Berry O’Kelly (Berry O'Kelly)

Berry O’Kelly

Education Founder, Businessman. He was born in Orange County, North Carolina and was raised in Mason’s village. The small village had been founded at the end of the Civil War in April 1869 by Freedmen who sold lots in the 69-acre community to former slaves. His first job was in a general store in the village. A few short years later he bought the general store. It was not long after he purchased the small general store that he succeeded in bringing a railroad spur to the small village, starting a trans-Atlantic mercantile and warehouse. With this success came the establishment of Mason Village’s first post office in 1890. The United States Post office assigned the name “Method” to the small community and O’Kelly became the first postmaster of the Method community. He continued to invest in real estate and banking. He became a leader in the Raleigh business community, owning a general store, realty company, and shoe company. In addition, he chaired the board of a life insurance company. He brought the first Merchant and Farmer’s Bank to the Raleigh, North Carolina area and served as the vice-president of the Raleigh branch. Merchant and Farmer’s Bank was a bank founded to service the newly freed and now money earning black community. He wielded considerable political influence in North Carolina and would encourage those eligible to vote to support particular candidates and bond issues. An admirer of Booker T. Washington, he was a philanthropist who supported endeavors for African Americans. His passion was to provide education for black students. He supported efforts to establish schools for African American students across the South. His life’s work led him to found what came to be known as the Berry O’Kelly School in 1910. By 1914 he had succeeded in turning the small village, one room school house into a teacher training and boarding school for black students. The boarding school was one of the first rural high schools for African Americans in North Carolina. In 1917 the Manufacturer’s Record acclaimed the school at Method as the finest training school in the entire South. Receiving accreditation in 1922 to 1923, the school became one of only three fully accredited African American high schools in North Carolina in the early part of the twentieth century. In 1941 a total of 250 students were enrolled and ten teachers were employed at the Berry O’Kelly School. The school provided its students with a sound education in the industrial and vocational arts and provided North Carolina with everything from new carpenters and merchants to seamstresses, but most importantly the school trained African American teachers. Method was incorporated into the City of Raleigh in 1960s and the school closed its doors in 1966. Part of the old school remains and is now a community center for Method Park. Berry O’Kelly was buried in St. James AME Churchyard located at 520 Method Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina. A memorial to him has been placed in the churchyard. His grave is a registered historical site. (bio by: R & R)

Born

  • January, 01, 1970
  • USA

Died

  • March, 03, 1931

Cemetery

  • Saint James AME Church Cemetery
  • USA

1984 profile views