A Living Monument to the Black Morticians" South Carolina Morticians Association, Inc.
The idea of an Association for Funeral Homes and its personnel was first conceived by E. N. Isom of Chester, SC in the later part of 1924. Throughout the year of 1925, E. N. Isom expressed his views with others until it became common sanction by quite a few in the State that an Association was needed.
The late R. R. Reid of Atlanta, GA., a Funeral Director and well-known organizer at the time, was to be in the Columbia area the first part of 1926. After making contact with R. R. Reid, Mr. Isom and other funeral operators, along with their personnel, met.
The “FIRST” meeting was held at Zion Baptist Church on the corner of Washington and Gadsden Streets in Columbia, SC. Rev. J. C. White, pastor of the Church, was made an honorary member at the close of the meeting. Undertakers gathered for night sessions Thursday and Friday, June 11th and 12th, 1926 under the directions of the Independent National Funeral Directors Association, Mr. R. R. Reid, organizer.
After a spirited meeting, which was attended by a very good number verified by a picture taken at the time, the Association was organized with the help of R. R. Reid and was to be known as the Colored Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association of South Carolina. The documented picture included Willis C. Johnson, Columbia, “FIRST PRESIDENT” (1926 – 1930) and 1st Financial Secretary, 1930 -1935); Eddie C. Mickel, Charleston; T. A. Williams and Mrs. Pearl Williams, Newberry; E. A. Bythewood (2nd President, (1930), Orangeburg; J. E. Spann, Chester; T. H. Pinckney (Treasurer, 1926 -1929), Columbia; A. A. Alston, Georgetown; Edmund Perry Palmer, Sumter; Jacob B. Moultrie, Charleston; and several others. During this time, anyone wanting to open a funeral home could do so as long as he/she had a licensed embalmer. There was only a Health Department certification, then later a State Board of Embalmers in South Carolina (1900s- ¬1940s). Only a few UNDERTAKERS HAD BEEN TO EMBALMING SCHOOL. Some “colored” embalmers worked under white embalmers at white funeral homes to get their embalmer’s license. Male embalmers dominated during this era.
There were no banquets during the early Conventions. Good OLD BOYS SOCIALS were held at a member’s home in whatever area the Convention was held.
During this period, funeral homes would take the deceased home to lie out in a room. Sometimes embalming took place at the deceased home in the bed where the person died. The embalmed body would be redressed and replaced in the bed for viewing.
Up until the 1970s, the Negro/Colored community looked to the undertakers as leaders in the NAACP, Civil Rights Movement, Ambulance services to lead the political fight during Jim Crow Era.
Since the inception of this Association, many changes have taken place. Each president brought his/her own leadership ideas and agenda.
PRESIDENTS: Edgar W. Biggs (1932); Julius P. L. Fielding I (1933); W. I. Peek (1934 -1941); A. P. Williams, Jr. (1942 – 1945); President R. H. Haile, Jr. (1946 – 1952) NFDMA President (1960 – 1962); Robert Logan (1953 – 1954); Charles Mason (1955 -1962); George Green (1963 -1964); J. L. Parks (1965 -1966); Julius Miller (1967-1968); President E. Perry Palmer (1969 – 1970) and NFDMA President in 1974; John Ramseur (1971-1972); Benjamin Thompson’s (1973 -1974); Marion Beasley (1975-1976); Rev. W. J. McKnight (1977 – 1978) and was named the NFDMA Chaplain (1988)and served as NFDMA Assistant Chaplain for eight years; Fred Garrett Sr. (1979 -1980); Gertrude Heyward (1981 -1982) First Female President; Franklin Hines (1983 -1984); Paul Simmons (1985 -1986); Douglas Linton (1987) died in office; Melvin Davis (1988 -1991; NFDMA President Cardell D. Beasley Jr. (1991 -1992); Rev. Ralph Canty (1992 -1994); Barbara V. Nelson (1995 -1996); George Williams, Jr. (1997 -1998); Gerard “Skip” Mikell, Sr. (1999 -2000); Carolyn Beasley Shortt (2001); Raymond Davis Jr., (2002-2003); Kenneth Beasley (2004-2005); Mike Thornwell (2006-2007); James T. Fleming, Sr., (2008-2009); Sam Halls (2010-¬2014); and Adis Glen Crawford, III (2015-2016); Veteran (re-elected) President Rev. Dr. Ralph Canty 2017-2018; Gloria Vessels Walker Cox 2019 – 2023 (Pandemic Era); Monroe Fields 2023 – Present; Ernest Adams NFDMA President 2008 – 2010 and South Carolina State Funeral Home Employed Inspector 2006 – 2018.
“A FIGHT IT WAS…..,” In 1969, SCMA finally attained and SEATED representation on the “all white” State Board of Funeral Service.
The first representatives on the SC State Board of Funeral Service were: (L to R) George Latimer, Sr. Conway; A. P. Williams, Jr., Columbia; J. Stinson Woodward, Spartanburg. In 1978, Mr. Rudolph Tompkins was selected to serve as Deputy State Inspector, but they gave him consultant.
In 1991, Mrs. Doris R. Trezevant, Coordinator and Presenter, presented and introduced the First Mandated Continuing Education Program of the SC State Board of Funeral Service.
In 1998, the Association’s a Funeral Service Educational Program created a program of study at Piedmont Technical College, Greenwood, SC were established. SCMA played a significant role with this inception. Mrs. Gloria Walker Vessels was Coordinator of the Funeral Services Education Program at Piedmont Technical College1997-2004 .
Mr. Ezekiel Trezevant was involved in the formation of the Cremation Laws for SC and owned and operated the first Black Crematorium in SC.
Judge Bernard Fielding, SCMA & NFDMA attorney for more than 20+ years. Helped with legal matters in renaming the Association in 1960 to the SCMA, Inc and other legal matters during this challenging era.
The longest serving chaplain of the convention (20 plus years) was C. D. Beasley, Sr. and he served as National Chaplin during National President Palmer tenure 1974. Upon his request a state convention organist Mr. Rudolph Tompkins was selected in 1971and served faithfully,
Respectfully submitted by
Calvernetta Beasley Williams | Historian of SCMA, INC.
SCMA, Inc. | South Carolina Morticians Association, Inc.
Formerly Known as the Colored Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association of SC
EST 1926 | Organizational Meetings | Circa: 1924-1925 | Zion Baptist Church Columbia, SC