Ray Holman Magwood

No. 13038 R. H. Magwood

Photograph contained in an album at the Dorchester Historical Society of about 150 photos kept by Nathaniel R. Perkins, MD, who examined thousands of men who were going into the war, 1914-1918. Given by Mrs N. R. Perkins in accordance with instructions from her late husband, Dr. Nathaniel P. Perkins of 1122 Adams St, Dorchester. Index catalog has entries for the individuals.

R H Magwood, 63 Vinson Street, 1st Lt F.A.

Roy Holman Magwood.  Written by Julie Wolf.

Roy Holman Magwood was born at 17 School Street in Dorchester on April 23, 1892; his family lived at 31 Vinson Street. Roy’s mother, Lillia T. Witherbee, who owned the School Street residence, was also a native of Dorchester, born around 1856. His father, Robert H. Magwood, was born in Charleston, SC, in 1861. By 1880, Roy’s father had moved to Boston; in that year’s census, Robert and his own father, living at 8 Grove Street, were described as mulatto. By the time Roy’s parents married in Pennsylvania in 1889, however, Robert’s race was recorded as white. Records describe Robert’s sisters and relatives in Charleston as mulatto, black, and colored. It is unknown whether Roy, an only child, knew these relatives or anything about his family’s racial identity, but he himself described his race as white. .

Around 1902, the Magwoods moved to 63 Vinson Street. Roy’s father was a prominent citizen and sought-after speaker on temperance, holding office in organizations including the Antisaloon League and the Massachusetts Total Abstinence Society. Both parents were leading members of Codman Square’s Second Church; Robert was a deacon for 36 years, and Lillia headed its Chinese Sunday school. From 1922 to 1927, Robert was president of the Dorchester Historical Society.

In his youth, Roy garnered frequent mention in The Boston Globe’s society pages, including as a guest at “leap-year birthday parties” celebrated by a Vinson Street neighbor every four years.  After graduating from Dorchester High School in 1910 and from Harvard University in 1914, he worked as a salesman in Wyoming and Denver, CO. In 1917, he was a commercial engineer for Newark, NJ’s American Telephone and Telegraph Company, the employer on his World War I draft registration card. We are not sure where he lived during this time, ashe gave his address as 63 Vinson Street. Roy entered Officers’ Training Camp in Plattsburg, NY, in May 1917. Commissioned in November as a 2d lieutenant, Field Artillery, he was assigned to Camp Devens’s 303d Field Artillery, 76th Division and transferred to the Field Artillery Replacement Depot at Camp Jackson, SC, in May 1918. A month later, Roy was sent to the Field Artillery Replacement Depot at Kentucky’s Camp Zachary Taylor, promoted to 1st lieutenant in August and captain in October. He was discharged in St. Louis on December 30, 1918.

Returning home, Roy enrolled in the Boston Continuation School’s Shoe and Leather Class, one of eight men who earned certificates in March 1919. On January 3, 1920, he married Nina Louise York (called Louise) of Denver, whom he had likely met while working there. Early in their marriage, Roy was a clerk for Boston’s U.S. Shoe Leather Company on Essex Street. Along with four boarders, the newlyweds lived with Roy’s parents until relocating to Atlanta, where Roy became a salesman for leather and shoe-store-equipment dealer H. Wilensky & Sons. They remained in Atlanta for two years before returning to New England. Their only child, Lois, was born in Manchester, CT, in 1923. Lois would become a darling of New York’s 1940s nightclub scene, a “showgirl” lauded by gossip columnist Walter Winchell as “a sixth cousin of Abe Lincoln;” Roy’s wife descended from the family of Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks.

Roy resumed military service during the 1920s, although his duties are unknown. In 1924, a Columbus, IN., newspaper noted the visit of “Captain Roy H. Magwood of Boston, Mass., who is stationed at Camp Taylor, Louisville, for the present.” No address could be located for him until 1928, when his father’s obituary placed him in Framingham. This was also his home in the 1930 census. An assistant manager for J. C. Penney Co., he and Louise lived at 46 Union Avenue with a 63-year-old female boarder.

A year later, as district manager for the Berkeley Textile Company, Roy and family moved to New Hampshire. In three years, they would have as many addresses: 56 Howard and 45 Franklin, both in Keene; and, as of 1934, 137 Broad Street in Claremont, Roy’s home through at least 1954. Around 1935, he opened the Magwood Clothing Company at Claremont’s 4 Tremont Square, which he operated for about two decades.

World War II saw another return to service, with duties again unclear. On July 16, 1942, 50-year-old Roy, a captain, was stationed at Georgia’s Chickamauga National Park, which temporarily housed prisoners of war but was primarily the Women’s Auxiliary Corps basic training site. After his discharge on June 29, 1947, he returned to Claremont. For the next several years, while still running his store, he served as the town’s director of civil defense. In this capacity, he oversaw New Hampshire’s first air raid alert in 1950.

Roy ultimately relocated to Clearwater, FL, leaving retail for finance. In September 1960, he was hired by the investment firm Grimm & Company after being similarly employed on Wall Street and in Lake Wales and Clearwater. His address appears in Clearwater’s 1960 city directory as 19 Idlewild, Apartment 3.

Either shifting careers or retired, in January 1961, Roy took a position as program assistant for nearby Largo’s new townwide recreation department, serving as a chess instructor. From 1963 throughout the decade, Roy ran free chess classes and all-ages chess tournaments for Clearwater Parks and Recreation.

By the time Roy moved to Florida, he and Louise were apparently separated. Her obituary from 1972, which lists only her daughter as a survivor, suggests that she joined Roy in Florida around 1969—at least part-time, as her name appears simultaneously in San Diego city directories. Whatever the state of their marriage, they shared Roy’s 1009 Pearce Drive apartment in Clearwater in their final years. Roy died almost a year after Louise, on February 20, 1973. His obituary describes him as a “retired broker” and lists no survivors, although Lois was still alive. Funeral services took place at Moss Lakeside Chapel.


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Posted on

April 6, 2022

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