James Craig Braswell, distinguished as a banker and business man, was born near Battleboro, on the 17th day of August, 1868. He is the youngest son living of Thomas P. Braswell and Emily Stallings Braswell, who are still living at the home in which James Craig Braswell was born.
Thomas P. Braswell, the father of James Craig, is of Scotch-Irish descent, and the sterling honesty of the one and the wit of the other of these two great people are concentered in him. He is one of the most progressive men in Nash County and one of her most honored citizens. He was born in Edgecombe County in the year 1833, and during his youth and early manhood lived in Edgecombe County, where he married Emily Stallings, and in 1866 moved to his present home in Nash County.
Mr. T. P. Braswell’s early educational advantages were limited, but by application, constant reading, and extensive travelling there are few better informed men of to-day; being denied many advantages, yet his innate manhood soon asserted itself, and he forged his way to the front, and by his honesty of purpose, indomitable will-power, and sound judgement he has won a high place in the esteem of his fellow-men. He has filled every public position which he has ever sought, and indeed some have been thrust upon him without his desire, and he has declined many preferring the quiet of his splendid home to the cares of public life. He has been constable, deputy-sheriff, Commissioner of his county, Chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee, and member of the Legislature, which last position he declined to accept again, and finally retired from public life.
He is to-day the largest planter and land-owner of Nash County, and is extensively engaged in stock-raising, owning one of the finest herds of Jersey cattle in the State. In addition to his farming interests, he is largely engaged in other business. He is the senior member of the large mercantile firm at Battleboro, N. C., of T. P. Braswell & Son, which business is conducted by his oldest son, M. C. Braswell, of whom more will be said later. He is a large owner of real estate in Rocky Mount, Battleboro, Nash and Edgecombe Counties. He is a stockholder in all the large organizations organized in and around Rocky Mount and Battleboro for the past few years, and indeed the organization of many of them can be attributed to him; for instance, Planters’ Bank, which bank has gained a State reputation, although only six years old.
Mr. T. P. Braswell realized, as no man can except one similarly circumstanced, the advantage of thorough education, and he has spared no effort to give his children every advantage which education can bestow, and well have they repaid his efforts.
M. C. Braswell, his oldest son, after leaving the University was graduated from a business college, and has taken the very forefront of business enterprises, and is himself an extensive planter. Indeed he is one of the safest and foremost business men of his entire section.
His second son, Dr. R. M. Braswell, was a student of the University and graduated from the Maryland University, and is to-day one of the leading physicians of Eastern North Carolina. He, too, is a large planter and extensively engaged in other business enterprises, having been instrumental in organizing and carrying on much of the business in and about Rocky Mount, and is especially noted for being one of the most open and candid men who ever lived in our midst. No one ever heard it said of him that his position on any question was doubtful or deceptive. He is a useful man to society, for being so open and candid himself, no Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde can live near him without the Mr. Hyde being exposed.
Reared by a loving Christian mother, whose influence is so deeply impressed on him, and benefited by the example of the trio above referred to, the subject of this sketch came upon the stage of life.
He was prepared for college at Horner’s Military School at Oxford, N. C., and was graduated from the University of North Carolina in the summer of 1890.
During his boyhood days he was taught by his parents that it was honorable to do manual labor, and when at home for his vacation he was deprived of no pleasure, but his duties must come first. He took part in his father’s business in every way, and was educated in the arts of all farm work.
As soon as he left college he sought the commercial field, and for a short time was connected with Dun’s Mercantile Agency at Winston, N. C. Remaining there for a short time, he moved to Rocky Mount in 1891, and as the town was just organizing large and extensive tobacco factories and warehouses, he embarked in the tobacco business and commenced the tobacco trade in co-partnership with his father under the firm name of J. C. Braswell & Co., which has since been incorporated. From the year 1891 to 1900 Mr. Braswell was a quiet worker in this business, laying the foundation of the active business which was soon to follow.
On the 12th of June, 1901, he was happily married to Miss Lillian Grizelle Burton, of Durham, N. C., and his charming wife has made his home life all that the most exacting could ask. She is the granddaughter of the late Rev. Alex. Walker and the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Burton, and inherited both on the paternal and maternal lines those admirable traits that adorn her character and have made her justly esteemed as one of the loveliest of her sex. Mr. Braswell has since then built and moved into one of the handsomest homes in Eastern North Carolina.
During the past few years especially Mr. Braswell’s fine character has become more manifest and more thoroughly recognized, and his worth is appreciated by all with whom he has come in contact.
By his unquestioned honesty, by his never-failing energy, by his absolute fairness, by his determination to get what belongs to him, and to be just as sure that he gets nothing that is not his, by a strict adherence to his motto, “Live within your income, be thorough and exact in business, avoid evil things and men, and have your eyes open to every opportunity,” he has won the confidence and esteem of all men with whom he has come in contact; and though yet a young man, he is to-day president of the following corporations: Planters’ Bank of Rocky Mount, Rocky Mount Sash and Blind Company, Rocky Mount Hosiery Company, J. C. Braswell Tobacco Company, the Chamber of Commerce, the Marigold Heights Land Company, Secretary of the Planters’ Cotton Seed Oil Company, Director of the Rocky Mount Storage Warehouse Company, Wilkinson Bullock & Company Insurance and Loan Office, the Rocky Mount Brick Company, and he is Vice-President of the Rocky Mount Savings & Trust Company. He is also one of the Commissioners of the town of Rocky Mount, and a member of the Board of Graded School Trustees, and Vice-President of the North Carolina Bankers’ Association.
These positions of trust to which he has been called by his associates fully attest the confidence and esteem in which he is held.
Adding him to the trio above described, it may be said that they form one of the most honorable families within the limits of that part of the State. They are at all times in the closest touch with each other. They are all men of great public enterprise, fully abreast with the times, not afraid to venture, with plenty of means to back any enterprises on which they may embark, and last but not least, are always together. So it is not difficult to understand that when they venture others are ready to follow.
B. H. Bunn.
Transcription from the book, Biographical History of North Carolina, volume IV, edited by Samuel A. Ashe, published in 1906, pages 55-58, found on the website, Hathitrust Digital Library (http://www.hathitrust.org), accessed 29 January 2021. Photograph from the book, Rocky Mount: The Gateway of Eastern North Carolina, published in 1911, page 70, found on the website, Internet Archive (http://archive.org), accessed 29 January 2021 .