Crest Street Bible is going home

Jan. 15, 2014 @ 10:53 AM

The Barbee Bible is going back to the Barbee family.
The Bible, which belonged to Robert Morris Barbee, was left behind in a house on Crest Street during the historic African-American neighborhood’s relocation in the early 1980s during the Durham Freeway construction. The N.C. Department of Transportation auditor for the project, Bruce Dillard, kept the Bible after another staffer found it long after the homes had been abandoned for destruction or relocation, Dillard said.
Over the holidays, Dillard contacted The Herald-Sun about tracking down Barbee or his family members to return the Bible. Robert Morris Barbee died in 2010, but Barbee family members still live in Durham and Orange counties.
After the story in last week’s Faith section, Dillard heard from a leader in the Crest Street community, once called Hickstown, who is a distant Barbee relative and grew up with the Bible’s original owner.
Last weekend, Dillard delivered the Bible to Willie Patterson, who still lives on Crest Street – though in a house rebuilt after the move – and still leads the community council.
Dillard said he received many emails from members of the extended Barbee family as well as friends of the family after the story was published.
“It made me smile to know of their interest and excitement that the Bible was coming back where it belongs,” Dillard said. “I am grateful to have played a part its return and hope the story of its unknown whereabouts for 30-plus years will accompany it to future generations.”
Patterson, 78, said he’d bring the Bible to Barbee’s siblings this week, three of whom live in the Mount Sinai area of Orange County. Included in the Bible was the funeral program for Robert Barbee Sr., who died in 1970 and whose service was held at Mount Sinai Baptist Church in Orange County. Patterson’s parents are buried in Mount Sinai, too.
“We were all born and raised together,” Patterson said of Robert Morris Barbee and siblings Johnny, Donnie, Carolyn, Elaine and Tommy. Tommy Barbee died just last week. Patterson said he wanted to give the Bible to the eldest sister, Carolyn. Robert was the eldest son. Patterson said that Robert Morris Barbee’s house was relocated in the Crest Street move for the construction of the freeway, then called the East-West Expressway, and the Bible must have been left by accident.
“The whole community was in the process of being relocated. I guarantee it was an oversight,” Patterson said. He thinks it’s great that the family will have the Bible again.
Patterson said he wanted to use his visit to Barbee family members to talk more about their shared family history, too, and “try to connect them with others.”