Don “Groundhog” Johnson. Photo provided

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

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

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.


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

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.

Obituary for Rev. Donald H. Jordan Sr.