From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Tolley, Florence B. W.

(born: 1897  -  died: 1969) 

Florence B. W. Tolley was one of 18 children born to Fannie and Will Jackson of Avon, KY. She was married to Edd Brown; they lived in his home town of Clintonville, KY. They later moved to Lexington, KY, where Tolley owned The Try Me Beauty Shop (opened in 1944) and the Williams Nursing Home (opened in 1950); both businesses were on Greenwood Avenue.

Florence Tolley was a graduate of the segregated Lexington Beauty College; she had been hired as a maid at the school and was allowed to study for her diploma in beauty culture, which she received in 1944. She was also instrumental in helping to bring gas to homes on the west side of Lexington by offering to sell to the Central Kentucky Natural Gas Company a piece of her land for the regulation station. At that time, west side was outside the city limits.

For a while, Florence Tolley raised her family alone, having divorced Edd Brown. She later married Rev. Jesse Williams. Williams passed away, and she then married Rev. Robert Tolley. She continued her nursing home businesses and in 1965 built a new facility at 465 Greenwood Avenue. Williams Nursing Home was the first such facility for African Americans in Lexington. She also helped raise funds for the Colored Orphan Home in Lexington.

Tolley wrote poetry, plays, and songs. Several of her songs were recorded: If I Had My Way and I am Packing Up to Move, sung by Ben Tate; Lord I Wonder, sung by LaVern Lattimore; and I Can Trust Him and My Savior, sung by Helen Williams.

For more see Only Believe: biography of Florence Jackson Brown Williams Tolley, by E. B. S. Bosley.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Bourbon County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Avon, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Clintonville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Lexington Colored Orphan Industrial Home
NKAA Source: If I had my way (song)
NKAA Source: I am packing up to move (song)
NKAA Source: Lord I wonder (song)
NKAA Source: I can trust him (song)
NKAA Source: My savior (song)
NKAA Source: Only believe: biography of Florence Jackson Brown Williams Tolley

Related Entries Citing this Entry


Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Tolley, Florence B. W.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 12, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-12-04 20:21:46