Dr Helen Chavis Othow, beloved author, university professor and sister of the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Dr Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., died at the age of 89 on January 1, 2022 in Oxford, North Carolina.
A lover of reading, writing and history, Dr. Othow obtained her doctorate. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and specializes in Black Studies and African, African-American and Caribbean literature.
She also studied Elizabethan and medieval literature, and her dissertation, “The New Decorum: Moral Perspectives from Black Literature,” was published in the Library of Congress.
Dr Othow presented “Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali by DT Niane”, which illustrated his appreciation and knowledge of African culture.
She expressed the desire to impart knowledge to all citizens of the world.
“My sister was also a freedom fighter,” noted Dr Chavis.
“The Chavis family has fought for freedom, justice and equality for 250 years in America and Africa.”
Born April 21, 1932 in Oxford, North Carolina, Dr Othow was the daughter of Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Sr; a Prince Hall mason and director of African-American child care facilities; and Elisabeth R. Chavis, a writer and public school teacher for 65 years.
A municipal park in Raleigh, North Carolina, is named after his educator ancestor, John Chavis (1763-1838).
Beloved scholar Dr. Othow also received a BA from St. Augustine’s College and an MA from Central North Carolina University.
She eventually became head of the English department at St. Augustine’s College.
She was also widely acclaimed and respected as a conscientious scholar dedicated to enhancing excellence in the literary and other arts. Dr Othow has also taught at the following Historically Black Universities and Universities (HBCUs): Howard University, Johnson C. Smith University, North Carolina Central University, Hampton University and Jackson State University.
Dr Othow pushed for understanding of African American history, including educating his students and others about John Chavis, who fought in the War of Independence and became an educator who taught some of the leaders most influential people in North Carolina.
Dr. Othow is survived by her daughter, Ajulonyodier Elisabeth Othow, her brother, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., and her sisters, Dr. La Rhoda Francine Chavis, MD and Carol Faye Paton, as well as a host of other parents .
Dr Othow’s funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST on Saturday, January 8 at the Chavis Family Cemetery in Oxford, North Carolina.
Here is the official obituary for Dr Helen Chavis Othow:
Dr Helen Chavis Othow
April 21, 1932 – January 1, 2022
Dr. Helen Chavis Othow was born to the late Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Sr. and Mrs. Elisabeth Ridley Chavis on April 21, 1932. She passed away on January 1, 2022. She was the second of four children: her sisters, the late Mrs. June Chavis Davenport and Dr. LaRhoda Francine Chavis and her brother, the Reverend Dr. Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr.
Growth and service
She was raised in a loving home and attended St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in Oxford, North Carolina since her childhood, where she was a member of the choir, altars guild, and vestry. She attended Oxford Public Schools, Angier B. Duke Primary School, and graduated from Mary Potter High School in 1948.
As a lifelong teacher, she wanted her church to become more involved with schools and young people in Oxford to help students reach the next level. In February 2010, she sponsored, through the Granville Arts Council, an Artists in Schools program at Northern Granville Middle School and Mary Potter Middle School. In 2009, she coordinated the centennial celebration of St. Cyprian Episcopal Church. Over the years, she has also coordinated several summer enrichment programs for underserved students at St. Cyprian.
She attended St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, where she graduated with a BA in English and French in 1952; the MA in English from North Carolina College in 1958; and Ph.D. graduated in English from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin in 1971. It was there that she met her late husband, Paul Anade Othow of Sudan in East Africa, while they were attending the ‘University of Wisconsin. They were married in Gambela, Ethiopia in 1971. From this union was born his beautiful daughter, Ajulonyodier Elisabeth Othow in 1973. The three members of the family toured East Africa, and in the 1980s, Helen and Anade taught at the University of Juba in the Southern Sudan region. Through their efforts, the couple has brought more than 30 refugees to reside in the United States, from Sudan; Ethiopia; Sierra Leone, West Africa; and the Dominican Republic.
Dr Othow was Chair of the Humanities Division at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte from 1974 to 1979 and Chair of the English Department at St. Augustine’s College from 1984 to 1996, where she chaired the Bush -Hewlett Writing Across the Curriculum. program. As an English teacher, she was tenured at St. Augustine’s College in 1999. In addition to teaching at St. Augustine’s College, she has taught English at several colleges and universities in the United States: North Carolina Central University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Wisconsin, Meredith College, North Carolina State University, and Howard University in Washington, DC After her retirement in 2001, she was taught online at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia; Louisburg College in Louisburg, North Carolina; and Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi.
She has received numerous awards for her scholarly efforts and contributions to society. His biography appears in 20th century writers, 2005; Who’s Who among African Americans, 2000; Certificate of Completion, Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Delaware, 2001; Vermont Studio Center Scholarship for Writers in Johnson, Vermont; Plaque and trophy for the outstanding faculty of St. Augustine College; United Negro College Fund Faculty Research Fellowship; Plaque for Scholarly Achievement, presented by the Senate of the Faculty of Central University of North Carolina in 2007; and numerous National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar Grants for College Teachers scholarships.
She is the author of John Chavis: African-American patriot, preacher, teacher, and mentor 1763-1838, published by McFarland Publishers in 2001; a novel, Flight to Gambela; a book of poems, Raise the ramparts high; and A History of the Chavis, Ridley and Satterwhite Families of Oxford, North Carolina, published by the Library of Congress. his thesis The New Decorum: Moral Perspectives of Black Literature, University of Wisconsin, 1972, is also published by the Library of Congress.
Thanks to God’s help, she also coordinated the installation of the historic route marker for Dr GC Shaw and the Mary Potter Academy in Oxford. She was the founder and president of the John Chavis Historical Society and participated in the unveiling and re-inauguration of the new historic route marker for John Chavis in Raleigh, North Carolina on July 11, 2010. She is also responsible for the installation of a permanent sign at the probable grave of John Chavis located on the former Willie P. Mangum plantation, having found it after extensive research, along with that of many other anonymous graves of enslaved people in Rougemont, North Carolina. North.
She was a member of the Nature Lovers Garden Club; Les Gemmes, Inc .; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated; The university linguistic association; The Association for the Study of African American Life and History; the Langston Hughes Company; the Zora Neale Hurston Company; the Anna J. Cooper Company; The North Carolina Writers Network; the Mid-Atlantic Writers Association; The National Council of English Teachers; the Toni Morrison Company; the Oxford Women’s Club; The National Association of Mary Potter Alumni; and the John Chavis Historical Society. Through the John Chavis Historical Society, she coordinated the first annual Oxford International Festival, which in its fifth year is bigger and better and now held in beautiful Oxford city center.
Time of harvest
She leaves to celebrate her life, her brother, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. (Martha); her sister, Dr. LaRhoda Francine Chavis; his daughter, Mrs. Ajulo Othow Norman (Collis) and his grandson, Collis Raymon Norman Jr .; an adoptive sister, Carol Faye Payton of Houston, Texas; four step-granddaughters, Abigail Norman, Mercedes Norman, Jasmine Norman and Princess Norman; five nieces: Marva Elisabeth Davenport, Ana Elisabeth Chavis, Paula Chavis Jones, Nicole (Nikki) Bullock and Renita Peace Timberlake; four nephews, Benjamin Franklin Chavis, III, Franklin Chavis, Reginald Louis Chavis and John Mandela Chavis; nieces and nephews, as well as a host of other relatives and friends.
Contributions can be made to the care of the John Chavis Historical Society at the Dr. Helen Chavis Othow Scholarship Fund at St. Augustine’s College and at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin.