The Corner Forum
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2002
Issue #7

Joseph Bryant, 1922-2002

Joseph Bryant, 1320 E St. NE, died of a heart attack on Nov. 13. Mr. Bryant had lived at 1320 E St. since June 1950. His funeral was on Tuesday, at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church.

Below is an obituary written by the family. The Corner Forum also asked some of Mr. Bryant's relatives, friends and co-workers to tell us something about him. Their remarks follow. Further stories, recollections and thoughts are welcome.

On Wednesday, November 13, 2002, at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., God received the gentle spirit of our beloved husband, father and friend Joseph Bryant into eternal rest.

Joseph Bryant, son of the late Henry Leslie Bryant and Pearl Thorne Bryant, was born on August 20, 1922, in Nash County, North Carolina. He received his early education in the public schools of Nash County and Enfield, North Carolina.

As a young man, Joseph moved to Washington, where on June 29, 1946, he was united in marriage to Cora L. Britt. This union produced two daughters, Joetta, who preceded her father in death on May 19, 1963, and Kathy. Joseph was a devoted husband and father who worked tirelessly to provide for his family.

Shortly after arriving in the nation's capital, Joseph obtained employment as a cook. He worked at this profession for 15 years at Woodward and Lothrop department store in downtown Washington. His pleasant personality and love of people made him a natural for his other professions, taxi driver and barber. From the driver's seat of his taxi, "Mutual #2," he traversed the streets of Washington, pointing out sites and providing history lessons to tourists and local residents alike. In 1963, he earned his masters barber license at Phelps Vocational School and considered this to be one of his greatest achievements. Until his recent illness, he was a fixture at Smokey's, a local barber shop.

Mr. Joe, as he was affectionately called by many, enjoyed telling stories. His stories brought smiles and offered words of wisdom and encouragement. Joseph was well respected by his friends and in his community, and known for his gentle manner and pleasant personality. He openly professed his belief in God and was a faithful member of Vermont Avenue Baptist Church for over 50 years.

In addition to Cora and Kathy, many are left to cherish his memory: two grandchildren, Kirston and Christopher Gaines; one son-in-law, John H. Gaines; one brother, Leary Bryant; two sisters-in-law, Ethel Lois Thomas and Hannah Bryant; one brother-in-law, James Britt; and a host of other relatives and friends.

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By Leary Bryant, 81, brother

Well, you know, I was raised up with him. In North Carolina. Up around Brattlesboro, Whittaker, little towns up all around us. Rocky Mountain. And worked on the farm, `til we got old enough to leave, you know? And he used to always try to raise him a little corn or somethin'. Tobacco, and cotton. I never liked it. I used to get a whippin' `bout it. I wasn't pickin' enough, you know. Mamma wanted me to pick 100 pounds — I couldn't do it. He did that better than I would. I reckon he was 18 or more when he got here [to D.C.], I think. I don't know now. It's been so long. We had family up here. And we'd leave one place and go to the other, you know. That's the way that happened. Our father died when we were small. Our mother was up here, workin', tryin' to send a few pennies back to us down there. And that's the way it happened. And then you came to join her, when she was here? Well, in a way we done. We'd a see each other, but we didn't live together, you know. She was workin' for people, stayin' on the job mostly.

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By Mable Hill, 1322 E. St., neighbor

I've been knowing Mr. Joseph about 55 years. He's always been like a brother to me. He would take the kids to my car, watch out for my house, and my family's house. So, he was like my big brother. Lovely man. Family man. And he always kept everybody in my family straight. He loved my mother and father. They was like a mother and father to him. And I'm gonna sadly miss him. `Cause he was a crutch for me — all my problems. And I will never forget him. My mother and father were like a mother and father to Mr. and Mrs. Bryant. When my mother died, when my father died, they were just like sister and brother to my family. And Mr. Joe was like my father's son, my mother's son. And he did for them until they died. Then he picked up slack and was my big brother — I had one sister and two brothers — he was like a big brother to me. If we did anything wrong, he corrected us. You know what I mean, stayed on our side.

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By Etta Archibald, 44, Southeast D.C., cousin

He was a quiet man, but when he spoke, you listened, because he didn't speak much. And whatever he had to say — if you really listened to him, you'd know he was only telling you the right thing. Even though we were young and hard-headed, he still let us know, and we loved him. It was simple words. Just simple words, like "I wouldn't do that." Or, "I don't think you should." He never said "Don't," or "Stop." He would always, like, a form of suggestion, you know? "I think you should," or, "If I were you, I wouldn't do that." Or he would suggest if you could do it another way — kinda get you to think about an alternative.

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By Eddie "Smokey" Maye, 58, employer,

Smokey's Barber Shop, 1338 H St. NE

He worked for me for about six years, and he's always come when he was supposed to. And a good man. As old as he were. He was 80 years old. He came in five days a week. `Bout eight hours [a day]. Third chair, over there. He was number three. He had his own customers. He was well-liked, well-respected. Everybody liked to hear him say "Mister." He had a peculiar way of saying "Mister." (chuckles). When he say "Mister" — he not doin' no jokin' then. (chuckles).

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By Kirston Gaines, 22, Baltimore, granddaughter

He always had a story to tell. He used to always have good conversation. Just anything. The littlest thing — it could be a cup of coffee, and he just reminisce about when he was little. Just very sweet, never upset about anything. Just a very sweet person. I'm gonna miss him a whole lot.

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By Julian Bryant, 38, Silver Spring, Md., nephew

I remember when I took him and my father down to Richmond for a funeral, and they asked me to drive down — they couldn't get anyone else to drive down. And I got them down to Richmond, we went to the funeral and everything, and we got back, and (chuckles), my uncle had written me this long note, this long letter, about my driving (chuckles). So, you know, he was telling me, you know, there's always going to be a car in front of me, so I don't have to be the first car. I'm not gonna ever be in front of anybody on the highway, `cause there's always gonna be a car in front of me.

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By Michele Evans Brown, 1314 E St., neighbor

Kathy and I grew up together, just best friends for a long time. My father died when I was a young girl. I guess I was like in the fourth grade, so he was like a father figure to me, and has been one for the remainder of his life. Just a very kind and gentle person. What you would want a husband and a father to be. And just a good friend.

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By Andrew Jackson, 70, co-worker at Smokey's

For lunch, he always have tuna fish and tomato juice (chuckles). Very seldom he had somethin' different. Good man. Good man.

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By Warren Cook, 46, letter carrier

Nicest person you ever wanna meet. When they say "a real man" — that's what he was. §