Say My Name

An African-American Family History

The Warren Family

     Families have a character all their own. The Fred Warren family’s character can be depicted as one of extreme. It was either heaven or hell for them. There didn’t seem to be a middle ground. The Church of God in Christ was the cornerstone of the family. Out of the eight sons that lived to adulthood, four became ministers and three of those, pastors. The oldest daughter Thelma is a missionary and an international youth leader in the denomination. The youngest Carolyn received her master’s degree in theology and was an evangelist. The legacy has been passed down to the next generation. Already three of Fred’s grandchildren have become pastors while several of the granddaughters are missionaries.

      Willie Warren became the pastor of his father’s church after his death. He is only one of the sons to have earned a college degree. He earned a doctorate in theology. He has served in many administrative positions in and out of the church, including the promotion of postmaster at Hebron, Indiana.

      Samuel was also called to the ministry but he has been content to support his brother Willie instead of lead. Maybe it was because he so busy working two jobs, one at U.S. Steel and one at Sears, for many, many years. He had the largest family among his siblings with four girls and one son.

      Eddie, a.k.a. Bobby ( he was nicknamed this after his younger brother James could not pronounce Norbert, his middle name) became the bishop his father always wanted to be. He is now bishop of Indiana Third Jurisdiction C.O.G.I.C.

      Ernest has the distinction of being part of a popular “doo wop” music group, the Spaniels, which has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. During the 50’s, the group traveled all around the country. They had one big hit record, “Goodnight , Sweetheart.” However, Ernest is quick to say he was not happy during those times. Now he is a pastor of one of his father’s church.

      The other sons--James, Johnny, Harold and Clarence, led a more tumultuous life. Each one resisted the pull of religious life until late in their lives. Sadly, all of them have passed away.

      Most of the Warren children have been reserved individuals that measured every they said. Their favorite response to most question is “we’ll see. “ They rarely answer yes or no. Even though James and Bobby were less reserved in their behavior, their speech was just as measured. Harold was the exception.

      Harold was called by his middle name Dean. The name was one that was repeated in the Koonce family. I don’t know who was the original one. Harold looked more like a Warren than a Koonce. To me, he seemed to be a lot like the description of his grandfather Ike Warren. Harold was very passionate. He suffered from nose bleeds whenever he got upset or angry and that seemed to be often in his youth. He dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and enlisted in the armed services. He earned his high school diploma there. He was the first adult children of the family to die. In 1976, while racing with his brother Johnny in Hammond, Indiana, Dean hit a utility pole. His son was miraculously unharmed but Dean was not spared. This incident traumatized Johnny for the rest of his life.

      Johnny lived most of his last years of life as a drifter. He never kept a job for a long period. He moved back and forth from different homes and cities. He didn’t start out that way. After high school he enlisted into the Marines and honorably discharged. He married his childhood sweetheart Margaret and together they had two daughters. Unfortunately the marriage didn’t last very long. He married again this time to a woman several years younger. They had three children together before the marriage fell apart. Johnny suffered from alcoholism and was addicted to nicotine. Yet he never lacked for friends or a place to lay his head. He died in 2001 from an aneurysm caused by his cigarette addiction.

      James stopped smoking when he found out it was the cause of his brother’s death. Sadly, it was too late. He developed lung cancer and died in 2004. James was a great charmer. He lived life with great zest. He was the only Warren to find success outside of the religious arena. He became a supervisor at Western Electric and was moved around the country because of his job. He welcomed the moves. He hated living in Gary.

      Unlike James, Clarence was stuck in Gary, eking out a living for his wife and three children. He is the only son that didn’t serve in the armed service. He had great artistic talent but little ambition. Later in his life, Clarence heeded the call to work in the “family business,” the church business. He appeared to have inherited the second sight his mother possessed. His life gained more focus but the damage he did to his body before his call caused his death in 1993.

      Besides Thelma, my mother, there were two other daughters in the family of Posie and Fred. Anita Naomi was born April 14, 1932. Anita looked a lot like her mother. She was very light in complexion with long wavy hair. She battled the bulge all of her life. She also suffered from a middle child complex. Her brothers didn’t help. They teased her constantly. There also was something missing in her relationship with her mother. All these things added to her having very low esteem. She was jealous of her older sister’s marriage because she never married. She was jealous of her younger sister because she was sent to college. On the outside she was proverbial happy fat person. Internally she was very sad and lonely. She died in 1991 after suffering a long illness.

      Carolyn Lolita Adrienne a.k.a. Adrene was the youngest child. She was the beneficiary of her parent’s financial security, something the other children didn’t experience. However, she resented being the “last of the Mohicans” as she was sometimes called. She didn’t like having elderly parents. Still she was the first child to graduate from college. She received her Master’s in Education and worked on her doctorate in theology. She left Gary as soon as she could and made her home in Atlanta, Georgia for over 20 years. She moved back to Gary when she couldn’t take care of herself any more. In 2004 she died six months to the day before her brother James from complications of diabetes and heart problems.

Brothers Clarence, Dean and Johnny take baby sister Adrene for a ride in her stroller. Two unknown friends tag along.

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