Warren Peace

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

Warren PeaceWilliam Warren Peace was born in Kittrell, North Carolina, on August 6, 1921. Kittrell is a village in Vance County, about 35 or 40 miles northeast of Durham. The population at the time of the 1920 census was 223. “It’s a little one-horse town,” Peace told interviewer Brent Kelley. “In fact, the horse died. [Laughs] I left there and went to Richmond when I was 20 years old.”1

The Peace family had lived in Kittrell or nearby Granville for many generations, with Warren’s great-grandfather Josephus Peace (1827-1915) coming from Granville.2 Josephus is listed as a slave owner and farm owner in the “Slave Schedules” of the 1860 United States Census. Bill’s paternal grandfather was a carpenter, Madison Peace, listed as a “mulatto” with a Caucasian father (Josephus) and an African American mother, Martha Peace of Kittrell. One of Madison Peace’s children was Warren’s father, Thomas London Peace. Thomas was listed in the 1920 census as a “mulatto” living in Kittrell and working as a cook on the county road force. His skills appear to have offered him stable employment as in 1930 as “cook, highway camp.” He later worked as a cook on the railroad.

Thomas Peace (1889-1959) and Kittie Wyche Peace (1889-1943) had several children — Thomas, George, Edwin, Albert, Walter, William (Warren), Margaret, and Payton. Margaret appears to have been the only girl born to the Peaces. Though their future baseball-playing son was given the first name of William, per the North Carolina Birth Index, he was listed as Warren in both the 1930 and 1940 censuses.

The 1940 census shows Kitty (as her name was rendered) as the head of the household, the same home they had lived in throughout the years of the Depression, with Albert working as a farm laborer and Walter working as a laborer in a plant, perhaps both of them in the tobacco industry. Information gleaned in researching the family shows Warren as having completed school only through the seventh grade. However, Peace himself reported attending Henderson Institute in Henderson, North Carolina, and completing two years at Kittrell College.3 In fact, when asked who was the biggest influence on his baseball career, Peace wrote, “My high school math teacher gave me my first baseball shoes and that encouraged me to continue playing.”4

By 1942, when he registered for the draft during World War II, Warren Peace had left home and was living in Richmond. He’d had asthma as a child, he said, but shook it off after leaving home. “I left for Richmond, Virginia, on December the fourth, 1941, and three days later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and that whole winter I did just the opposite of what my mama told me to do. I took those long underwear off and threw ’em away and got me some boxer shorts and put ’em on and I went bare-headed all winter long and I didn’t wear an overcoat. It would rain and sleet and I was walkin’ around bare-headed, had icicles hangin’ down from my hair, and I haven’t had asthma since.”5

Peace was of small stature, listed as 5-feet-8 and 135-140 pounds. He was right-handed, and became a pitcher in Negro Leagues baseball. At some point, he picked up the nickname “Father Divine” — at least in some circles. He told interviewer Larry Lester, “My teammates used to call me Father Divine6 when I was with the Eagles, because my name was Peace. Len Hooker used to call me that. Father Divine had a church there in Newark.”7 His second wife, Janice Leonard-Peace, told the author in May 2018 that she had not heard of the nickname applied to him but allowed that it didn’t surprise her in that he had “educated so many people in his family.”8  

Peace was not called to military service himself. He worked at print shops in Richmond, a trade at which he worked for 40 years.

He told Larry Lester, “I was mostly a relief pitcher, but could start, too.” He added, “I was just a pitcher. I was a curveball pitcher. I could have played outfield or first base, but I couldn’t hit. So I had to pitch. I would rather play first base or the outfield but you’ve got to be a hitter to play there.”9

Peace’s first year in professional baseball was 1945. He had an opportunity as a starting pitcher that season because so many players were in the service. He pitched for the Newark Eagles that year and reported putting up an enviable 15-5 record. The Seamheads database, however, shows him as 0-1. And the one game they show him as pitching was a disaster — eight innings, hitting one batter, walking five, and surrendering 14 base hits. He did strike out two, but was charged with 13 runs. How can such a discrepancy be reconciled? Negro Leagues researcher Gary Ashwill reports that Seamheads includes only statistics based on actual box scores. Needless to say, press coverage of Negro Leagues games is spotty under the best of conditions and the country was still embroiled in World War II for most of the 1945 season. He also notes, regarding the 15-5 record in 1945, that “the Eagles would certainly have played at least as many games against independent, semipro, and minor-league opponents as they did against Negro league teams, so there would have been plenty of opportunities for Peace to rack up wins against them. And it was typical for a team’s second-line pitchers to soak up innings in those games.”10 Ashwill also opined that it’s possible Peace exaggerated a bit in self-reporting the 15-5 mark.

Peace was almost certainly better than the 0-1 record reflected in the only box scores Ashwill has been able to find from 1945, in which two Harrisburg newspapers (the Telegraph and the Evening News) both reported on the July 7 game there when the Baltimore Elite Giants beat the Eagles, 13-6, with Peace going the distance and taking the loss.

Compounding the mystery somewhat, Peace was listed as one of the 1945 team’s “dependable flingers” on a pitching staff led by Don Newcombe but also including Lenier (sic) Hooker, Charles Roberts, James Hill, and Sidney Williams.11

The Eagles finished in third place (25-24, 9½ games behind the Homestead Grays).

Peace recalled his salary as $200 a month to start with, with a top salary of $225. The most he ever made in baseball was $300 a month, he said.12 It was more than he made at the print shop at the time, and in the offseasons.

It seems unlikely that Peace would have made the team in 1946, with all the returning veterans, if his only work was to have pitched that poorly in the one outing at Harrisburg.

Peace was indeed invited back. Responding to a letter from the Eagles, explaining that baseball equipment could be difficult to find in Jacksonville, where the team would begin spring training on April 1, and asking if there was any equipment they should bring for him, Peace wrote to co-owners Abe and Effa Manley on March 17, 1946, “I received my contract, and will meet you at the Elks Home March 30th. The only equipment I need is a pair of sliding pads. I will appreciate very much if you can get them for me.”13 The letter was signed “Warren Peace,” thus removing any doubt as to whether he called himself “Bill” or “Warren” at the time.

“I called him Bill,” said his widow in 2018. “His family that he was born into called him Warren, or Uncle Warren. With the Newark Eagles, he was also known as Warren.”14

Looking ahead to the 1946 campaign, the Newark Evening News mentioned Peace as someone “who showed great promise last season.”15 Had his record truly been 15-5, the paper would have been more lavish in its praise, but had his record been 0-1, giving up 13 runs in Harrisburg, there would likely have been no praise at all.

He was certainly never seen in the same category as the 1946 team’s other pitchers, as Peace himself readily agreed. In the Eagles’ championship year of 1946, Peace explained, “I was relegated to relief ’cause the star pitchers were in the army and they came back out. I did most relief pitchin’. Like Leon Day and Max Manning came out of the service. And another guy, Rufus Lewis — he came out of the service.”16 In mid-July, Wendell Smith of the Pittsburgh Courier declared Day “the best pitcher in either league” and noted that Lewis had gone undefeated in the season’s first half. “These two aces are backed up by Maxwell Manning, Leniel Hooker, Warren Peace, Cecil Cole and Jim Boyd. That is a staff capable of winning in any league.”17

Peace pitched rather little, working a total of 24⅓ innings in seven games with a 2.59 ERA. He had two starts, including one complete game, a shutout, and posted a record of 3-1. He walked 8 and struck out 15. The game he remembered the most was at the end of the season, in Newark against the visiting Homestead Grays. “Leon Day was pitchin’ for us. I don’t remember who pitched for the Grays that day. … [T]he winner of this particular game would win the second half. We had already won the first half.” It wasn’t a game in which Peace pitched. He was coaching first base.

Day worked the entire game, all 15 innings, and the score was tied 3-3 when Day came up to bat in the bottom of the 15th. He hit a home run, to win the game. “When he came trottin’ ’round to first base, I ran out on the field and trottin’ along beside him. I’m trottin’ around the bases with him, you know, and I’m pattin’ him on his butt, congratulatin’ him; I’m tickled to death ’cause we’re goin’ to the World Series — and he kept tellin’ me, ‘Get back! Get back!’

“And I ignored him. I kept trottin’ along beside him. We got around to third base and he said to me, ‘If that umpire calls me out, I’m gonna beat the stuffin’s outta you!’ Only he didn’t say “stuffin’s”; he used that other “S” word. [Laughs] So then I realized I shouldn’t be on that field. I turned off and went into the dugout.

“(Day) kept on to home plate and when he got to home plate, half of the people in the stands had come out on the field and they were standin’ there at home plate waitin’ to greet him. If that umpire had called him out, he would’ve had a riot up there and I would still be runnin’ from Leon.”18

Thrilling as it no doubt was, Peace mischaracterized Day’s 15-inning triumph as a clinching game. It took place on August 11, the first game of a doubleheader (the Eagles won the second game, 3-1), and “strengthened their grip on first place.”19

In an exhibition game on August 6 against Satchel Page and the Kansas City Monarchs, some 8,720 fans came out to Ruppert Stadium. Paige lasted only three innings. The Eagles won 7-4 behind the “brilliant pitching of Leon Day and Warren Peace.”20 Day had pitched the first four innings.

The Eagles won the World Series; Warren Peace saw no action in the seven games, but he was standing by ready if called upon. “I was in the bullpen the whole time,” he said.21

Peace worked out with the Eagles in Jacksonville for spring training in both 1947 and 1948.22  His record for 1947 and for 1948 are equally as uncertain as for any other years. In the second game of a doubleheader against the Baltimore Elite Giants at Ebbets Field on July 27, Peace pitched a three-hit, 4-3 win. The Eagles won the first game, 10-9, after scoring seven runs in the last inning.23

Who were some of the toughest batters he faced? Larry Lester posed the question. “I would say Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard. Buck batted third and Josh batted fourth in the lineup. You couldn’t walk one to get to the other one. Buck would say, ‘If I don’t get you, Josh will.’ And they lived up to that. Luke Easter, he was a heck of a hitter, too. Henry Kimbrough could hit me, but the other pitchers on the team, they could get Kimbrough out. I couldn’t get him out. I asked him, ‘How can you whip me so well?’ And he told me he knew what I was throwing.”24

“That’s the only team I played for in the Negro National League,” Peace said. “I played in a semipro league down in Richmond, Virginia, after I left there. I hurt my arm. The Richmond Giants.”25 Indeed, the May 10, 1948, Richmond Times-Dispatch reported him pitching for the Richmond Giants in the second game of a Negro American Association doubleheader held at Richmond’s CCA Park against the visiting Winston-Salem Pond Giants. Sonny Carroll won the first game, 3-1, with 11 strikeouts. Peace won the second game, 2-1, with nine strikeouts.26 He won a 6-5 complete game, also against Winston-Salem, on July 16, and shut out Winston-Salem, 2-0, on September 4. On August 22, he held the Negro American Association All-Stars to three hits, beating them 9-3.27

In the spring of 1949, Peace was pitching for the Richmond Giants again in Palatka, Florida, earning a save with four innings of shutout relief, beating the Florida State League’s Palatka Blue Caps, 7-5.28

Asked for his fondest memory of playing with the Eagles, Peace didn’t hesitate. “I almost pitched a no-hitter against the Black Yankees once. I had a no-hitter going up to the eighth inning. We were playing in Trenton. I didn’t realize I had a no-hitter going. No one on my bench would tell me. It’s a superstition. You don’t mention things like that. Hack Barker, he was the manager of the Black Yankee team. Nobody told me, so I didn’t realize I had a no-hitter going. Hack Barker came up to bat against me and he yelled out to the pitcher’s mound, “If you think you can pitch a no-hitter, you got another thought coming!” And he hit the first pitch for a base hit. I got the next three guys. In the ninth inning, somebody else got a hit but I pitched a two-hitter.”29

Peace worked as a printing pressman for 40 years before retiring. His specialty was gold leaf printing. “I don’t think anyone else in the shop could do it. My husband was very talented. He could do almost anything,” said his widow Janice.30 He was also quite successful with investments and, at the time he and Janice met, he was living in Paterson, New Jersey, where he had a number of rental properties. Janice said, “He was always being called to fix things, always being called to court to throw out people who didn’t think they had to pay rent. All that stuff.”

Peace was married twice. When he married his first wife, Queen Banister, he also welcomed her daughter into the family. His stepdaughter, Dr. Peggy Scurry, became an obstetrics doctor and gynecologist who graduated from Howard University College of Medicine and practiced for more than 35 years in the Silver Spring, Maryland, area. Peace lost Queen, sadly, the very day she and Bill moved into a new home. “They had bought a new home and the first day they were in the new home, she walked to the doctor’s office and died. That was so sad. I think in retrospect they realized it was a heart attack.”31

Janice was asked how she and Bill had later met. “My husband helped so many members of his family get their educations,” she said. “One of them he helped through law school, his nephew Sylvester, was dating my best girlfriend — I called her my sister — and so of course we became friends. I was explaining to him that I didn’t like to date younger men, because I was a single mom bringing up my son. I said I had to put my son first. He said, ‘You know what? You have to meet my uncle. You sure you don’t mind him being older?’ And I said, ‘I prefer older men.’ We met by phone. There was a long time before I met him in person.” They did meet and hit it off. She was teaching and living in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and he was living and overseeing the rental properties in Paterson. But, Janice said, “I owned my own condo in a really nice area with tennis courts, which was good for my son, with a swimming pool and a clubhouse and all.” She frankly wasn’t that interested in moving to Paterson. Ultimately, Bill decided to move to join Janice where she lived. They married in 1979 and soon had a daughter, Rimoini. Her name was a Liberian name. “He was so happy because he had never fathered a child before. He had reared a stepdaughter [Peggy]; he was the only father that she had known.”32

For hobbies, Bill reported that he enjoyed both bowling and pinochle. His favorite two foods were shrimp and oysters.33

At one point, Bill and Janice moved to North Carolina. Janice’s mother had end-stage renal disease and needed care. Janice’s brother had died from a heart attack at age 38, so there was no one else to help out her mother. Bill Peace himself had come down with colon cancer. He’d had surgery to remove the cancer and Peggy said they had gotten it all, though he was still having chemotherapy. “He was doing wonderfully well,” Janice said. She had noticed some changes, though. “Shortly before he died, I noticed that his writing had changed, that he was getting some letters backwards. The messages weren’t clear, but he was doing OK.”34

“It was a good marriage,” Janice recalled. “It was really good. He loved his grandbaby so much.  We have pictures of him with her from the day before he died. All he did was hold her.”35

They were in the process of moving and had located a lot to build on — the strings were all laid out for the construction to begin. They had put their Pennsylvania house on the market and sold it, for the asking price, faster than they had expected. Janice was there in North Carolina and Bill was visiting his nephew and niece in Delaware when she got a call from Rimoini. “Daddy is not acting right. I’m going to call the rescue squad.” He was taken to the Chester hospital. Janice rushed home, while the staff worked to keep him alive. She arrived just a little too late, but went in to say her goodbyes.

Warren Peace died on November 3, 2002, in Chester, Pennsylvania. He had suffered a hemorrhage, a “bleeding stroke.”36

Asked about Warren’s contact with fellow Negro Leaguers, Janice Leonard-Peace recalled that he had worked for some years in collaboration with some of the ballplayers from his past. “We went to Kansas City for the Negro League Baseball Museum. We were there. It was memorable because we shared a table with Blair Underwood.  He was going to be in the movie about the Negro Leagues.”37

“He had worked very hard to get the agreement that the national baseball organization owed something to the back players, the Negro League players. They had just gotten that settlement. They were only giving them $10,000 once a year, but it was a recognition of their role in baseball. I think he got it one year and then he died. He never really got the full benefit of something that he worked so hard on.”38 The recognition was nonetheless very meaningful.



Thanks to Amanda McKnight, Gary Ashwill, and Larry Lester for helping make this a better biography.



1 Brent Kelley, “Warren Peace,” Voices from the Negro Leagues (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1998), 174.

2 There was no attempt made at a deep genealogy but the Peace side of the family predates the founding of the United States. Bill Peace’s great-great-grandfather John Peace was born in New Kent, Virginia, in 1742

3 Questionnaire completed by Bill Peace for Gregg Truitt of Wilmington, Delaware. A copy of the questionnaire was supplied by Larry Lester.

4 Truitt questionnaire.

5 Brent Kelley, 174.

6 Father Divine was an African American religious leader and civil-rights activist. The height of his popularity, especially with black Americans, came in the 1930s and ’40s.

7 Larry Lester interview with Warren Peace on July 18, 1993.

8 Author interview with Janice Leonard-Peace on May 3, 2018.

9 Larry Lester interview.

10 Gary Ashwill email to author on April 25, 2018.

11 “Newark Eagles Face Lloyd in Tonight’s Game,” Delaware County Daily Times (Chester, Pennsylvania), August 29, 1945: 10.

12 Larry Lester interview.

13 Letter from Warren Peace dated March 15, 1946. Manley Papers, Newark Public Library.

14 Author interview with Janice Leonard-Peace on May 3, 2018. She agreed the name was amusing and that, even though she was a former English teacher herself, she had “hated reading that novel so much.”

15 “Rookie Pitcher Impresses Eagles,” Newark Evening News, April 13, 1946.

16 Brent Kelley, 170.

17 Wendell Smith, “The Sports Beat: Manley’s Eagles Are Flying High,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 13, 1946:16.

18 Brent Kelley, 173. The home run was hit off Homestead’s Bob Thurman.

19 “Newark Eagles Defeat Grays, By 8-7 in 15th,” New York Amsterdam News, August 17, 1946: 11.

20 Ibid. Attendance as reported in the August 7 Newark Star-Ledger.

21 Larry Lester interview.

22 “Eagles Open with Yanks,” Newark Star-Ledger, April 6, 1947: 104. See also “Eagles Winging Way to Sunny Jacksonville Camp,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 3, 1948: 15, and “Newark Opens Against the Grays,” New York Amsterdam News, May 8, 1948: 26.

23 “Newark Eagles’ Winning Streak,” New York Amsterdam News, August 2, 1947: 15.

24 Larry Lester interview.

25 Ibid.

26 “Late Rallies Give Giants Two Decisions,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 10, 1948: 16.

27 “Giants Divide Pair of Games with All-Stars,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 23, 1948: 13.

28 “Richmond Giants Nip Palatka Nine, 7-5,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 15, 1949: 33.

29 Larry Lester interview.

30 Interview with Janice Leonard-Peace.

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid.

33 Truitt questionnaire. Peace volunteered that he didn’t like broccoli.

34 Interview with Janice Leonard-Peace.

35 Ibid.

36 Rimoini Peace herself was, in her mother’s words, “a go-getter. She was beyond a social worker. She was a case manager for the City of Philadelphia. She flew all over the country reuniting kids with other relatives when their moms or dads were deemed unfit. This was the work she did.” But the condition her father had was one she inherited, and she suffers from a cavernoma that has robbed her of her memory and she requires 24-hours-a-day care. The State of North Carolina does not provide adequate coverage for her condition and the heavy burden of paying for the care falls fully on her mother. “Every time I think about him, I think of how proud he was of her. Of course, she could wrap him around her finger! If it was raining outside and she told him the sun was shining, he would believe it.” Interview with Janice Leonard-Peace.

37 Underwood starred in HBO’s  Soul of the Game (1996).

38 Interview with Janice Leonard-Peace.

Full Name

William Warren Peace


August 6, 1921 at Kittrell, NC (US)


November 3, 2002 at Chester, PA (US)

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