By Dan Yount

The Cincinnati; Herald

Obadiah Williams, Ph.D., a nationally-recognized teacher, school administrator and principal who developed an early childhood reading program that better prepared hundreds of inner city youth in Cincinnati for kindergarten, died April 21, 2017.  He was 90.

Dr. Williams was born, reared and received his early education in the public schools of Birmingham, Alabama.

Williams received a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Theology from Anderson College (now Anderson University) in Anderson, Indiana; from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. He was a teacher, a guidance counselor and administrator in Cincinnati Public Schools before going to Princeton City Schools where he was a principal and Central Office Administrator. He then went to Xenia, Ohio where he was Assistant Superintendent of Schools.

Dr. Williams once said he struggled as a Black man during his early teaching years back in the 1950s and 1960s to gain recognition as an English teacher. He overcame that discrimination to launch a highly successful early childhood education program for city children when he retired 30 years later, after a successful career as an English teacher, guidance counselor, and school administrator and principal.

The Early Childhood Stimulation and Parent Training for Early Education program he developed helped hundreds of kids ages six months to three years old to begin formalizing English skills and develop reading skills so that they were ahead of their peers when they entered kindergarten. All graduates of his program were successful in their elementary and secondary schools, and many attended college.

It did not take Dr. Williams long to discover when he first started teaching English and English literature at Taft High School in the mid-1950s that the students were not prepared for his classes, he said.

However, he remembered attending his first English Department meeting at Taft and being told he was in the wrong place as they physical education teachers were meeting down the hall.” Apparently, they thought a Black man was incapable of teaching English’’ he said. As further humiliation, the Black teachers were to meet monthly with a district psychiatrist and with small groups of White teachers to help integrate them into the system.

Taft High School was at that time about 50 percent Black, and he said he became disturbed that such a large number of students were not prepared to read and discuss English literature. “My research showed that more than 55 percent of. the students who entered kindergarten were not prepared, and that was the source of the problem’’ he said.

He spoke to Taft Principal Roy Cahall about this situation, and it was decided he would take classes at Xavier University to teach special reading classes. He also attended district reading programs for teachers, adding he was “appalled that the teachers were not interested in our kids.’’

He was at Taft nine year, then taking other positions at other schools.

After retiring, he returned to Cincinnati to continue his passion of his early childhood reading program which he had dreamed about. He began with just four students in the basement of his home, later moving to First Church of Christ on Fosdick Ave on West Ninth Corryville. The program had as many as 100 students enrolled at one time and later operated out of Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy.

Parents were required to attend the classes with their children and must work on what they have learned with their children at home,’’ he said.

Dr. Williams had said he believes in a statement made by internationally-recognized child psychologist Dr. Burton White that, “To begin to look at a child’s educational development when he or she is two years of age is too late.’’ 

Many of his students entered his program just after their first birthday, and the rewards were immediate, he said. When they left the program at ages 4 or 5, they were reading at second, third, and fourth grade levels, he said. “No one cannot get through it, although some make take longer than others,’’ he said.

Dr. Earladeen Badger, a retired professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati, once said, “What is unique about Dr. Williams work is that it is a labor of love, without any public funding. His children enter the public school system as winners, not losers, prepared to compete in the formal arena of public education.’’

Dr. Williams also served as an education consultant following his retirement.

Dr. Williams was the recipient of numerous awards and honors. While in Xenia, Dr. Williams received the Black Leadership Award presented by the Wilberforce Alumni Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, for outstanding community service. In 1992, President Bush awarded The Daily Points of Life Award to him for outstanding service achievement and community leadership service recognizing his dedication and involvement in working with parents and children through his program.

Dr. Williams is survived by his children, Broderick Williams, Laurence Williams, Michael Williams, Donna Martin, Lynise Williams and Marsha Williams; 5 grandchildren, 1 great grandchild and a host of other relatives and friends.  

By Robert C. Jones

Herald Contributor

Mr. William Irvin Deese, who died December 26, 2016 at the age of 99, represented the embodiment of Black history. He was a mentor, a friend, and father to many young fatherless Black men. An unforgettable classic who achieved the most dynamic image of fashion possible, his dress code was suits only, 24/7. A powerful man that had a quiet demeanor. He wasn’t that tall of a man, but his character, integrity and wisdom made him a giant.

William Irvin Deese was born October 22, 1917, in Monroeville, Alabama, and was the only child of the late Jane Deese. He was a graduate of the Old Woodward High School. Known as Irvin by his family and friends, he moved to West Virginia with his family.  There he worked in the coal mines for a short time. Later he moved to Cincinnati where he worked for the B&O Railroad as a porter on the St. Louis to Chicago run.

In 1949 Mr. Deese opened the first African American owned haberdashery in Cincinnati where men could purchase tailor made suits. He operated this business for seven years. From there he went on to manage the Cotton Club, where he met Sarah Vaughn, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and countless other celebrities who performed at or patronized the club. Later he owned and operated a 24-hour restaurant, the Cup and Saucer which specialized in Coney Islands. The Cup and Saucer was successful for more than 17 years until the Avondale riots. He finally retired from Heidelberg Distributing Company, where he was employed as a community service representative. After the riots in the late Sixties, he was instrumental in the early campaigns of the late Senator William F. Bowen. He also served as the Democratic Ward chairperson.

Irvin Deese was a very successful businessman who took pride in creating jobs for African Americans. His last business was the Avondale License Bureau. The License Bureau was open for 24 years.

Not only did Mr. Deese love his life as a businessman, he loved the Lord. He was an active member of Carmel Presbyterian Church until his health failed. He was recognized for being a member of the 90’s Club and dubbed the “modeling man” after participating in several fashion shows at the church.

He loved to dress – you would never catch him in anything less than a suit and tie. He loved to sing and dance, as well as travel, especially with the Shriners where he accompanied them on a trip to Germany.

He really loved the ladies, but his true love was the Masonry. In 1951, the late Ed B. Harris introduced him to Masonry, wherein Mr. Deese went through all the houses. He was a Past Imperial Potentate and Director of Imperial Balls throughout the country. He became a Shriner in 1982-1983 and served as the Illustrious Potentate of Sinai Temple #59. In 1996 he became a 33rd Degree Mason and was active until his health failed. He served as president of Sinai Temple No. 59 Past Potentate Council and manager of the Sinai Temple’s Grenadier Club.

His legacy includes two children, Larry Deese and Jill Speed Collins, five grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and a stepdaughter.

He was many things to many people, but I will always remember him as the Black Godfather of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Rev. Calvin Harper was pastor at Morning Star Baptist Church; research scientist

Obituary for Rev. Donald H. Jordan Sr.

Reverend Calvin Harper. Photo provided 

Reverend Calvin Harper, pastor at Morning Star Baptist Church in Cincinnati for 35 years and a research scientist, died March 20 at Well Springs Nursing Facility in Cincinnati. He was 76. 

Rev. Harper was born Aug. 6, 1940, in Lynch, Ky., to the union of Rev. Madison Harper, Sr. and Lillie Mae Cunningham Harper.  He was the youngest of four brothers, with two older sisters and one younger sister.  The Harper family was unique in that the two patriarchs, Madison and Patterson (who were twins) married the two matriarchs, Lillie Mae and Willie Mae (who were twins).  In the West End, the two families lived next door to each other.  As such, it was said that the two sisters would knock on the common wall between their two apartments when a decision to add to their growing families was made.

Rev. Harper was said to be very bright and productive in his younger years, which carried over into adulthood.  He was educated in the Cincinnati Public Schools, having attended Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary, Jennie D. Porter Junior High and was an outstanding scholar, inducted into the Pi Tau Delta Honor Society.  In 1979, he was named a YMCA Black Achiever. He was a talented athlete, playing shortstop and gaining the attention of minor league scouts. He attended Fisk University where he pledged Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in microbiology from Miami University. He later completed a master’s degree in theology at the University of Cincinnati.

         Rev. Harper was spiritually motivated to excellence by his parents who convinced him to always follow God and remain humble. He was ordained into Christian ministry in 1966 receiving a Bachelor of Theology Degree from Cincinnati Baptist College and a Master of Divinity Degree from Cincinnati Theological Seminary.  He was later honored with an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity Degree from Cincinnati Theological Seminary.  On June 13, 1975, Minister Harper was called to the pastorate of Morning Star Baptist Church where he served for 35 years until his health failed.

         Under his leadership, Morning Star grew spiritually and in membership. He was considered a gifted teacher.  He had a unique way of explaining the Bible such that students of every education level could gain understanding.

            Pastor Harper was led to expand the church’s community outreach by purchasing the apartment building next door and a building on Stanton Avenue.  At his direction, the church established prison, soul winning, marriage, singles, tape and teaching ministries. In 1987, Morning Star Baptist Church could celebrate a Year of Jubilee where the debt for the current church building was retired.

         It was said jokingly, but in love, by a colleague that “Harper is the president of everythang (sic)!” He was president of his senior class at Robert A. Taft High School, Class of 1958 and president of The Baptist Ministers Conference. He was one of the founders and president of Temple Bible College in Avondale from its inception in 1970. He served faithfully until his health began to fail and another of the founders, Rev. Carl P. Adkins assumed his duties. The remaining founders, Reverends John Daniel White and Artie Brown preceded him in death. 

He served as pastor of Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church for 35 years.

After college, he conducted five years of medical research at Children’s Hospital Research Foundation and later joined the Procter & Gamble Company in 1967 as a research chemist in the Foods Product Division.  One of his treasured accomplishments was the development of Pringles potato chips.  He often spoke fondly of his trips to Idaho for research. In 1972, he became the first African American promoted to Section Head in Research and Development and was later promoted to Associate Director in 1981.

         He was president of The Amos Project, a coalition of 40 multidenominational churches allied around issues of racial and economic justice with a commitment to cross racial worship. Harper participated in the sit-in demonstrations in Nashville, Tenn., where he met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

         A leader in many civic functions and heavily involved in his community, Rev. Harper provided leadership in the Capital Fund Drive to build the present Findlay Street Neighborhood House while serving as secretary of the Board of Directors of Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses, Inc. He was the founder and organizer of the Robert A. Taft High School Alumni Association and became that organization’s first president.

            In 1988, Pastor Emeritus Harper was named as one of the 100 Outstanding Black Cincinnatians during Cincinnati’s Bicentennial Celebration.  In 1990, he was appointed by Governor Richard Celeste to the Ohio Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission.

         He is survived by his faithful wife of 49 years, Mary Calhoun Harper; two sons, Calvin Alexander (Isabelle), Chad Austin; and a daughter, Tiffany Paige. He lived to see his first and only grandchild, Calvin Alexander Nkashama (Trey).  He is also survived by sisters Harriet Ward and Salsabil Abdul Barri; sisters-in-law Dorothy Greene and Iona Calhoun; brother-in-law William Calhoun; and other relatives and friends.

         He was a godfather to many. Zion Williams was the first to call him “Paw-Paw” along with Alexis Flagg, and Kadyn Dudley.  He had a special bond with Kadyn Dudley and Big Brother to Dr. Robyn Chatman.

         Visitation is at 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, March 31 at Morning Star Baptist Church, 7220 Oak St., Walnut Hills. Services are Saturday, April 1, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Greater Hope Baptist Church, 3655 Harvey Ave. in Avondale.


Nadine Foster was ministry of music at Unity Missionary Baptist Church in Evanston


Nadine Foster, who was ministry of music at Unity Missionary Baptist Church in Evanston and was talented in cooking and photography, died September 15, 2016 in Cincinnati. She was 67.

Mrs. Foster was born on February 20, 1949, to the late Leonard Purcell Carter and Elsie Mae Carter in Cleveland. Ohio. She was the youngest of the six brother and sisters. Two sisters and two brothers preceded her in death: Aleene Jackson, Christine Evans, Leonard Carter Jr., and Richard Carter. Her family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio when she was a small child.

Mrs. Foster attended Cincinnati Public Schools and graduated from Hughes High School. Upon her graduation, she worked in the dietary department of Christ Hospital, and later at Cincinnati Gas & Electric. She retired from Merck & Co., Inc. (formerly known as Merck Pharmaceutical).

She was baptized at an early age, and attended El Bethel Baptist Church when it was located on Eastern Avenue in the East End. She later joined Bethel Baptist Church in Walnut Hills. While there she was the Children’s Choir director. Upon her marriage to Rev. Dock Foster Sr., she joined him at Unity Missionary Baptist Church in Evanston on Fairfield Avenue.

      Acquaintances said Mrs. Foster was a very loving and spirit-filled person. She always saw the need to bless whoever she could. Somehow, she always knew when you needed help. If you needed her, she was there.  

        She had many talents and gifts. God gifted her with the talent to play the piano by ear. Upon her passing, she was the Minister of Music at Unity Baptist Church. She loved singing and playing the piano for the Lord. One of her favorite songs was “Walk Around Heaven.’’ With her beautiful voice, she sang in various choirs, choruses and musicals all over the city.

         Mrs. Foster also had a gift of baking and cooking, and if you did not get a chance to taste any of her home cooking, you missed a treat. She also had a passion for photography, and her snapshots have touched many lives. She and her husband loved to travel, and they planned many bus trips and cruises for anyone who wanted to join them.

         Mrs. Foster is survived by her husband of 32 years Rev. Dr. Dock Foster Sr.; two sons, Dock Foster Jr. and Nathaniel Foster; a sister, Geraldine Carter Folkes; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, and other relatives and friends.

         Services were September 24 at Unity Missionary Baptist Church, 3126 Fairfield Avenue, Cincinnati, with interment in Spring Grove Cemetery.

Reverend Donald H. Jordan, Sr. was born January 16, 1932 in Middletown, Ohio, the son of the Reverend and Mrs. James K. (Elsie) Jordan.

Rev. Jordan was educated in the Middletown Public Schools, graduating in 1950. Rev. Jordan attended college at Miami Univiersity, Oxford, Ohio, Class of 1954 receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration.

Upon graduating from Miami University, Rev. Jordan servedin the United States Army from 1954-1956 in the Panama Canal Zone.

Rev. Jordan opened his first funeral home in Middletown, Ohio in May, 1953. He expanded to Hamilton, Ohio in May of 1959 and to Cincinnati, Ohio, purchasing the Lee Funeral Home in 1966, the Houston Funeral Home in 1972, the Pierce and Peoples Funeral Home in 1974, the Wrassman Funeral Home in 1976, and the Denman-Radel Funeral Home in 1988. Green Funeral Home in Hamilton, Ohio was purchased in 1990, Thompson Funeral Home in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1997 and Jones & Simpson Funeral Home in Covington, Kentucky in 1999. Rev. Jordan's most recent acquisition was the Lavenia's Home for Funerals and the Summer's Funeral Home both located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Today, Rev. Jordan operates one of th elargest funeral home operations in the state of Ohio. In Cincinnati, the funeral homes are known as Thompson, Hall and Jordan Funeral Homes. With the acquisition of Thompson's, the company celebrated 100 years of service to the Greater Cincinnati community in 1999.

Rev. Jordan is a member of many civic church organizations, such as, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity; Toussaint Lodge #19, F&AM, King Solomon Consistory #20, Illustrious Sir, 33rd Degree mason, St. Paul Chapter #10, Royal Arch Masons; former President, Booker T. Washington Community Center; United Funeral Directors of Greater Cincinnati; Buckeye State Funeral Directors Association; National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association; NAACP; Blythe-Williams Post 231 American Legion; Miami Alumni Association; and various other community and church organizations.

Rev. Jordan is a member of the South Ohio Annual Conference, African Methodist Episcopal Church; pastored Anderson Chapel A.M.E. Church, 1977-79, Cincinnati, Ohio; Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church, 1979-96, Forest Park, Ohio. At Quinn Chapel, he led the congregation in purchasing six acres of land, building a $2.5 million edifice. The membership went from 50 to over 800. Rev. Jordan was assigned to Allen Temple A.M.E. Church in 1996. Allen Temple is the oldest African American Church in the northern United States from Cincinnati to the Pacific Ocean. Under Rev. Jordan, Allen Temple purchased the Swifton Commons Shopping Mall consisting of 34 acres of land and 425,000 square feet of building space. When totally renovated and completed as a retail center, this property will be valued in excess of sixty million dollars and will be the largest commercial development of any African American congregation in the United States of America at one site. In honor of Rev. Jordan, the Allen Temple board of Trustees voted to rename the Shopping Mall to Jordan Crossing.

While pastoring at Allen Temple, over 600 people united with the church. In May 2004, Allen Temple A.M.E. Church began worshiping in their new five million dollar edifice, the first new church in the history of Allen Temple. Rev. Jordan retired from pastoring in 2006 after 29 years of service to the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

To send flowers or a memorial gift to the family of Rev. Donald H. Jordan Sr. please visit

William Irvin Deese represented embodiment of Black history

Doris Ella Higdon worked as a nurse and hosted TV show

Obadiah Williams. Provided

Isla Ann Smith, who was active in the Lee Chapel A.M.E. ministry of music and a community outreach volunteer, died October 3, 2016 in Cincinnati. She was 81.

Mrs. Smith was born September 16, 1935, as the second of three girls born to Nelson and Gelola (Robinson) Goode. Despite the untimely death of her father, Isla and her sisters found strength in their mother’s faith in God. Growing up in Walnut Hills, she attended Douglass Elementary School and Walnut Hills High School. At First Baptist Church in Walnut Hills, she participated in youth activities and programs.

     She met and married Kermit Smith, and together they embarked upon 63 years of marriage. For most of those years, Mrs. Smith was a stay-at-home mother who played an active role in her children’s development.

She was the adult leader of the neighborhood Blue Birds and Campfire Girls troops, as well as Hoffman Elementary School’s PTA president. She even authored the school song, “Hats Off Hoffman.”

      After joining Lee Chapel A.M.E. in 1964, Mrs. Smith saw that the youth choir needed a pianist\directress. Initially, she felt somewhat inadequate because she played by ear and only in the key of C. She overcame those doubts, and this ministry became her new passion. As the choir’s name changed at first to Young Adult Choir and later to Ichthus Ensemble, the group continued to share her love of praising God in song.

She enjoyed working at the Sears Roebuck store on Reading Road in the early to late 70’s. During those years, she expanded her community and church endeavors: The Old Gang of Mine Annual Reunion, Withrow High School Athletic Boosters, Women’s Day Co-Captain, Contemporary Auxiliary, Vacation Bible School, and Lincoln Crawford Nursing Home outreach. Mention must also be made of how she established her own personal ministry of sending cards and notes of encouragement to the sick and shut-ins.

She leaves the following to cherish her memory: Sister Nellie L. Broadus; brother-in-law Theodore R. Smith Jr.; children, Lynnda J. Jelks, Kathleen D. Jones, Kermit R. Smith II, Ingrid A. Ross, Stuart D. Smith (Althea); son-in-law Darryl L. Cotton; grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, and nephews and cousins and a host of friends.

Interment was in Walnut Hills Cemetery.

Don “Groundhog” Johnson. Photo provided

Doris Ella Higdon, who worked as a nurse at nursing homes and hospitals and hosted the TV show Ms. D’ora Talks “Upfront,’’ died January 24, 2017, at Lincoln Crawford Nursing Home in Walnut Hills. She was 77.

       Mrs. Higdon, was born in Roebuck, South Carolina, July 24, 1940, to Velma Corrine McWhorter and John H. McWhorter.

       She joined Foster Chapel Baptist Church in Roebuck, S.C., at an early age. After moving to Cincinnati in 1956, she joined Bethel Baptist Church under the leadership Rev. Harry Brown.

        She attended elementary and junior high schools in Roebuck, South Carolina. After moving to Cincinnati, Ohio, she attended Withrow High School, where she received her high school diploma.

       She furthered her education by attending the University of Cincinnati, where she majored in social science, psychology and communications. She attended Cincinnati Technical School to receive her degree in real estate. She attended graduate school for nursing in the Village of New York University, where she majored in micro psychology.

            She married Claude Anton Higdon in 1967, and to the union she became a stepmother to two beautiful daughters.
           Mrs. Higdon worked for various hospitals and nursing homes doing private duty nursing. She worked at various group homes where she helped with mental and disabled children and adults. She also was an administrative secretary for Procter & Gamble and at the Hamilton County Courthouse.

       Mrs. Higdon was also in public affairs where she hosted her TV talk show called Ms. D’ora Talks “Upfront.’’ Her show was shown by Media Bridges on Time Warner Cable. On her show, she focused on interviewing people dealing with health, education, community organizations, and news briefs. She continued to host her show until her health failed. Her also wrote article that appeared in The Cincinnati Herald.

       Doris loved life and loved people, said family members and friends. She was not a stranger to anyone. She enjoyed being with her family during holidays, and would show up at your door at any given time, whether it was to visit or stay for a few days. She had a love for her great niece Tiffany, who always had a special place in her heart.

       She enjoyed traveling around different states, dancing, bowling, but mostly she enjoyed visiting her special cousin Hattie Mae in Spartanburg, S.C.

       She was preceded in death by her stepdaughter Claudia Higdon; a sister, Rosa Juanita Yarbrough; a brother, John Willie McWhorter; and great nephew, Larry Ricardo Lee.

       She is survived by her husband Claude Anton Higdon, stepdaughter Linda (Berry) Bates; sisters, Mary Louise Branson Williams of New York, and Eloise Hillstock of Spartanburg, S.C.; brothers, Samuel L. Rogers and John Charles McWhorter of Roebuck, S.C.; nine step-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, and other relatives and friends.

       Services were January 24 at Walker Funeral Home on Findlay Street, with Minister Greg DuBose officiating.  Interment was at Walnut Hills Cemetery.

Isla Ann Smith was active in Lee Chapel A.M.E. music ministry

Don “Groundhog” Johnson, a former Negro League player, long-time Cincinnati resident, and local youth baseball coach died December 30, 2017. He was 90.

A memorial service was January 7 at James Temple at 1116 Lincoln Avenue in Walnut Hills.

He was born July 31, 1926, in Covington, Kentucky.

Mr. Johnson was a second baseman for the Chicago American Giants and the Philadelphia Stars from 1949-1952. He was one of several Negro Leagues alumni that made many appearances on behalf of Reds Community Fund to help educate and inspire countless kids.

Of his career, Mr. Johnson said, "My baseball career started at Cincinnati's Crosley Field, in 1949, when I was 22 years old. I had paid $1.50 to get into the see the Indianapolis Clowns play the Chicago American Giants. I was recognized by Pat Patterson, a Chicago catcher. He had seen me play fast-pitch softball for the Cincinnati Hottentots. Chicago's manager Winfield Welch told Patterson to have me go to the bus and put on a uniform. They asked me to join the team. I got my money back too."

After retiring from Shillito's Department Store in 1985, Mr. Johnson managed high school and college baseball teams in Cincinnati. He also operated for some time a free baseball camp at the Evanston Community Center for all ages.

The Reds Community Fund dedicated Don Johnson Field at the P&G Cincinnati Urban Youth Academy in 2010.

Doris Ella Higdon. Photo provided

Obadiah Williams was educator who developed early childhood reading program


Funeral Services will be held Saturday, April 29, 2017, 11:00 am at Allen Temple African Methodist Church, 7030 Reading Rd., Cincinnati, Ohio.  Friends may call Saturday from 10:00am until time of service.  Interment will be held, Monday, May 1, 2017 at 10:30 am in the Dayton National Cemetery.  Arrangements by Hall-Jordan Funeral Home-Forest Park.