Builders of Mississippi: John Lee Webb (1877-1946)

John L. Webb c. 193-

John L. Webb c. 193- courtesy Arkansas History Commission. accessed 1/9/17

John Lee Webb was born in Alabama either in Tuskegee, Macon County, on September 11, 1877 or in Talladaga, Talladaga County, on September 17, 1877, depending on your source.  He volunteered for service in the Spanish-American War, being discharged as a Corporal. He attended the Tuskegee Institute studying carpentry and graduated about 1900.  Mr. Webb then stayed working for the college from 1900-1903 as a foreman in the carpentry division.  He left Alabama in 1903, and was working in Marianna, Arkansas when he met his future wife.  According to the book John Lee Webb: The Man & His Legacy, Mr. Webb worked extensively in Clarksdale and Philipp, Mississippi.  He would also find work in Memphis, Tennessee.

In 1904-1905, he moved to Yazoo City where he was successful in business and became involved in fraternal organizations including the Masons of Mississippi and the Supreme Lodge of the Woodmen of Union.  By the 1910 census he was living with his wife and daughter at 511 Calhoun Street (sadly now a vacant lot.)  He was listed as a carpenter in the business of ‘House Building.’  By the time he registered for the draft in 1917 he put down that he was self-employed in the insurance business and as a contractor.

While he likely built many houses & other structures, so far I have only been able to identify one Mississippi structure attributable to Mr. Webb.  The April 24th, 1915 edition of The American Contractor states that Mr. Webb was awarded a contract worth about $15,000 for the construction of a dormitory designed by architect Walter T. Bailey for the Central Mississippi College in Kosciusko.  The building and college are no longer extant, having stood where the Tipton Street School now stands.  Webb and Bailey likely had a mutual connection through the Tuskegee Institute and they would work together over their careers, primarily in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

During 1918 he moved to Arkansas when the Supreme Lodge of Woodmen of Union moved their national headquarters to Hot Springs.  In 1927 he and his wife took the Grand Tour visiting Scotland, England, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, and France.  He died in August of 1946 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Hot Springs, Garland County, Arkansas.  I have a copy of his obituary from the September 13, 1946 Arkansas State Press, but the microfilm is so badly washed out it isn’t even worth posting.  Hopefully someone out there can clue us in on some other buildings Mississippi buildings John Lee Webb had a hand in constructing.

Categories: African American History, Architectural Research, Demolition/Abandonment, Historic Preservation, Kosciusko, Lost Mississippi, Universities/Colleges, Yazoo City


8 replies

  1. Any clue as to what he might have built in Philipp? There’s an interesting church there and a couple of large houses, not much else to write home about.


  2. There is more about Webb in the NR for the Pleasant Street Historic District
    His house in the district is still standing and will be the site of a wood window restoration workshop with Preserve Arkansas this September. His pension file would be worth looking at too:


    • Hopefully the newspaper digitizations can shed some light on his early life before he moved to Hot Springs.


      • Webb’s biography, published in 1926 says: “In 1904 he worked extensively in Clarksdale, Mississippi, acting as foreman in the construction of a factory building. In that same year he went to Yazoo City, Mississippi, and did considerable construction work…A visit to Phillips [sic], Mississippi, will disclose to you a town that was built almost wholly by John L. Webb.” (pg. 17).


  3. Preserve Arkansas has placed the Pleasant Street Historic District in Hot Springs on its 2017 Endangered Eight list. The listing states that,

    “The district is also significant for its association with John Lee Webb. A graduate of Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute, Webb held a certificate in carpentry and enjoyed a successful career as a contractor. He was also active in fraternal organizations, and about 1918 Webb relocated the headquarters of the Supreme Lodge of the Woodmen of the Union from Mississippi to Hot Springs, Arkansas. He went on to superintend construction of the Woodmen of the Union Building at 501 Malvern Avenue as well as several commercial and residential buildings in the Pleasant Street neighborhood. In the 1920s, Webb remodeled the house at 703 Pleasant Street by adding a red brick veneer and green tile roof. This was his family home from the early 1920s through the 1940s and is now being restored by the nonprofit organization, PHOEBE, which is dedicated to the preservation of African American history in Hot Springs.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. JohnL.Webb was MW Grand Master from 1932-1946 for the MW Stringer Grand Lodge of F&A.M. P.H.A. of Mississippi…his residence was in Arkansas.

    Liked by 1 person

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