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Charles Edward Gary, Jr. Papers

Identifier: MS 00017

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

These papers contain correspondence, photographs, business papers, artifacts, certificates, and other materials related to Charles Edward Gary, Jr. Mr. Gary was a prominent African American business owner in Williamsburg, operating for decades the West End Valet Shop off Prince George Street. The collection comprises business ledgers and other West End Valet Shop records over several years, as well as legal documents pertaining to the Valet Shop and Gary family estates such as leases and deeds. Personal materials pertain especially to Mr. Gary's schooling, his miltiary service during World War II, family photographs, and some of Mrs. Zelda Gary's personal papers. An active member of the Williamsburg community, Mr. Gary served in several civic, fraternal, and religious organizations. Centering on his involvement in local baptist churches and in the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World - Old Capitol Lodge, Mr. Gary's papers include speeches he prepared for religious and I.B.P.O.E.W. meeting touching on religion, family, and race issues in America. The collection thus contains materials relevant to the study of twentieth-century Williamsburg history and African American history.


  • Creation: circa 1870s-2000s
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1940-1980


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Administrative History:

Born in Norge, VA, in 1907 to Charles Edward Gary Sr. (1871-1929) and Georgia Parker Gary Randall (circa 1886-d.1958), Charles Edward Gary Jr. attended the James City County Training School, followed by the Hampton Institute. He graduated in 1931 with a degree in tailoring and dry-cleaning, having as well played on the baseball team from 1928 through 1931 and joined Phi Alpha Kappa. In 1933, he additionally completed a degree in mortuary science from Frelinghusen University in Washington DC.

A longtime resident of the Williamsburg area, Mr. Gary owned and operated the West End Valet Shop, a tailoring and dry-cleaning service, for decades. Mr. Gary opened his business in 1934 and worked as the Williamsburg Inn's first valet from 1937 to 1949. He was then responsible for pressing clothing and cleaning employee uniforms. The West End Valet Shop, long situated at 607 Prince George Street, remained in full operation until 1973. Mr. Gary also worked as a notary public for several years.

Mr. Gary actively participated in the civic life of the Williamsburg community and of baptist churches in the area. He was a member of the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World (I.B.P.O.E.W.), an African American fraternal order, for more than seventy years, being especially involved in the Old Capitol Lodge no. 629. Mr. Gary once served as the lodge's Exalted Ruler. Among many others, organizations in which Mr. Gary served include the Williamsburg James City County Chamber of Commerce, the Virginia Board of Elections, the Shiloh Baptist Church, the Colonial Youth Center, the boy scouts, and the Frontiers Club.

In May 1944, Mr. Gary married Zelda DeBerry (d. 2010), a native of North Carolina and daughter of Rev. William DeBerry and Fanny Hammond DeBerry. Mrs. Gary studied nursing at Augustine College in Raleigh, NC, and anesthetics at Cook County Graduate School of Medicine, IL. She worked in Williamsburg for the Blayton clinic and the Williamsburg-James City School System.


5.00 Linear Feet

Arrangement of Materials:

Organized thematically, the collection contains three series: Personal and Family Papers, Legal and Business Records; and Civic Life.

Acquisition Information:

Acc. 2015.150 was found on college property and was received by Special Collections on 6/5/2015.

Processing Information:

Accessioned and minimally described by Steven Bookman, University Archives Specialist, in June 2015. Fully processed and described by Eve Bourbeau-Allard, graduate assistant in June 2015.

Guide to the Charles Edward Gary, Jr. Papers
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
The collection description/finding aid is written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository