William Watson

William Watson (1857-1905) was born in Louisville to Washington and Ophelia Watson. In the 1880s, white customers increasingly disliked white undertakers serving African Americans. Therefore, African Americans were either denied service or charged double. This opened the door for black undertakers. Watson created his undertaking business in 1887, the Watson Undertaking Co., and earned a great deal of money as one of three leading undertaking operations for African Americans in Louisville. The other two were owned by the Fox Brothers and J.H. Taylor. Watson reinvested his profits into quality equipment which outdistanced him from his African American business competitors. In 1894, Watson married Levina, a mortician, who was the top student in the 1892 graduating class of the Clark School for Embalming, one of three African Americans in the class and the only woman. Levina worked for Watson Undertaking Co. He also employed Alonzo McAfee, who was the first African American to obtain an embalmer’s license in Kentucky. Watson was one of Louisville’s wealthiest African Americans when he died in 1905. By 1908, there were 10 African American undertakers in Louisville.