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Melvin J. Holley

Genealogist Melvin J. Holley was born on January 27, 1933 in Detroit, Michigan to Ethel Lee Jones Holley and Major Q. Holley and to a family of eight children. Holley attended Higginbotham Elementary School and then transferred to Post Intermediate Academy in 1945 before graduating from Cass Technical High School in 1951. Holley enrolled in Michigan State University and earned his B.A. degree in history in 1996.

In 1953, at the age of twenty, Holley was drafted into the United States Army. He attended the Army Radar School in Texas until 1954 when he was sent to England where he served his first tour of duty. In 1955, Holley returned to the United Sates and worked briefly for the Detroit Department of Street Railways. He joined the Michigan National Guard in October 1956 and served almost four decades as a military technician. Holley retired in 1991 with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4. Holley became interested in genealogy and started pursuing his own family history.

In 2000, administrators at the Lansing Area African American Genealogy Society (LAAAGS) asked Holley to help build their organization into one of national prominence. He urged promotion of the preservation of African American family history and created a forum for sharing data. In addition, Holley hosted seminar discussions such as, “Getting Beyond Myself: An Introduction to African American Genealogy.” He was elected president of the LAAAGS in 2006.

Holley is a member of the Religious Conference Management Association, United Conferences for Men and Greater Lansing Youth for Christ organizations. Holley lives in Lansing, Michigan and is married to Verna Holley. They have three adult children: Mark, Timothy and Millicent.

Melvin Julius Holley was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 29, 2008 and October 23, 2012.

Accession Number

A2008.038

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/29/2008 |and| 10/23/2012

Last Name

Holley

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

J.

Schools

Cass Technical High School

Higginbotham Elementary School

Michigan State University

Loren Post Intermediate School

First Name

Melvin

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

HOL09

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Boule Foundation

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Thy Word Have I Hid In My Heart That I Might Not Sin Against God.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

1/27/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Lansing

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

City transit worker and genealogist Melvin J. Holley (1933 - ) served as president of the Lansing Area African American Genealogical Society.

Employment

Michigan National Guard

Detroit Department of Street Railways

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Lavender

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Melvin J. Holley's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Melvin J. Holley lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Melvin J. Holley describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Melvin J. Holley recalls his first trip to the South

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Melvin J. Holley remembers his relationship with his grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Melvin J. Holley describes his mother's upbringing in Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Melvin J. Holley talks about his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Melvin J. Holley talks about the potential meaning of his father's name

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Melvin J. Holley describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Melvin J. Holley talks about the challenges of his family genealogical research

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Melvin J. Holley describes his father's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Melvin J. Holley talks about his father's occupation

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Melvin J. Holley describes his father's education in Selma, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Melvin J. Holley recalls how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Melvin J. Holley talks about his parents' migration to Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Melvin J. Holley describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Melvin J. Holley remembers his early neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Melvin J. Holley describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Melvin J. Holley describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Melvin J. Holley remembers Berean Tabernacle in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Melvin J. Holley describes the strict rules of his household

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Melvin J. Holley remembers his childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Melvin J. Holley recalls listening to Joe Louis fights

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Melvin J. Holley describes his favorite childhood pastimes

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Melvin J. Holley recalls attending Higginbotham Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Melvin J. Holley describes Post Intermediate School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Melvin J. Holley recalls attending Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Melvin J. Holley remembers graduating from Cass Technical High School

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Melvin J. Holley recalls meeting his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Melvin J. Holley remembers joining the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Melvin J. Holley describes his treatment in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Melvin J. Holley recalls his U.S. Army service in England

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Melvin J. Holley describes his Michigan Army National Guard service

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Melvin J. Holley remembers the 1967 Detroit riots

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Melvin J. Holley recalls his first impressions of Lansing, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Slating of Melvin J. Holley's interview, session 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Melvin J. Holley describes Richard W. Thomas' account of Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Melvin J. Holley talks about the value of oral histories

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Melvin J. Holley recalls his early experiences with oral histories

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Melvin J. Holley remembers an oral history from his paternal grandmother

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Melvin J. Holley describes his history education

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Melvin J. Holley talks about segregation in World War I

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Melvin J. Holley describes his history curriculum at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Melvin J. Holley recalls his father's migration to Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Melvin J. Holley recalls forming the Lansing Area African American Genealogical Society

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Melvin J. Holley talks about the founding members of the Lansing Area African American Genealogical Society

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Melvin J. Holley describes Lansing Area African American Genealogical Society's mission

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Melvin J. Holley talks about the value of state and city records

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Melvin J. Holley describes the Lansing Area African American Genealogical Society's activities

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Melvin J. Holley talks about his research into Lansing native Andrew Dungey

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Melvin J. Holley describes the history of Lansing's Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Melvin J. Holley talks about the Dungey family

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Melvin J. Holley describes the necessity of oral history in genealogical research

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Melvin J. Holley talks about the inquisitive nature of genealogical research

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Melvin J. Holley describes his research concerning the Prince Hall Masons

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Melvin J. Holley talks about lingering questions from his research

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Melvin J. Holley describes his research on six prominent Lansing families

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Melvin J. Holley talks about the plans for the Lansing Area African American Genealogical Society's tenth anniversary

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Melvin J. Holley describes the Lansing Area African American Genealogical Society's research priorities

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Melvin J. Holley describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Melvin J. Holley reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Melvin J. Holley reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Melvin J. Holley describes his family

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Melvin J. Holley talks about his spirituality

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Melvin J. Holley describes his siblings

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Melvin J. Holley recalls a family reunion

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Melvin J. Holley remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Melvin J. Holley describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Melvin J. Holley narrates his photographs

DASession

2$2

DATape

4$5

DAStory

4$2

DATitle
Melvin J. Holley recalls his early experiences with oral histories
Melvin J. Holley talks about the founding members of the Lansing Area African American Genealogical Society
Transcript
Was this your first experien- experience with oral history?$$No. Within our, our immediate family. I lived during the summers between eight and six up to about twelve with my [paternal] grandmother [Sophia Purdie], who had been born in North Carolina. And for some reason, she would tell me things that my other brothers and sisters just could not recollect or had no interest in. I learned things about my grandmother, which were just unknown to me. My father [Major Holley, Sr.] had come to Detroit [Michigan] in about 1914, 1915, and so there were a great number of things that I did not know, other than in quizzing my older brothers and sisters. So it was, it was helpful to me, to find out where she was born, when she was born, and a, a little bit about conditions within her immediate family, which of course affected my father and subsequently myself.$The others were seeing one another, meeting one another in, you know, other--like, Mrs. Jackson [Carrie Baptiste Jackson], her husband [Maxie C. Jackson] is at the university [Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan]. She's doing genealogical studies out of Louisiana more for her husband's family than her own. And because of Louisiana, there were the baptistery records that are required in the Catholic church and what have you. And she found that she was able to trace back to others, and she, she shared that with the others. Ms. Lipscomb [Mary Agnes Lipscomb] is originally from Alabama, but she knew that the family had moved to Missouri. But she didn't know the family members, just her immediate family. Ms. Henderson [Brenda Henderson], similar in, you know. So they're all doing their own thing and then find out some of these things that we're trying to find out, each of them are having to go the same way. Someone said well, why not have one group and help others to do the same kinds of things.$$Okay, okay, now that's what I'm trying--okay.$$And, and now, Mr. Howard [Wilbur Howard] didn't have the, the, I'll say the necessary writing skills, but he had a very interesting story with his family, part of which came out of slavery at the end of slavery, and what happened to bring them from South Carolina into Michigan. When you look at--many people, they are able to say, yes, my family also came from point A and end up point B. Why? It could be employment; it could be the betterment within a society; it could be the education of their children. And so that what LAAAGS [Lansing Area African American Genealogical Society, Lansing, Michigan] was attempting to do, is to gather people with research and, and provide a forum, you know, to help educate and also to stimulate the writing of family histories.