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Association History


Thomas Woodson Family Association History

By Alan Jones

(Extracted from the Oct 2002 newsletter)

One of the questions I have heard often is where and when did the Thomas  Woodson Family Association start.  The real answer is sometimes in 1805, probably in Greenbrier, Virginia (now West Virginia) with the marriage of Thomas and Jemima.  But the Association as we know it found its origins in May 1945 when Ada Highgate (Lewis 4) a great granddaughter of Thomas and Jemima Woodson died intestate with a sizeable personal fortune.  Ada had no surviving children, siblings, nieces nor nephews. Her first cousins, the surviving grandchildren of Lewis Woodson were determined to be her closest relatives and they selected Howard Dilworth Woodson (Lewis 4) to represent them in settling the affairs of the Highgate family.  In pursuit of his duties Howard did extensive research of the Woodson family to ensure an equitable distribution of AdaHighgate’s estate. 

Howard made copious notes of his research and these notes aroused the curiosity of his daughter-in-law Minnie Shumate Woodson.  Minnie continued her father-in-law’s work and developed contacts with Woodson’s all over the United States, meticulously tracing their ancestry and documenting connections for those that were descendants of Thomas Woodson. Through her commitment and diligence Minnie was able to document all eleven of the children (Lines) of Thomas and Jemima including their spouses and most of their children.   Four of the eleven lines were traced right down to contemporary Woodson’s.   

 In 1975 while living in Herndon Virginia, a suburb of Washington I had the fortune of meeting with   Minnie and her husband John.  We discussed Minnie’s research of the Woodson Family.  Over the ensuing  years  we remained in contact  and I shared with her the information  which I  had received  from my  mother Edith Byrd Woodson

There is a long history of Woodson regional and family groups holding local reunions but in 1978. encouraged  by Minnie’s revelations of the existence of so many living  Woodson’s, a group of Woodson’s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, notably the Etheridge’s, Golden’s, Jones’ and Woodson’s sponsored the first reunion of  all descendants of Thomas and Jemima Woodson in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 


Family members were so enthusiastic about  the 1978 Pittsburgh reunion  that others  were held.  In 1980 the family  met in Austin, Texas, in 1982 in Washington, DC and in 1984 in Columbus, Ohio.  The scheduling and location of the reunions were determined on the basis of which group would sponsor it  and  the date most convenient to the sponsoring group.  Several of the family were a little concerned about  the haphazard manner in which the reunion  site  and dates were being selected.  They also felt that there should be a stated purpose for the reunions and that the family  should develop  family  objectives. 

In view of these  concerns I met with Minnie  and  several other family members including her  husband  John,  John Q King, Logan Wiley and  Edgar F Love.  During this  meeting  we formulated an agenda for the family which included  establishing a formal national family organization with some broad but meaningful goals and objectives.  The national organization was to be composed of groups based on family or regional affiliation.  And the goals and objectives were designed to perpetuate the reunions, get more Woodson’s involved in serious study of the family and to instill an even greater pride of family.

The group managed to assemble all 1984 reunion attendees at a meeting  to consider the group’s proposal for an association with affiliated  regional or family  groups.  After considerable discussion, debate and some  revision of the original proposal the matter was put to vote  and unanimously  approved. This resolution by the General Membership in July 1984 marked the establishment of the Thomas Woodson Family Association.

Edgar Forrest Love (Francis 5)   was elected  Charter President of the Association and served from July 1984 to July 1986.  During this period  a lot of  the  basic organizational  tasks  were  carried out.  A draft constitution and  by laws  were developed and the geographic regions  were designated Edgar was followed by William Donald  Woodson (William 6) Bill served as President  from 1986 to 1988.

John Stanton Woodson (Lewis5)  served  from 1988 to 1990 and was instrumental in  getting  the  Association  incorporated.  A major  step toward national recognition. 

Alan Reid Jones (Lewis 6) was  elected  to succeed John  and served as president  from 1990 to 1992.  In 1992 I  had  the honor,  (with no small assist from Robert Cooley and Minnie Woodson), to lead the  family  up  the Mountain  for our historic return  to Monticello in 1992.  I use the term  return  for  many of us  had heard  so much of Miss Sally and the Mr. Tom  that it was indelibly sketched in our minds. In a letter to Daniel Jordan following  the visit,  I thanked him  and  through him  the  staff at Monticello for  having  so  graciously  received the  family  but  I also  mentioned  the  families  disappointment  in  among other things, no mention of   Thomas  Woodson  and  lack of  recognition for  all that the black slaves  did to make Monticello what it  was.

James Thomas  Wiley (Lewis 6) held the reigns from 1992 to 1994.  Jim solidified the Association’s relations with Monticello. I like to  believe that the work  during  James’ tenure  played a role in  Monticello  starting the  Getting the Word  program.. 

Robert Henry Cooley, III,  (Lewis 7) held the Presidents office during the period 1996 to 1998.  Bob was outspoken in his belief in the family's  oral tradition and his proximity to Monticello gave him a good platform to advance this tradition and the recognition of the Woodson Association.

Bob was succeeded by Robert C Golden (Lewis 6) who served during 1998-2000, His term was  discussed  on a previous page.

Ruth Jane Cassel Faithful (Francis 6)  was president from 1994 to 1996.  Jane  made  a special contribution in that she gave the association a heart by                                                                                                                                                                          

instilling in  the membership an even stronger  feeling of family. She also increased the family's involvement   in the Cassel  Center and the Woodson Cemetery.  She was active in and got the Ohio Woodson’s involved in   the administration and management of this Berlin Crossroads activity which is so crucial to our history.

Many of the family  have  played a part in the Association, but no story of the Association is complete without mention of Logan William Wiley (Lewis 6) and his wife Clemmie who have been two of the most active supporters of the Association from its inception. Their support has been one of  deed as well as word and the family is most grateful for their contribution.