The Orr Family

Though obituaries are a record of death, they bring back the color of life to a person who we might not have otherwise had much information on. This is certainly the case for the children of Alfonso and Geneva Orr.

Alfonso was born in 1902 in Scotia, South Carolina, and though not much is known about him via online records, I could find that by the 1950 census he was a Pullman porter for the railroad. According to this article:

The black community looked up to Pullman porters and many people credit them as significant contributors to the development of America’s black middle class. Black historian and civil-rights activist Timuel Black observed in a 2013 interview:

[The Pullman porters] were good looking, clean and immaculate in their dress. Their style was quite manly, their language was carefully crafted, so that they had a sense of intelligence about them. They were good role models for young men … [B]eing a Pullman porter was a prestigious position because it offered a steady income and an opportunity to travel across the country, which was rare for [Black people] at that time.

Alfonso’s wife, Geneva Zenobia Marks Orr was born in 1900 in Savannah. According to directories, she and Alfonso made their life together at 724 W. Victory Dr. Though I couldn’t find a lot of information about Alfonso or Geneva, it was apparent that they raised some remarkable children, Alphonso Jr., Vera, Earle, and Jean.

According to his obituary, Dr. Alphonso Orr Jr.:

“Received a B.S. Degree from Georgia State College (Majoring in Biologic Sciences and Minoring in Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics), an M.S. Degree from New York University in Physiological Sciences (Biochemistry and Endocrinology), an M.S. Degree from Fordham University (Microbiology); a Ph.D. from St. John’s University in Doctoral Biomedical Sciences (Neurophysiological Science); and a D.Sc. from the Society of Neuroscience, British Brain Research Society (Biomedical Sciences).

‘Uncle Al’ was a pioneering scientist who focused his research and analysis on the brain. He worked for a number of prestigious organizations and institutions in the New York area…”

Vera Louise Orr Thomas’s life, according to her obituary, was touched by being an educator:

“Her professional educational career began as an English teacher in Glenville, Georgia immediately after college graduation. After her marriage to Malcolm Thomas, Sr., she taught high school English and Social Studies in Reidsville, Georgia. In 1950, she returned to Savannah and taught at several schools including DeRenne Elementary School, Hubert Middle School, and Sol C. Johnson High School before retiring from L. S. Shuman Middle School in 1983.”

According to his obituary, Dr. Earle Lawton Orr:

“…Received his early education at St. Mary’s Catholic School and was a graduate of Alfred E. Beach School Class of 1951. He received his B.S. Degree from North, Carolina A&T and a Masters Degree in Chemistry from Adelphi University and his MD Degree from Meharry Medical School. He did his residency at Forest City Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.

He was a Practicing Physician (OGBYN) in Chicago, Illinois for 29 years and returned South where he lived on Hilton Head Island until recently moving to Bluffton, SC. He was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He was also a member of the Savannah Chapter of National Guardsman, and the Falcons.”

Jean Delores Orr Shorter was quite worldly, according to her obituary:

“She went on to further her undergraduate and graduate studies at UCLA in Los Angeles, California. She is a retired educator in the District of Columbia. She was a librarian at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California. For many years, Jean pursued real estate development in the District of Columbia. She was an avid tennis player. Jean was the Bonvivant of the family, dedicating her life to their well-being. She had an international existence, living in the Congo and the Philippines. Throughout the years, Jean maintained friendships with citizens of the Philippines and Africa. Her home was the ‘meeting place’ for global visitors.”

Alfonso’s burial slot card for LGS
Alfonso’s plot purchase record from 1924
Alfonso’s WWII draft card

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