Walkertown Historical Society Honors Women

March Women's History Month
left: Willie E. Smith is on the left and Lois Russel is third from the right front row. right: Lillie May Dicks is first woman from left and D.C. Moir is on the extreme right.

By Wallace Baird

March is national Women’s History month

In honor of National Women’s History Month, Walkertown Historical Society shines the spotlight on two local women who made their mark in different ways.

Lillie May Dicks (1871-1964) was born to Dr. and Mrs. William P. Dicks in what is thought to be the oldest house in Walkertown, built about 1777. This property on Salem Road across from the depot was bought in 1865 from Dr. Robert Walker – one of several Robert Walkers in Walkertown’s history.

When the Roanoke and Southern Railway was building the railroad, some of the men laying the track stayed in Dr. Dicks’ home. In the evenings they taught the 17-year-old daughter how to work the telegraph. This entertainment served Lillie May very well since soon after the depot was built in the 1890s she became the first depot agent. Miss Dicks remained depot agent until her marriage in October 1902.

Lillie May married Dewitt Clinton Moir (pronounced Moyer) and in 1904 moved into the Dicks’ home. Mr. Moir (1869-1957) was born in Walkertown in the home of his parents, James Stewart and Melvina Vanhoy Moir. He worked for the N. D. Sullivan Tobacco Company and the Crews Tobacco Company before serving as manager of the Walkertown Furniture Company. He retired as a bookkeeper in the tobacco industry.

Mr. & Mrs. Moir had three daughters: Nancy, Margaret Melvina, and Mary Fannie. According to Nancy Moir Daniels (1909-1994), her mother did not know anything about keeping house when she got married. Margaret and Fannie never married. Nancy married Harris F. Daniels of Georgia and worked as a bookkeeper for the Gant Oil Company. Nancy’s daughter Judy Daniels Samuel and her husband John live in the family home now, the fourth generation of the Dicks family to do so.

Another interesting lady born in the early 20th century was Lois Elizabeth Russell (April 18, 1917 – July 11, 2006) who founded Russell’s Commercial School in 1945 in Winston-Salem. Miss Russell’s parents were Estelle and J. Hood Russell. She was a graduate of Fisk University and also studied at A&T State University and Appalachian State University.

After several years the school’s name was changed to Russell’s Business College. In 1952 Willie Ed Smith joined the college administration as co-owner and business manager. Mr. Smith was a native of Winston-Salem and held a baccalaureate degree and a law degree from Blackstone University in Chicago. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

In 1973 Mr. Smith and Miss Russell married after having worked together at the college. The couple lived in Winston-Salem. Throughout their careers they were active in the political, social and academic affairs of this area.

The Russell school’s first class had three graduates. It slowly grew in enrollment and attracted students from NC and surrounding states. At one time the school had 170 students with 90 students partially supported by a Model Cities Grant and 80 students paying their own way.

It is unclear from our records exactly when she came to live in Walkertown. She wrote a letter to the editor of the Winston-Salem Chronicle which was published in 1989 and was signed “Lois Russell Smith, Walkertown.” One document shows pictures of her home with her note “Home, Sweet Home.” Her home was located at 3965 Pine Hall Road, Walkertown, NC. We believe that Mrs. Lois Russell Smith lived there from the mid-eighties until her death July 11, 2006.

Although Lois Russell Smith lived and worked for much of her life in Winston-Salem and only 20 or so years in Walkertown, it is a place she loved and we are proud to claim this admirable woman as a member of our community.

Wallace Baird is Vice President of the Walkertown Area Historical Society. He is a retired professor of physical chemistry at Wake Forest University and co-owner of Treehugger Forestry, Walkertown, N.C.

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