By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY – For more than 50 years, Mitchell & Fair Funeral Service was a fixture in the West End community providing “a bit of everything for everyone,” says Rosalind Mitchell, daughter of the company’s founders.
“The funeral home was quite vital in the West End community and was a central entity among the bustling and vibrant African-American businesses that once lined West Horah and South Craige streets for decades,” she said. “IIt was a necessary undertaking of course, but at the same time compassionate to the needs of the community. It was a place of comfort for grieving families and sometimes it was a gathering place.
After being placed on the city’s chronic reduction list in 2018, Salisbury City Council last month authorized the demolition of Mitchell & Fair Funeral Services at 418 S. Craige St. and the adjacent property at 420 S. Craige St. due to their dilapidated condition. .
The history of Mitchell & Fair Funeral Service dates back to 1937 when Reverend JC Fair, Sadie Davis Fair, CA Ellis, Annie Ellis and TV Mangum partnered to open Ellis, Mangum and Fair Funeral Home at 701 West Horah St. Mangum was the funeral home. embalmer for many years before returning to his hometown of Statesville to operate a morgue. Wives often operated the funeral home while their husbands worked at the Southern Railway.
In 1958, Allen L. and Naomi Shuford Mitchell opened Mitchell Funeral Service at 711 West Horah St. in the West End community. Allen Mitchell was a licensed funeral director and embalmer. Naomi Shuford Mitchell was the commercial director. Their business became the first in Salisbury to have an on-site chapel for funeral services. Before that, the deceased were brought back to the family home to await a funeral service.
Years later, in 1964, Sadie Davis Fair, the last living partner of Ellis, Mangum and Fair Funeral Home at that time, joined Allen and Naomi Mitchell in combining their businesses. A new building housing the Mitchell & Fair Funeral Home has opened at 418 S. Craige St., where Sadie Davis Fair served as secretary, licensed funeral director and funeral association officer.
Mitchell & Fair Funeral Service provided services to Rowan County and surrounding areas more than an ambulance in the early 1960s. Prior to closing in 2015, it also provided traditional and direct cremation services, insurance, advice prior to needs, printing, information on social benefits and notary.
“It was a bit of everything for everyone,” Rosalind Mitchell said.
The Mitchell family, as well as Sadie Davis Fair, all have ties to Livingstone College as all are graduates. Allen L. Mitchell, known as “Mitch,” is also a graduate of Clinton Jr. College, a historically Black Christian school in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in addition to the Atlanta College of Mortuary Science. Sadie Davis Fair and Naomi Shuford Mitchell were educators. Sadie Davis Fair taught at Dunbar High School, while Namoi Shuford Mitchell taught at Shuford Elementary, Dunbar High and Ervin Junior High.
Allen L. Mitchell was also a building contractor. After starting, building and managing his funeral home, he operated Mitchell Construction Company and later AL Mitchell Builders. He built and restored a number of homes across Salisbury, Rosalind Mitchell said.
The Mitchells and Sadie Davis Fair have mentored dozens of young men and women, teaching them skills related to the funeral profession, construction and life in general. Rosalind Mitchell said her father used to have young men who were “brilliant in his wisdom”, and he gave them “hope from the dreams they may have had”.
“They were an inspiration in sharing their talents and being role models for many,” said Rosalind Mitchell.
Community involvement was important to the family. Allen L. Mitchell has been active in the Negro Civic League, NAACP, Salisbury Planning Board and Salisbury Community Development Board of Directors. He spent 25 years as chief justice in polling stations during elections. Allen L. Mitchell was also a member of the Tau Alpha chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and used his company as a meeting place and for initiations within the fraternity.
The Mitchells were “very outstanding in the church,” said Salisbury resident and historian Raemi Evans, wife of the late Fred Evans. The Mitchells attended Moore’s Chapel AME Zion Church, while Sadie Davis Fair and her family attended sister church – Soldiers Memorial AME Zion Church.
The children of the Mitchell and Fair families took over the business after the death of their parents. Sadie Davis Fair died in 1981, Naomi Shuford Mitchell died in 1992, and Allen L. Mitchell died in 2010. Rosalind Mitchell, Todd Mitchell, Avis Fair Wilkins Monroe, Basel, and Vietta Fair Roberts Sr. all worked together until the closing of the business in 2015. While Rosalind Mitchell was a funeral director, insurance agent and provident advisor, Todd Mitchell was a funeral assistant and worked as a painter and craftsman in the construction industry.
Rosalind Mitchell continues to carry on the legacy of service and community involvement passed down from her parents. She is currently the director of a residence hall at Livingstone College. She has followed in her father’s electoral footsteps and is Chief Justice of West Ward III Constituency, a role she has held for 17 years. She is also a member of the Multi-Party Assistance Team, which visits local nursing homes and retirement centers to help voters register, vote by mail and obtain general election information. She is the secretary of FACT, or Families and Communities Together, a community outreach organization made up of local churches. She is also a member of the West End Coalition, a council made up of the West End Community Organization, West End Pride and Livingstone College.
The total cost of demolishing the funeral home is estimated to be around $23,000, but $12,000 will be used from a recent donation from the Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation to help. Additionally, the city’s code services department agreed to waive $3,180 of outstanding liens.
The remaining $3,000 of the grant will be used to demolish the adjacent property.
Rosalind Mitchell told the Post that the demolition was bittersweet. Although she didn’t think the restoration was an impossible feat, she acknowledged that it would have cost a lot of money to do it.
“A rich legacy still exists with us and in the hearts and minds of the families who have been served by Mitchell & Fair Funeral Service,” said Rosalind Mitchell. “We are forever grateful for the trust and support we have shown over the years. We are humbled and grateful to the citizens of Salisbury and Rowan County for allowing us to be part of your family as we seek to serve you during the most precious time of your life. “Reflection characterizes our service” is our motto and we pray that we have made a difference. »
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.