Alexander Berkeley Carrington

Alexander Berkeley Carrington image

Alexander Berkeley Carrington (January 27, 1862 – January 26, 1936) was an outstanding representative of the great tobacco interests centered in Danville. A most outstanding and valuable citizen, he was active at one time or another in the directorship of almost every worthwhile civic, educational and philanthropic organization in Danville. His family left a large, financial legacy in trust which continues to benefit the people of this area

Born in Farmville, Virginia, he was the son of Rev. Alexander Brodnax Carrington and his first wife, Fannie Venable. His father was educated at Washington College, served four years as chaplain in Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s Corps during the Civil War, gave almost a lifetime to the service of the Presbyterian Church, and died in 1912 at the age of seventy-seven. His grandfather, Paul S. Carrington, was from the distinguished Carrington family which exerted a continuous influence in the affairs of the state since early Colonial times. Southside Virginia contains many black Carrington families which probably stem from associations with the white Carrington family.

In 1878 at age sixteen, Carrington came to Danville to work for his uncle, Paul C. Venable, a leaf tobacco dealer and later was employed by Pace and Talbott. The 1880 census shows him listed as Alex Carrington, 19, “clerk in tobacco factory,” living on Patton Street in Danville. During his lifetime, he was known by a number of names: Alex, Alexander B., A. Berkley, and by his initials, A. B. Because he held the rank of Colonel on the staff of Governor Montague, he was often referred to as Col. Carrington for the rest of his life.

In the early 1890s, after the death of Alfonso Dibrell, Carrington became associated with R. L. Dibrell and H. Lee Boatwright as a partner in Dibrell Brothers. For a brief period, he left the Dibrell firm to go with the Duke interests in Durham, N. C., but soon came back to Danville to again enter the business known as Dibrell Bros. with Messrs. Dibrell and Boatwright. This firm eventually became one of the best known independent leaf tobacco dealers in the world.

After R. L. Dibrell’s death, Carrington became president of Dibrell Bros. in 1915, serving in that position until his health failed shortly before his death. Under his leadership, the firm grew in size and profitability to become one of the largest of Virginia’s important tobacco companies. In the development of the business, he crossed the ocean to Europe more than thirty times while at home he aided in creation of more than a dozen tobacco companies throughout the South as subsidiaries of Dibrell Bros., Inc.

Carrington married Mary Miller Taylor (August 20, 1861 – August 7, 1944), daughter of Albert G. and Eliza (Burks) Taylor in 1891. The couple had four children: Paul S. Carrington (May 31, 1893 – August 22, 1894), named for his great grandfather, Alexander Berkley Carrington, Jr., (January 26, 1895 – July 20, 1974), who became President of Dibrell Bros., Inc., Mary Taylor Carrington (January 23, 1898 – September 1987) who married Dr. Charles Young Bidgood (April 27, 1897 – March 1982), and who lived in West Hartford, Connecticut, before returning to Danville after the death of her husband. Mary had a son, B. Carrington Bidgood, who became a vice-president of Dibrell Brothers and lived at Dans Hill; Charles Venable Carrington (January 8, 1903 – December 22,1977) married Virginia Orgain (February 8, 1900 – September 28, 1974) and lived and died in Cascade, Virginia. Charles and Virginia had three children: Anne Mortimer Carrington (June 22, 1930 – March 25, 1931), a daughter who died in infancy (January 18, 1933) and Charles Venable Carrington, Jr. who survived them.

Charles, a member of Cascade Presbyterian Church, was self-employed as a horticulturist before his retirement. Charles, Virginia and their two daughters are buried in Highland Burial Park. Many of the other Carringtons are buried in Green Hill Cemetery.

The A. B. Carrington family lived at 622 Holbrook Avenue on the corner of Gray Street in a house which still stands although it is currently in poor condition. The house was built by Carrington’s uncle, Paul C. Venable, who lived in the house with his family until it was sold to Carrington in 1898. After Carrington’s death, his wife Mary continued to live in the house until her death in 1943, after which it was sold to the trustees of Lee Street Baptist Church in 1944.

Five years later, Albert P. Maurakis purchased the house and converted it into apartments which became known as the Terry Apartments. Behind the house stands a brick garage where Carrington kept his automobile and where his black chauffer lived. The Carringtons employed black servants for many years, at one time having a cook, two house servants and a chauffer.

A. B. Carrington served for many years as a member of City Council and as chairman of the School Board of the city. A member of the Board of Directors of the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce and a former president of the Danville Chamber of Commerce, he was a president of the Tobacco Association of the United States and a member of the Board of Trustees of Hampden-Sidney College. He was a director of the First National Bank of Danville and served as chairman of its Board of Directors.

He was president of the Masonic Building Corporation from the time of its founding until his death, serving during the construction in 1921 of the eleven-story Masonic Temple at the corner of Main and South Union Streets, which still stands, and which survived during the Great Depression of the 1930s because of his financial support and guidance.

Carrington was a Past Master of Morotock Masonic Lodge No. 210 and later a member of Roman Eagle Masonic Lodge No. 122 as was his son, A. B. Carrington, Jr. He was also a member of the York and Scottish Rites of Masonry and a Shriner. Chairman of the Boards of Memorial Hospital and Hughes Memorial Home, he was also a director of First National Bank of Danville and chairman of its board. For three years, he was president of the Y.M.C.A. and for twenty years or more was one of its directors, giving generously of his time and means to its work. A member of the First Presbyterian Church, he was the first citizen to receive the Kiwanis Citizenship Award given each year to the citizen chosen as Danville’s outstanding community servant.

Alexander Berkeley Carrington, Jr.

Alexander Berkeley Carrington, Jr. image

Alexander Berkeley Carrington, Jr., who went by his middle name, Berkeley, followed in his father’s footsteps. He graduated from the Danville School for Boys at age 16 in the spring of 1911 and accompanied his father on a trip to Europe before entering Hampden-Sydney College in the fall. On the trip, the Carringtons went by train to New York where, before sailing, they visited the offices of the American Tobacco Company, with which the elder Carrington had been connected for some years. They met James Buchanan Duke, then deeply involved in trying to reconstitute the elements of the American Tobacco Company which President Theodore Roosevelt’s trust-busters had ordered broken up. The younger Carrington wrote in his account of the journey, “On Wednesday, the 19th, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Duke, the President of the A.T. Co., and the big financial bug.”

After graduating from Hampden-Sydney with an A.B. degree, he entered the University of Virginia earning a Master of Arts degree in 1917. While at the University, he played football as a quarterback. Upon graduation, he entered the army with a commission in the Coast Artillery Corps. His unit, attached to the American Expeditionary forces, was shipped to France where he saw action on the Western Front and was promoted to captain.

Returning from the war, Berkeley entered Dibrell Brothers where he was given the lowest and dirtiest job that could be found in the factory, screening sand and trash from tobacco bought on the South Carolina markets. He began learning from the bottom up. By 1922 he was sent out on the warehouse floors of major Southern marketing centers as a buyer. He bought tobacco for five years, then was made supervisor of buyers in 1927.

Within ten years of being sent on the warehouse floor, he was made a corporate officer by election as assistant secretary in 1932, then served as vice-president during 1935-1936 and was elected President succeeding his father in 1936. Over the next 32 years, he served 16 years as president and 16 as chairman of the board from 1951 to 1968. He was a past president of the Leaf Tobacco Exporters Association and the Tobacco Association of the United States, becoming prominent in promoting the export of U. S. tobaccos throughout the world.

Berkeley Carrington served on the board of directors of Dan River and Riverside Cotton Mills for 30 years—longer than any other individual. His service as a director spanned the growth of the textile company from a strictly Danville enterprise into a major textile group with factories in several states and a world-wide sales organization. Serving on the board of directors of American National Bank and Trust Company from 1925 or 1926, he became chairman from 1949 to 1970 and afterward served as honorary life chairman until his death. For a number of years, he served as chairman of the board of Mutual Savings and Loan Association.

A trustee of Hampden-Sydney College for many years, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from that institution in 1942. As a promoter of higher education, he was a trustee of Stratford College, Danville’s Memorial Hospital and a director of the Student Aid foundation of the University of Virginia. In religious matters, he was a member of First Presbyterian Church of Danville and served as a church trustee.

A. Berkeley Carrington, Jr. married Ruth Simpson of Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1920, but they had no children who survived them. Mrs. Carrington often joined her husband on the 34 trips to England, Ireland, Scotland, Europe and Africa which he made promoting the use of flue-cured tobaccos during his 50 years of active participation in the Dibrell firm. The Averett University president’s home at 500 Hawthorne Drive was acquired from the estate of Mrs. A. B. Carrington, Jr.

No streets in Danville bear the Carrington name, but there are many structures to which the Carrington Trust has made important contributions as well as many for which contributions from the Trust have been made anonymously. The trust, funded by Carrington family estates, has been administered by the Trust Department of American National Bank and Trust Company. Some of the structures which bear the Carrington name are the Carrington Pavilion at the Crossing at the Dan, the Carrington Conference Center on Bridge Street within the DIMON complex, and The Carrington Child Development Center on the Danville Community College campus. The Carrington Pavilion is located on a site which was once part of the Richmond and Danville rail yard in 1856.

In 1979 the Danville Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department reclaimed the vacant site for a public park and amphitheater. In 1981 the first World Tobacco Auctioneering Championship was held there leading to the name Auctioneer’s Park. In the early Twenty-first Century, the park was beautifully renovated into the Carrington Pavilion, an outdoor amphitheater with over 1,184 covered seats and 5,000 in lawn seating. Parks and Recreation officials initiated its first concert season in 2003.

The Pavilion has been the home of 4th of July concerts, the Harvest Jubilee, and numerous plays, concerts and other community functions. The trust has also been a contributor to the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research as well as to many other worthwhile projects which continue to enrich the lives of Danville citizens. Thus, although Col. A. B. Carrington has been deceased for over seventy years, his influence and that of his family are still being felt in the city.