‘She is a very strong woman’: Wife of prominent Dayton civil rights activist celebrates 100th birthday

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‘She is a very strong woman’: Wife of prominent Dayton civil rights activist celebrates 100th birthday

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W.S. McIntosh at a birthday celebration with his son, J.W. McIntosh and wife, Charlene McIntosh.

Charline McIntosh did more than stand by her man. 

The Dayton woman — a transplant from Little Rock, Ark. like her larger-than-life husband — knows a lot about the turmoil and heartache that often came with being married to a passionate, fearless man committed to civil rights in the 50s and 60s.

Even before W.S. McIntosh died trying to stop a robbery attempt, Tynnetta McIntosh said her grandmother faced a long list of adversity that included her home being set ablaze after her husband tried to calm tensions during the 1966 West Dayton riots. 

J.W. McIntosh, Tynnetta’s father and W.S. and Charline’s only child, was so shunned due to his father’s work that he gave way his belongings to win friends.

W.S. McIntosh in a photo dated 1961 by George Adams, Journal Herald.

Not even every black Daytonian in 1950s and 1960s wanted W.S. McIntosh to rock the boat, Elba McIntosh, Tynnetta’s mother and the ex-wife of the late J.W. McIntosh, recalled.  

She guessed that Charline would have loved an easier life. 

“A lot of people didn’t appreciate it (the push for civil rights) and felt a little uncomfortable about it,” Elba said. “The fact is that she stuck by him through it.” 

Charline (sometimes spelled Charlene) McIntosh’s 100 birthday was celebrated on Sunday, August 6, 2017 at Genesis HealthCare at the Forest View Center in Trotwood.

Trotwood Mayor Mary A. McDonald read a proclamation honoring McIntosh, a former real estate agent, on her birthday.

Photo dated Oct. 27, 1967 captioned: W.S. McIntosh and his son and Daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. J. WQ. McIntosh, wait outside Criminal Court. They pleaded not guilty to varying charges and were released on their own recognizance. Staff Photos by Phil Greer."

Jessie O. Gooding, a former president of Dayton’s NAACP, former Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin, Dayton City Commissioner Chris Shaw and State Senator Peggy Lehner were among those thanked as part of the program. 

Tynnetta McIntosh called her grandmother the loving backbone of the family and of her grandfather’s civil rights work.

“She really sort of organized in the background. W.S. was the public face,” Tynnetta said. “I think she is probably an unsung hero.”

Photo of Charlene McIntosh, W.S. McIntosh’s widow, in a Dayton park named in her husband's honor. She stands with her granddaughter, Tynnetta Mcintosh.

The McIntosh name is celebrated in the Dayton area despite of the sorrow it suffered. 

In recognition of his work, the Dayton City Commission renamed Riverview Park the W.S. McIntosh Park in 1996.

The W. S. McIntosh Memorial Leadership Award at the University of Dayton is awarded annually to Dayton minority students to cover tuition and other costs.

As a child, Tynnetta McIntosh, now JPMorgan Chase’s New York-based director of corporate internal communications, said she remembers her grandfather being stopped on the street by admirers and getting into heated debates about the plight of Dayton’s black residents. 

The caption of this photo dated Dec. 22 read: "(W.S.) McIntosh plays Santa for granddaughter Tunnetta (actually Tynnetta) (R). Girl on the left is Denise Killingsworth_ Photo by Steinbrunner. The headline read: "No Racial Overtones."

“I grew up knowing he was active and he focused on making sure black people had the same opportunity as everyone else,” she said. 

Still, she did not fully grasp the depth of her grandfather’s  work or her grandmother’s sacrifice until she started cleaning out her grandmother’s Thistle Drive home to move her to the nursing home a three years ago. 

“She kept everything,” Tynnetta said.

Article about W.S. McIntosh featuring the Dayton civil rights leaders widow Charline McIntosh.

She found everything from notes her grandmother took as secretary of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) — her grandfather was the group’s executive director — to a recording of a song wrote in her grandfather’s honor.

Many of the McIntosh documents have been give to Dayton History at Carillon Historical Park. 

File W.S. McIntosh picketing at Lincoln Field Saving and Loan June 26, 1964. Photo by Ron Manson.

Having a grandfather involved in helping open up opportunities for blacks in Dayton had an impact on Tynnetta’s life. 

She is involved in arts organizations that focus on diversity like the Sphinx Organization. 

“They never really had much, but it shows that one person can make a difference,” Tynetta said. “I do my best to make them proud of me.”

WHAT DID THE TROUBLEMAKER DO?

May 1969 photo captioned: "W.S. McIntosh at the start of the march to Good Sam. "Photo: Roberts.

Labeled a troublemaker by some and investigated as a communist in 1952 by the Ohio Un-American Activities Committee, the man born Walter Sumpter McIntosh and known to many as “Mac” established the West Side Citizens Council in 1955 and used it to protest discriminatory hiring practices in West Dayton markets and banks.

Charline McIntosh (center) with her granddaughter, Tynnetta McIntosh and former daughter-in-law Elba McIntosh

McIntosh rallied against clothing stores and and the A&P grocery on West Third Street for their hiring practices.

As executive director of Dayton’s CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) chapter and a business owner, McIntosh helped organize the 1963 picket against Rike-Kumler Co. to get blacks better jobs in the downtown store.

After protests and boycotts, Rike’s and other downtown stores began hiring blacks as clerks and salespeople.

Photo dated Aug. 5, 1965 captioned "Sumpter McIntosh (R) gathers the people (about 50) in front of the Municipal building at Third and Ludlow streets after the commission meeting was over. Staff photo by Bill Koehler. The following sentence appeared n the paper: W.S. McIntosh with pickets at Municipal Building. When they got there, commission room as bare.

HOW DID W.S. MCINTOSH DIE?

Along with their son J.W. and daughter-in-law Elba, the McIntoshs opened the House of Knowledge, an afrocentric gift and book shop, in the Westown Shopping Center in 1967. 

A House of Knowledge store later opened on South Main Street, making it the first black-owned business downtown, said Elba, a St. Thomas, Virgin Island-born University of Dayton graduate.

Elba said her father-in-law and husband were arrested on open day for disturbing the peace after they played a Malcolm X speech.   

W.S. McIntosh is rushed to a Dayton Fire Department ambulance after he was shot down trying to stop two robbery suspects on the sidewalk, west said of South Main Street between Third and Fourth streets on March 5, 1974. (note: fire department did not have paramedics at the that time)

On March 4, 1974,  McIntosh was killed in front of neighboring Green Jewelry Co. as he stood in the way of robbers fleeing Harry Potasky Jewelers, 42 S. Main St. 

Then 16-year-old Derek Farmer and his 18-year-old nephew Calvin Farmer had pistol-whipped the store’s 81-year-old owner Harry Potasky during the robbery attempt.

Later that day, Dayton police Sgt. William K. Mortimer was killed in the Dunbar Manor housing complex trying to arrest the suspects. Mortimer saved two children who were in the line of fire.

Interviewed in 2014, Charline said her husband was passionate about his beliefs. 

Her family said that at 100, she no longer hears well enough to be interviewed, but has a strong mind. 

Drawing of Dayton civil rights leader W.S. McIntosh.

“He was trying to help people,” she said in that brief 2014 interview. 

Elba now calls San Francisco home but was in Dayton for the party for Charline, who is called Boo Boo by family members.

Elba said her father-in-law was entrenched in civil rights and that made a huge impact on her life. 

She recalled how H. Rap Brown, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s, was hiding from police in the basement of the Riverview Avenue home the family shared.  

Elba grew a huge afro, much to the chagrin of her own father in predominantly black Saint Thomas, where race relations were much different than in the U.S. 

Elba McIntosh divorced J.W. when her daughter was 10 and her son Damien was just 2. She raised the children in St. Thomas, but they often visit Dayton. 

Photo of Charlene McIntosh, W.S. McIntosh’s widow, and her granddaughter, Tynnetta Mcintosh.

Elba said civil rights was more of .W.S’ passion, but it was Charline’s support that helped him push through and accomplish his goals.  

“She is a very strong woman. As you can see, she is still around,” Elba said.  

Poster made for Charline McIntosh's 100 birthday. She is the wife of Dayton civil rights leader W.S. McIntosh.
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