Magee, Ernest Moroni

Biography

photo of  Ernest Moroni Magee

A little over two weeks after Ernest Moroni Magee was born, his father Samuel was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His Mother Ardella followed her husband into the new faith four months later. The couple must have studied the Book of Mormon closely before their baptisms and developed an affinity for one of its prophets, a man named Moroni. They selected that Book of Mormon prophet as a middle name for their newborn son even before they were themselves members of the faith. Samuel and Ardella apparently used Moroni as Ernest’s preferred name, at least when he was young, because the 1910 and 1920 U. S. censuses list “Moroni” as the young boy’s name. [1] As an adult, he went by Ernest, although to date researchers have been unable to locate an “Ernest” or “Moroni” Magee in the 1930 or 1940 federal censuses who matches the biographical profile of Ernest Moroni. [2]

There is no record of Ernest getting married or having children. In 1940, Ernest lived in Franklinton, Washington Parish, Louisiana where he worked for the Williams Lumber Company. It was there that he registered for the World War II draft and, instead of a spouse, he listed his mother, Ardella as the person who would always know his address. [3] Moreover, when Ernest Moroni died, his obituary made no mention of a former wife or children. [4] His niece Gloria Evans Mixon also suggested that “he never married or had any children” to her knowledge. [5]

By 1948 Ernest moved to the Tri-City Washington area (Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick) likely to take advantage of the boom in military-related work available there. At some point he found employment at Atlantic Richfield Hanford, a chemical processing company which operated in the 1960s at the U. S. Government’s Hanford site, a nuclear production complex along the Columbia River. He worked there until retiring in January 1974. [6]

While he lived in Washington, Ernest twice visited his sister Etta Mae Magee Evans and her family who then lived in Berkeley, California. Even though young Gloria Evans only met her Uncle Ernest twice, she remembered him well. “He was so good looking, and smelled so good,” she recalled. “What a flashy dresser he was. This 11 year old girl was sure she wanted to marry a man just like him some day.” [7]

Ernest Moroni’s LDS baptismal record has not yet been found. The local records which listed the rest of the Magee family’s baptisms ended around the time that Ernest Moroni would have turned eight. It is not possible, therefore, to know if he was baptized, but it is highly probable based on the fact that all of his older siblings were baptized. For example, John Earlie and Etta Mae were not old enough to be baptized when their older brothers and sisters converted in June 1909, but both John Earlie and Etta Mae were baptized within six months of turning eight. [8] Ardella, Ernest Moroni’s mother, also ensured that her grandchildren, Wilkie Jr., Luther, and Margarette, were all baptized in 1936 after she ended up raising them following the death of their parents. [9] Thus it is likely that Ardella also ensured that Ernest Moroni was baptized when he turned eight. As Ernest’s niece Gloria put it, “I really don't know if Ernest Maroni Magee was ever baptized as a Mormon [but] knowing grandmother Ardella, everybody in the family had to be Mormon.” [10]

At some point after moving to Washington, Ernest became president of the Pasco, Washington chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and he was a member of a local community action committee. At some point Ernest also found a sense of community and purpose in the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Pasco. When he passed away in 1974, the reverends Bill Wilkins and Johnny Singleton from New Hope officiated at his funeral. He was buried at City View Cemetery in Pasco. [11]

By W. Paul Reeve

Primary Sources

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection. CR 375 8, Mississippi State, box 4256, folder 1, images 246, 405-406, 451; and box 4257, folder 1, image 434. Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Earnest M. Magee.” Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Washington), 11 October 1974.

Magee, Ernest Moroni. "Louisiana First Registration Draft Cards, compiled 1940-1945." Database with images at FamilySearch.org (accessed, 13 March 2018).

Mixon, Gloria Evans. “RE: Freda Beaulieu.” Email to W. Paul Reeve, 17 April 2018.

Mixon, Gloria Evans. “RE: Samuel and Ardella Magee.” Email to W. Paul Reeve, 17 April 2018.

United States, Census. 1910, Mississippi, Pike County, Beat 3.

United States, Census. 1920, Mississippi, Walthall County, Beat 1.

United States Census 1930, Mississippi, Lawrence County, Beat 5.

Secondary Sources

Church History,” New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. Accessed 14 May 2018.

Embry, Jessie L. Black Saints in a White Church: Contemporary African-American Mormons (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3.


[1] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection, CR 375 8, box 4256, folder 1, images 246 and 451, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; United States Census, 1910, Mississippi, Pike County, Beat 3; United States Census, 1920, Mississippi, Walthall County, Beat 1.

[2] The 1930 U. S. Census lists an Ernest Magee living in Lawrence County, Mississippi, the county immediately north of Walthall County where Ernest Moroni was born. The Ernest Magee living in Lawrence County was twenty-one years old and married to Lila Mae, who was sixteen. The couple had gotten married when Ernest was seventeen and Lila Mae was twelve and they had two children together, William who was four and Ernest Jr. who was three (United States Census 1930, Mississippi, Lawrence County, Beat 5). The age and location make it possible that the Ernest Magee living in Lawrence County was Ernest Moroni Magee, but it is unlikely because that couple remained in Lawrence County in 1940 while Ernest Moroni was living in Franklinton, Louisiana when he registered for the World War II draft in 1940.

[3] Ernest Moroni Magee, "Louisiana First Registration Draft Cards, compiled 1940-1945," database with images, at FamilySearch.org (accessed, 13 March 2018).

[4] “Earnest M. Magee,” Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Washington), 11 October 1974.

[5] Gloria Evans Mixon, “RE: Freda Beaulieu,” email to W. Paul Reeve, 17 April 2018.

[6] “Earnest M. Magee,” Tri-City Herald, 11 October 1974.

[7] Gloria Evans Mixon, “RE: Freda Beaulieu.”

[8] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection, CR 375 8, Mississippi State, box 4256, folder 1, image 246, 350, 405-06, 451, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

[9] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection, CR 375 8, Mississippi State, box 4257, folder 1, image 434, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[10] Gloria Evans Mixon, “RE: Samuel and Ardella Magee,” email to W. Paul Reeve, 17 April 2018.

[11] “Earnest M. Magee,” Tri-City Herald, 11 October 1974; see the “Church History” page on the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church website for the list of former reverends, two of whom, Bill Wilkins and Johnny Singleton, are mentioned in Ernest’s obituary as those who would officiate at his funeral (accessed 14 May 2018).

Documents

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