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Hackney Library

Crossing the Tracks: An Oral History of East and West Wilson, North Carolina

“The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” James Baldwin

Lewis R. Neal

On February 26, 2014, we conducted an interview with Lewis R. Neal at his home on Warren Street in Wilson, North Carolina, as part of the East Wilson Oral History Project.  This interview was different from the others that we have conducted.  Instead of a sit-down interview, we did a walk-through of a building on Mr. Neal’s property that rivaled the Roundhouse Museum with the amount of historical artifacts that it contained.  The interior walls of the building had almost as many pictures that the Roundhouse has on its walls, including pictures of the Neal family from generations past and historical figures in Wilson.  Mr. Neal had countless copies of the Wilson Daily Times, covering everything from the civil rights marches in Wilson in the 1960s to the inauguration of President Obama in 2009.  He has also kept newspaper articles on military members from Wilson County who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  On the ceiling of the building were many tools and implements that have been used in farming, in particular tobacco and cotton.  Some other artifacts that he showed us were old telephones, record players, magazines, and high school yearbooks.

Mr. Neal definitely has a love of history, especially of his hometown of Wilson.  He is in his retirement years now, having spent many years as a truck driver.  He now spends much of his time driving buses for the Wilson SPOT youth program, but continues to add to his ever growing collection of newspapers and artifacts documenting the rich history of Wilson, North Carolina.