Wayne Johnson oral history interview, 2019 January 14
Wayne Johnson, Charlotte realtor and longtime Grier Heights resident, discusses his deep family roots in Grier Heights, an historic African American neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mr. Johnson describes how his maternal great grandfather, Henry Drenan, a multi-talented artisan and entrepreneur, moved to the area from South Carolina to become one of the original landowners in the neighborhood. He explains that at that time the community was known as St Loy Heights after the St Loy Church and that the name subsequently changed to Stumptown and eventually to Grier Heights. He relates that his paternal ancestors came from what had been the nearby Walker family plantation. Mr. Johnson's deep family roots in the neighborhood are evident in his familial connections that include the Clarksons, the Greens, the Kirkpatricks, the Watsons, the Phillips, the Polks, and the Alexanders among others. Many of his extended family are featured in the hallway of the Grier Heights Community Center, where prominent community members are documented and celebrated. Mr. Johnson recalls the close-knit nature of his family as he was growing up, his childhood pastimes, and his school experiences. He also relates his knowledge of neighborhood founder and entrepreneur Sam Billings, formerly enslaved, e whose extensive farm was eventually developed for municipal and medical purposes. The interview concludes with further discussion of education, the dedication of his teachers, his mixed experience during desegregation, his outlook on current developments in Grier Heights and his hopes for the future of the neighborhood.