Ethel Maria (Brown) McCullum

April 29, 1926 ~ August 29, 2021 (age 95)


The services for Mrs. McCullum will be live streamed on the Facebook Page of Fisher Memorial Funeral Parlor.

She leaves an amazing family that will forever cherish her spirit and strength that she used to bring her family closer together every day.

Ethel Maria Brown McCullum was born April 28, 1926 to the late George David and Ethel Daniels Brown in Riegelwood (Columbus County), North Carolina.  She grew up on a family farm and they grew their own food. 

Ethel, graduated from East Arcadia High School.  After high school, she did not want to get married at an early age instead she wanted a career so came to Durham, to Lincoln School of Nursing to become a nurse, graduating in 1947.  She was known by her nursing classmates as “Full of Fun”She got married to Arthur McCullum.  When she finished, she got a job in Wilmington, NC and had her first born, Arthur E. McCullum, September 28, 1948 and her daughter Connie was also born there too, May 18, 1950.   She then left to go back to Durham to take a job a Duke University Hospital, were her daughters Sybil and Rita were born. 

While she considered herself a country girl, Ethel had grit and perseverance that helped her to excel professionally while raising her four young children.  She was the first black Head nurse at Duke University Hospital.  She retired from Duke after 35 years of service.  She retired for three years she hated sitting around the house so worked at Lincoln hospital for five years.   Ethel would often brag that she would out work the younger nurses, running circles around them.  Her work ethic was amazing as was her commitment to family.

Ethel was also a very active grandmother, and at time took on the role as a surrogate mother to a few of her grandchildren.  She was a selfless giver, loved her family unconditionally through good times and bad. 

Ethel loved gardening, very religious and spiritual person.   She was loyal member of Mount Zion Baptist Church for the past 40 years and loved going to church.  While at church she worked at the clothes closet; as well as being a Deaconess for many years.  Ethel was an active Christian and would go with her friends Ms. Ella and Ms. Curly to people’s houses to witness about the Lord to get people saved.   She always helped people.  She had lots of friends.  Ethel loved to go fishing and was fearless because she was not afraid of snakes and didn’t mind the mosquitos and poisons ivy.  She loved going fishing with her daughters Connie and Rita; fishing all the time Falls Lake and Jordan Lake.  Everyone knows she loved having fried fish on Fridays with cabbage and fried corn bread. 

 Her children will miss going fishing with her, combing her pretty grey hair, talking to her, the work to ensure the family stayed together, and her wisdom.  She always wanted her family to be close and pushed them to work hard and encouraged them to be entrepreneurial.  She wanted to improve as a person, realizing she wasn’t perfect and was open to listening to opposing views and was quick to forgive.  She loved sweets and good food, she was an amazing cook and love to make fresh corn and jams using vegetables from her garden she shared with Aunt Ruth.   

She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Arthur Edward McCullum, Sr. sisters, Vernice Johnson and Celeste Bateman; brothers, Llyod Nimrod Brown, Rudolph (Hortense) Brown, Auley Gene (Mary) Brown, Raymond (Betty) Brown, Walter Lee (Clara) Brown and Foster (Delores) Brown.

She leaves to cherish her loving memories, a son, Arthur Edward McCullum, Jr.; three daughters, Constance M. Lyons, Sybil M. Castle and Rita M. Smith (Charles); 11 grandchildren; 14 great grandchildren; one brother, George (Hattie) Brown of Norfolk, VA.; one sister-in-law, Beulah King Holland of Riegelwood, NC; one aunt, Eula Brown; other relatives and friends.



To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Ethel Maria (Brown) McCullum, please visit our floral store.


September 6, 2021

1:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Fisher Memorial Funeral Parlor
3137 Fayetteville Street
Durham, NC 27707

September 7, 2021

12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Mount Zion Christian Church
3519 Fayetteville Street
Durham, NC 27707

Funeral Service
September 7, 2021

1:00 PM
Mount Zion Christian Church
3519 Fayetteville Street
Durham, NC 27707

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