Say My Name

An African-American Family History

Fred and Posie Warren


As long as Wilma Warren Bradshaw could remember, Fred Warren was in her life. Before Fred’s father Ike died, he asked his oldest son Edgar, Wilma’s father, to take Fred in and look out for him. For a while Wilma thought Fred was her big brother. She recalled how he would play his guitar for the “big people. “ They would all be dancing and having a good time. It made her upset when she was forbidden to join them because she was too young.

      When he was 21, Fred started his own family. He married the love of his life, Posie. A daughter, Thelma (my mother) was born to them right away. Posie’s own grandmother Susan delivered the baby. After that birth Susan pronounced that Posie would not be able to bear any more children. She couldn’t have been more wrong. Posie found herself pregnant nearly every year of her child bearing age. She had 16 pregnancies of which 12 children were born alive. Her first three children were born in Maury City, Tennessee. The second child born was Fred Jr. Unfortunately, he died in infancy from scarlet fever. He is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana. The third to be born was also a boy. He was named Willie after Posie’s father.

      After Willie was born, Fred moved his family up north to Gary. Carolyn Warren said the move was made because of Posie’s prodding. Posie claimed she didn’t want her children “growing up, sitting in a field being bit by flies.” Fred’s older half-brother Ester Wilkins was already living up north. This most likely made the move easier. But he wasn’t alone. Between 1916 and 1919, over 500.000 Blacks left the south to move to the “promised land.” In the 1920’s, an additional 800,000 plus made the move. So many moved during this time that it has been called the ‘Great Migration." Blacks faced great prejudice in the south. The promise of a better life free from bigotry and economic hardship beckoned them north. However, the life that they found there  was far from perfect. To add to their problems, the Great Depression followed the Great Migration.

      In the middle of the depression, Fred was called to the ministry. His family had increased by two. Work was hard to find. Yet Fred heeded the call. In 1932 he rented a storefront and began a church under the denomination of Church of God in Christ. This was not a popular denomination and was the brunt of much ridicule. People called the members "holy rollers" and "sanctified."  Fred's small church aroused much curiosity from the neighboring residents. Although the congregation included only his family and two other women from out of state, Fred did not give up. He prayed, sang, played his guitar and ministered to whomever was around.

      The years passed. Fred fathered seven more children and  two more churches, one in Kingsford Heights, Indiana and one in Indianapolis. He was appointed to several positions in the hierarchy of the Church of God in Christ although he never achieved his dream of becoming a church bishop.

      His first church grew. It was nicknamed the Power House because of its dynamic membership. Fred was a quiet reserved man until he stepped up to the pulpit. Then his voice would boom. His sermons and his songs rang out with all the passion he felt for his calling and his Lord. Back at home he was stern and a man of few words. One son claimed he could never remember his father hugging him or telling him he loved him. Other children remember the spankings they got for “disputing his word.” In the pulpit he could tell stories that made his church laugh and cry. At home he was a figure of unwavering authority and discipline.

      As much as he loved the church, he also loved his “Doll” Posie. Posie nurtured her family with all the warmth that may have been missing from Fred. She talked to her children, teaching them and telling them stories about her life. They believed she had the gift of clairvoyance because she seemed to know things about them without their disclosure. She often predicted dire consequences for her children if they didn’t heed her word and more often than not her predictions came true.

      Posie possessed a country wisdom and sweet frankness. She believed in telling the truth. Even though she didn’t honey-coat her observations, it was always well received because there was never any malice behind them.

      In the 50’s, Fred became a full time pastor, leaving his job in the mill. In 1957 he was finally able to buy a brand new home for his wife and remaining children. During the 60’s, the large family which now included many grandchildren, would gather at the home on Polk Street to celebrate the holidays. During the summer holidays, the family would play softball across the street on the grounds of Lincoln Elementary school. At Christmas, the family crammed into the house, overflowing from room to room. Posie cooked for them all. The highlight of the evening was watching Posie guess what was in the gift box before she opened it. She was usually able to “foretell” it no matter how her children tried to trick her.

      Amid the happiness, there were also tragedies. On a trip to the national convocation of the Church of God in Christ, Fred accidentally hit and killed a young child. In 1977, Fred’s own son Harold was killed in a car accident. Earlier in 1970, while Posie was hospitalized for various ailments, Fred was struck down by a paralyzing stroke. The stress of caring for his wife, the church, and working toward completing a new building for worship was too much on him as his age.

      This was a great blow to Fred. All of his adult life he had been the responsible one. He was the one others leaned on. Now he had to lean on others for the basest of needs. It left him in tears wondering why. He was a man of faith who had prayed for the sick and now his own prayer for deliverance was not being answered. But even in his darkest hour, he did not give up on God nor his church. With impaired speech, from a wheelchair, he continued to pastor his church and build the temple. In 1975, Warren Temple was dedicated before a large crowd of members and friends.

      Three years later in February, 1978, Fred passed away. This left Posie alone with her thoughts and memories of her life with her husband. She talked about him constantly. One year and one month later, she joined him.

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