoff coming into Elba….. Nearly every morning we would see Uncle Charlie walking to town with that burlap bag over his shoulder….. Always smiled and waved to us as we passed him on the road…. He was a landmark to us and we looked forward every morning to seeing him….

  23. I remember Uncle Charlie well in Elba. He would be walking to town every morning and would talk to you and had a wonderful memory. His wife’s name was Ouida the best I can remember. I don’t remember her after I was about 5 years of age.

  24. I didn’t know Uncle Charlie personally but I did see him quite often when traveling through Elba, I remember him riding his mule and wagon up and down the roads. I got to know him through a close friend of mine the late Mr. Winzell Gray, Mr. Gray knew him personally and we would have long conversations about him. I am in agreement with Eldon L. Merritt that posted about not knowing the where about of his burial site and if it can’t be found there should be some type of monument erected in his honor. I’m willing to participate in contributing to a fund raising to erect a monument.

    1. Read your comment about Uncle Charlie. We are putting an “Uncle Charlie” window display at the former Pope Tent rental (old Whitman Drugstore) on the corner of Davis St (courthouse square) in Elba
      as part of working on Main Street Elba program. Please send me an email address or cell phone number so I can send you pictures – or come to Elba to see it in a couple of weeks. I can let you know when it is finished. And, yes, we are trying to find out where in Evergreen cemetery where his grave is located and establish a marker (monument) for him. Evergreen Cemetery has been designated an Ala Historic Cemetery and eligible for an historic marker. We are working to restore the summer house (gazebo) for the AL 200 Bicentennial. That and the marker would be a great preservation project.
      contact me at Nell Wilson Gilmer, 1564 Highland Dr, Elba 36323 334-897-1255 or 313-6238 [email protected]

  25. I am from Elba and I dont really remember seeing him but I do remember in school being told from other children that he would come get you and put you in his sack.. Im guessing that is the kids that their parents use to tell them that lol. I really love reading about the history of my home town. My family was one of the first ones in Elba when it was started and I love to find out about them.

    1. We will be highlighting descendants from the first families in Elba during the AL 200 bicentennial in 2018 when we honor people. Please send me your family name and how to contact you. You can email me at [email protected].
      Nell Wilson Gilmer

      1. I am a descendant of Jackson Lafatette Prescott
        I sent you an email, look forward to hearing from you

  26. I’m glad you printed this article again. There is a storefront downtown Elba with a large display about Charlie Porter in the window. I’ll take a photo and send to you. He is buried at Evergreen City Cemetery but not sure where he is buried. I have a copy of his funeral program. Trying to find someone that remembers going to the cemetery after the funeral to show us the area, even if we can’t find the grave, to erect a marker. Recently got the cemetery declared an Ala Historic Cemetery and in the process of restoring the little summer house.

  27. I grew up as what was know as a town kid as I lived just across Whitewater Bridge. Saturday was shopping day and everyone went to town. My brother and I walked to town on Saturdays to spend our meager allowances. Uncle Charlie as he was called was a part of our visit to town. We always made sure to go by and say hello to him and share a smile and a story. His color nor mine was important and I never thought of it. He was just a wonderful loving man who loved the people of Elba, his home. He was not the only character we had in Elba and I am thankful for all of the people who made my childhood in Elba a wonderful place to grow up. The sack story was told, but most children who actually knew him took it as a joke that they held between Mr. Charlie and themselves and just let their parents use it without any fear.

  28. Bo Lesley

    I would have loved to set down and talk to him and tape him,man what a talk he could have gave you to record.

  29. Dinnie Ronan Cecelia Mirenda

    Wow, he must have had a lot of stories

  30. Jesse Littleton

    It shows how electricity and telephones are so bad for you

  31. Brenda Green Perkins

    From the way this person looks in this picture, it looks Luke a woman. She’s wearing a dress. Still an incredible story.

    1. The one picture of the woman in a long dress was Mr. Porter’s wife, Quida

    2. Peggy Mims Kennedy

      If you had read the story then you would know this is a woman. There is a pic of Charlie Porter in his overalls.

  32. Lynn Ferguson Jones

    Can you imagine the stories he could tell??

  33. Rockey Pittman

    And they say he didn’t live a quality life!
    SMH!

  34. I grew up in Elba and remember always seeing uncle Charlie when we went to town, My Brother and me would always try to find him and talk to him while our Daddy and Momma was shopping, He would say there`s my boy`s and girl`s, I love little children, we were never afraid of him in spite of the stories they tried to scare us with. I remember seeing a picture of him in the Hospital sometime back in the late 70`s I think, He was smiling like he always did, I don`t think there is anyone From Elba that knew him that didn`t love him, we sure did !

  35. Janice Bailey-Mobley

    I am 70 now but when I was an independent journalist in the late 60s I was blessed to find a very old “Colored Lady” and “Bright Eyes” as she referred to herself. She was over 104 when I taped her in an amazing interview where I was truly impressed with her honesty and insight! She told me about how her Mother was an inhouse maid and her father was the Master which gave her the “right” to have an education and attention from her Father who she loved and respected- She did see a lot of cruelty but as the 50s came in she said that she saw a beautiful change coming

  36. Lynn Eckberg

    The stories and history she must have lived through. How amazing it must have been to sit and talk to.

  37. Nell Gilmer

    I have several photos of Uncle Charlie that I can share. Some are from the history of Elba book published in 2013. A store window on the town courthouse square, south side, has an exhibit dedicated to Uncle Charlie with large photos, etc. I don’t know how to share the photos to this site. I’ll try sending them to Donna Causey to share on Ala Pioneers.

  38. Abby Campbell

    Wonderful story about a good man!!

  39. Peggy Crum

    don’t believe it.

  40. Krissie Elaine N

    Bless the soul of this dear man. I wish someone could find out exactly where his grave is,so the marker could be put there.

  41. Pamela Enzor

    I remember seeing him when I was a small child. I was playing in the dirt just out front of my Great Aunt and Uncles Cafe that was across the road from Dorsey Trailers. always scared of him. When I would see him coming up the road I would run inside the Cafe and watch behind a plate glass window as he passed. I really hope that one day his grave is found. I would be willing to chip in for a head stone.

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