RALEIGH — They brought Abe home one last time, but they didnt take him by the old homestead the one where Old Paps big house once stood, the one that made Abe famous.
Good thing, too, because the big house Midway Plantation isnt there anymore. Its been replaced by a Home Depot and a shopping center.
Abraham Lincoln Hinton died last week at age 102 in New York, where hed lived for the past 80 years. But he grew up in North Carolina, and he was buried in Raleigh on Wednesday.
Hinton became a star what would you call a dude who was feted and received a standing ovation at the Lincoln Center in New York after his big screen debut? at 97, when Godfrey Cheshire made a documentary about his familys effort to move the house about two and a half miles from its previous location on U.S. 64 East.
The Shoppes at Midway Plantation isnt just a too-cute-by-far name for a Knightdale shopping center: Midway used to be an honest-to-God, for-real working plantation.
The documentary about the plantation, Moving Midway, started out small, almost as a vanity project, Cheshire said when I talked to him soon after it was completed.
I thought Id just make a small documentary for my family, but people said, This is too good; you should make a film, Cheshire, an acclaimed writer and film critic, said. The plantation, he said, was a special place to me growing up. It was a romantic place. ... It seemed that it hadnt changed in 100 years.
Cheshire, who is white, never knew about the black side of his family, from which Abraham Hinton was descended.
But then bulldozers started digging around on the former plantation and Cheshire started digging around in his family tree. Thats when he and Al Hinton, a New York schoolteacher and Abrahams son, found independently of each other that the branches on their respective family trees ran together. Cheshire discovered he had close to 100 black relatives.
Whew. Better set a few extra places at the table, huh?
Country boys in Cuban shoes
In a tribute to Hinton at the funeral Wednesday, Kimball Jones told how Hinton and he grew up together here and stayed in touch through nine decades of strife, change and style. Yes, style.
We were all country boys, Jones, 99, recalled. We didnt know nothing about no shoes only on Sunday.
The several dozen friends and family members at Hintons funeral at Faith Missionary Baptist Church in Raleigh roared with laughter when Jones told of how he and Hinton became ensnared in the fashion trend of bell-bottomed pants and high-heeled Cuban shoes.
On Sundays, wed put on those high-heeled shoes. They were all right as long as you were walking up hills, he recalled. But when you started down the hills, they werent so good. ... We found we had to turn around and back down the hill.
Laughter at a funeral might seem incongruous out of place, even but not when youve lived 102 years and left behind the kinds of memories that Hinton called Uncle Buddy by family members has.
Cheshire, in his remarks during the service and in a brief interview after, called meeting Hinton while making the documentary one of the greatest events and blessings in my life. ... He was one of those living angels you are sometimes privileged to meet. I will always admire him. He was a beautiful spirit.
How, I asked, did Hinton at his advanced age adapt to the notoriety he received when the documentary came out in 2007?
I think he was a very good movie star, Cheshire said. He really took to it. He enjoyed going out and meeting people and seeing the effect that it had on people. He went to a number of screenings with us, and he got a kick out of it.
Abraham never lived at Midway Plantation, Cheshire said, but he talks in the film about how they used to take him past it and say Thats where your grandfather lived.
The house is still in Knightdale, refurbished and occupied by one of Cheshires cousins.
I didnt talk to Al Hinton on Wednesday I figured he didnt want to be bothered by a reporter while at his daddys funeral. But when I talked to him for a story nearly three years ago, he said his father seldom spoke about his years growing up in North Carolina. He preferred talking about his time in the U.S. Army during World War II. On the rare occasions that Abraham did mention Midway, Al said at the time, he spoke about how growing up there as a kid, theyd walk by the two-story white house and point it out as Paps house.
Pap was Ruffin Hinton, the mixed-race son of Charles Hinton the Hinton family patriarch and former North Carolina treasurer and a slave cook, Selanie.
Ruffin had 22 children. One of them, Julia Hinton, became Abraham Hintons mother. Abrahams father, Richmond, was a Hinton, too, but from a different branch, making his mothers name Julia Hinton Hinton after she married.
Of Abraham, Cheshire said, His place in the film is just so remarkable. He makes the whole thing come together. Jay (Spain, the documentarys producer) wrote me an email after hed passed and said he didnt know anybody with such hardships in life who had such a joyful spirit. .. If I could be like anybody Ive ever met, I would be like Abraham.
Then, noting the historical arc encompassed by Hintons life from ancestors born in slavery to unimaginable technological advances to a black president, Cheshire said, You know how they say when some people die that We wont see their like again? Well, in Abrahams case, thats true.
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