Born in Virginia in 1862, J. Holman Pryor, a Black man, moved to Newton and married Newtonian Emma Hicks in 1895. He enlisted in the Army in 1898 and served with the 6th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in the Spanish American War. In World War I, he became captain of the 6th Massachusetts, later reorganized into the 372nd Battalion [photo from 1918].
Pryor, who continued to be called Captain Pryor after his return, went on to serve for 38 years in the Massachusetts National Guard. Residing on Hicks Street in “The Village” neighborhood near Myrtle Baptist Church, he was also active in civic life. In 1924, he successfully led a protest to prevent the showing of “Birth of a Nation” at the movie theater in West Newton.
Pryor participated in several Memorial Day parades in Newton, where he frequently escorted the mayor. After his death in 1941, he was buried in Newton Cemetery.