The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Friday, February 23, 1996              TAG: 9602220115
TYPE: Cover Story 
                                             LENGTH: Long  :  505 lines


WHEN THE CURRENTS planned a Black History Quiz Contest we decided to use local heroes to make sure young people in Portsmouth knew about the rich heritage in their own hometown.

Sadly, we had a very low number of entries.

The three students who won should feel especially proud of themselves.

Not only did they make the necessary trips to the library to answer most of the questions in four quizzes correctly, but they showed that trying often means winning.

The top award went to Timithea J. Branch, 17, a senior at Norcom High School and a resident of Cavalier Manor, who answered every single question correctly.

Branch admits she probably would not have seen the quiz, if her mother - a librarian - had not pointed it out to her.

``She's always trying to get me to do stuff - anything educational,'' said Branch.

``It was a learning experience,'' she added. ``A lot of those people I had never heard of before. I didn't know that there were that many people from Portsmouth that actually did stuff.''

Branch said she did have a foundation from attending Emanuel AME Church - the oldest black church in Portsmouth.

``I knew most of the history of that church,'' she said. And ``(Sen.) Louise Lucas is a member of my church.''

Lucas was the first question on the quiz. Circuit Court Judge Johnny Morrison and Emanuel were on that one too.

Branch started off thinking it was going to be fairly easy.

``The last three quizzes I'd say were the most difficult,'' she said.

Branch is a member of the school's Chrome Club for students who want to be engineers, the Future Business Leaders of America and the Future Homemakers of America.

She plans to attend North Carolina A&T University or Virginia Tech to study architectural engineering. She is the daughter of Timothy Branch and Consuelo Branch.

Branch wins a $100 U.S. Savings Bond and an autographed copy of Ruth Brown's book, ``Miss Rhythm.''

The second-place winner was Shawneequa Harris, a seventh-grade student at Lake Taylor Middle School in Norfolk.

Harris, who could not be reached before publication, will receive a $50 U.S. Savings Bond and an autographed copy of Dorothy Spruill Redford's ``Somerset Homecoming.''

The third-place winner was Cynthia Baxter, an 18-year-old senior at I.C. Norcom High School.

Baxter is recording secretary of the Future Business Leaders of America, a member of the Student Council Association, the Chrome Club and the yearbook and newspaper staffs.

She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Richard B. Baxter. She plans to study computer science after graduation.

Baxter will win a $50 savings bond donated by the Portsmouth Baha'i Community and a copy of Arthur Ashe's autobiography, ``Hard Road to Glory.''

The Baha'i Community has also ordered a copy of the book, ``To Move the World,'' for one of the winners.

Patricia Eelman, treasurer of the local Baha'i Community, said the book tells of one of the first Southern blacks to become a Baha'i and the struggles he encountered with his interracial marriage in the 1920s and 1930s.

Each of the three winners will receive a Portsmouth sweatshirt and a copy of the local history book, ``Readings in Black and White.''

And a special honorable mention must go to the staff of the Portsmouth Public Library who generously pulled resource materials to be available for students.

And now for the answers. For the most part, the questions - and answers - were gleaned from old newspaper clippings. But all the stories are worth reminding people about again and again. HERE ARE THE ANSWERS TO THE QUIZZES:


1. State Sen. L. Louise g1ptcov23 Lucas

Lucas (D) served on Portsmouth City Council (1984-1992) as the first African-American woman elected to that office.

She is the second African-American woman elected to serve in the Virginia Senate.

2. Graham W. Jackson, who died in 1983, grew up in Portsmouth's former Lincolnsville neighborhood and left with a local band as a young man.

``I remember that day I left,'' Jackson recalled in one newspaper story.

``I was washing I.C. Norcom's windows, when the boys from a band I played with came by in a car and said, `Let's go.' Miss Frances, one of my four aunts who reared me, didn't want me to leave, but I talked to her, and she pressed me three handkerchiefs and let me go.''

Jackson, who made his home in Atlanta, was a successful musician and was invited to play for President Franklin Roosevelt several times at the White House, as well as at the president's home in Warm Springs, Ga.

He played many instruments, but it was the accordion he played along President Roosevelt's funeral route that put him into the national eye.

A Life magazine photo of the musician playing, tears streaming down his face, became the most remembered image of the nation's sorrow, according to newspaper clips.

The day Jackson died that same photo led the front page of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, the same story reported.

3. Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a Portsmouth native, became the first black governor of Liberia in 1841 and was elected its first president when it became an independent republic six years later.

4. The second oldest building in Portsmouth and the city's oldest black church is Emanuel AME Church in Olde Towne.

The church, located on North Street, still contains pews handmade by slaves.

5. Nathan McCall, a reporter with The Washington Post, wrote about growing up in Cavalier Manor in the 1960s and his struggle to turn his life around after serving time in prison for robbery.

His book, ``Makes Me Wanna Holler,'' published in 1994, also details the anger and trauma that a generation of black youth experienced as the first students to break racial barriers in schools.

6. James Lafayette won his freedom and was given 30 acres and a mule for his heroic actions during the Revolutionary War, according to newspaper clips.

Lafayette risked his life infiltrating British troops and brought back the report of when and where the enemy would strike at Yorktown.

7. Johnny E. Morrison grew up in the Ida Barbour public housing neighborhood and won an academic scholarship to Washington and Lee University, where he received bachelor's and law degrees.

He was Portsmouth's Commonwealth's Attorney in the 1980s and became a Circuit Court judge in 1991.

8. Junius Kellogg, one of 11 children, played basketball at Norcom in the 1940s and after serving in the Army, went to Manhattan College on a GI bill.

It was there that he helped break up a point-shaving scandal in college basketball after being offered a $1,000 bribe.

After an investigation, it was learned that games had been fixed in 17 different states. Twenty players and 14 gamblers were indicted and convicted, according to the story.

After he became a nationwide symbol for honesty, Portsmouth people launched a ``Kellogg Honesty Fund'' and raised $1,000 which was presented to him following a parade in his honor that drew 2,000 people. Kellogg gave the check to his mother.

The basketball player joined the Harlem Globetrotters in 1954, then was partially paralyzed in a car accident.

But Kellogg remained a hometown hero.

Confined to a wheelchair, he coached the Pan Am wheelchair basketball team, which won six world championships. He has also served on the President's committee on employment and the International Society for Rehabilitation of the Physically Disabled.

He was inducted into the Virginia Hall of Fame in 1990.

9. Barbara Bailey began writing lyrics in her creative writing class at I.C. Norcom High School in 1972. Since then, groups such as Earth, Wind and Fire and the Chi-Lites and artists such as Chaka Khan have recorded her songs.

10. From 1937 to 1941, the only library for black residents was housed in the parish house of St. James Episcopal Church.

The Rev. M.B. Birchette, a former rector of St. James, had been instrumental in the movement to provide a library for the black community, according to a history on the effort presented by the late Willie Mae Sanford in 1944.

``Rev. Birchette often stated that probably his anxiety to read `Babbitt' by Sinclair Lewis was the direct cause for the beginning of a library for our group here in Portsmouth,'' Sanford wrote.

Birchette talked about being turned away from the city's library during ``an address before the Mission Study Group of Monumental M.E. Church on Feb. 23, 1937,'' she explained.

That night was the beginning of the movement for a library for black residents, according to Sanford.

Sanford (the answer to Question No. 11 in Quiz No. 4) served as librarian during those years that the library was housed at St. James. It was funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and National Youth Administration (NYA).

That library closed when funding ended.

But Sanford was on the board when the Portsmouth Public Community Library for black residents was built on South Street. The land had been purchased with funds raised by the black community and the city was to give the building.

Sanford presented her history in 1944 at Zion Baptist Church, during a presentation of the deed to that library site.


1. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Alonzo E. Short was the highest ranking African-American on active duty when he retired in 1994.

He had headed a worldwide military communications system.

But Short is best remembered in Portsmouth as the man who came home to a hero's welcome after the Persian Gulf War.

The city honored the 1957 Norcom graduate with a three-day celebration, including a parade.

During that event, Short paid tribute to other hometown heroes - the teachers and coaches who had helped prepare him for life.

He referred to his former coaches - Walter ``Doc'' Hurley, Horace S. Savage Sr. and Robert Smith - as ``giants of men'' who ``took some little guys from Mount Hermon, Douglass Park, Pinners Point, Brighton and all over and made us believe that we were somebody and that we could do something besides play football.

``Those three men were bigger than life to me.''

2. Jeffrey Wilson, born a slave in 1842, started a newspaper column after World War I which he continued until his death in 1928, according to newspaper clips.

The column detailed life in the black community, including everything from announcements of events to historical notes and commentary.

According to his daughter, interviewed in 1986, Wilson spelled his first name ``Jeffrey,'' although it has since been misspelled in the Jeffry Wilson public housing neighborhood named for him.

3. The first black YMCA in Portsmouth opened in 1946 in what had been the USO building in the 1300 block of Chestnut Street.

According to James Nixon, retired YMCA director, the Eureka Club was instrumental in getting the building from the government after the war.

The YMCA was torn down in the 1960s for the new interstate highway and was located temporarily on Lincoln Street, while organizers negotiated for the Our Lady of Victory school building on Effingham Street.

The Effingham Street YMCA is still located there.

Nixon was youth and program director for several years, then executive director of the YMCA for many years before he retired in 1988.

4 and 5. Ida Barbour was a teacher in 1910 when she took in five children who had been orphaned.

That led to helping other children in need of mothering.

Besides those she took into her home, Barbour began caring for the children of people working long hours, but unable to afford child care.

Barbour began organizing friends to help her run a nursery and to round up donations of clothes and services for the children.

The Miller Day Nursery, now located in the 1400 block of Camden Ave., is listed in the Library of Congress archives as one of the oldest day care centers established for the black community in the state, according to information provided by Wanda T. Young, executive director.

6-8. Martin Bullock has served ascommonwealth's attorney since 1991, when former Commonwealth's Attorney Johnny E. Morrison became a Circuit Court judge.

But during the Reconstruction period of the 19th century John C. Asbury became commonwealth's attorney.

9. In February of 1960, students from I.C. Norcom High School sat down at the lunch counter of a Roses store at MidCity.

They were ignored by the waitress and they endured the taunts of white teenagers.

The Ledger-Star photographer's photo of the lunch counter sit-in (see page 6) later ran in Life magazine and the Encylopaedia Britannica, according to a 1991 story that took a look at where some of those people in the photograph were three decades later.

The young civil rights protesters included Lizzie Jones Trotter, Thomasine Turner Chandler, Lessie Holland, Edward Rodman and Margaret Grimes Jackson.

About four months after the demonstrations, many stores began serving blacks at their lunch counters, according to the same story.

10. According to a Portsmouth Star column, black craftsmen were so respected that in 1833, the Naval Shipyard created a national controversy when it fired some white workers and hired black stonecutters to build Dry Dock No. 1, the oldest in the nation.


1. LaTasha Colander was the nation's best female high school track star in 1993.

She graduated from Wilson High School in 1995 and went to the University of North Carolina.

But Wilson established a special wall display in honor of the former student who won six national championships, 12 state titles, nine regional crowns and 16 individual district championships.

2. If you've missed the Yanni concert at the Acropolis that has aired several times on PBS, keep an eye out for reruns.

The talented woman who made the violin sizzle - or as a colleague put it in a previous account ``stole the. . . show'' - was none other than Portsmouth's Karen Briggs.

Briggs, who grew up in Brighton and graduated from Wilson High School, first played for audiences under the direction of the late Jerlene Harding.

The jazz violinist has been playing with Yanni's group since 1991 and also does movie sound tracks and television commercials.

She is the daughter of Frank Briggs, a saxophone player who lives in Portsmouth.

3. Charles F. Harris was an editor at Doubleday and Co. in the 1960s and was responsible for the Zenith Book Series, a secondary school program that was the first series of books on the history of American minorities published in the United States.

Harris was named one of Portsmouth's 28 notables in 1987.

Today he is president and publisher of Amistad Press Inc. in New York City.

His company published the Arthur Ashe autobiography, ``Hard Road to Glory.''

He graduated from Norcom High School in 1951 and was the editor of the newspaper and president of the student government association.

His background at Norcom is mentioned in the introduction to the Arthur Ashe book.

In the 1970s, Harris was instrumental in establishing Howard University Press. He received the Lewis M. Micheaux Award in 1979 for his contributions to the publication of literary works by Afro-Americans.

4. Alex Haley, author of ``Roots,'' spoke at the 1987 black-tie banquet that honored Portsmouth notables.

Haley had been stationed in Portsmouth twice during his service with the U.S. Coast Guard.

5. Haley's ``Roots'' inspired Dorothy Spruill Redford to research her family tree and led to a reunion of the descendants of slaves who once lived and worked at Somerset Place, a plantation near Creswell, N.C.

Redford's story is told in the book, ``Somerset Homecoming,'' written with Virginian-Pilot reporter Michael D'Orso.

Redford is now curator at Somerset Place and is heading a restoration of the plantation, to make it the first national historic site to depict accurately the life of slaves.

6. Lee Rodgers took over where Jeffrey Wilson left off, reporting on the events of the black community for more than 30 years for The Portsmouth Star, and then The Ledger-Star.

He was born in 1899 and was valedictorian of the first black high school class to be graduated in Portsmouth, according to his obituary.

His column, said the obituary, ``interspersed with sage quotations, historical notes and Rodgers' own comments, quickly became a popular feature in the newspaper.''

Rodgers left behind hundreds of photos of people and organizations, now preserved in the Portsmouth Public Library's local history room.

7. William Flora was a Portsmouth-born slave who fought in the Battle of Great Bridge during the Revolutionary War.

He became a war hero after he helped hold the line against the British. After the war, he was granted his freedom along with 30 acres of land and a mule.

He opened a blacksmith shop and livery stable on Middle Street.

8. Sissieretta Jones, born in Portsmouth, was an opera singer invited to sing at the White House in 1892 by President Benjamin Harrison.

She also performed for the Prince of Wales and King Edward VII.

Her picture is displayed in the local history room of the Portsmouth Public Library, along with the bronze plaque proclaiming Portsmouth as the opera singer's birthplace.

Jones was among 40 American musicians designated for such plaques of recognition by the National Music Council during the country's bicentennial celebration.

9. William H. Lewis, born a slave in Portsmouth, left for the North and was educated at Amherst College and Harvard Law School.

He became a city councilman in Cambridge and later a Massachusetts state legislator.

He was friends with President Theodore Roosevelt, who appointed him an assistant U.S. Attorney in 1903.

10. Every year before the fellowship and festivities of the Fish Bowl begins, members of the Shriners gather at the graveside of a man who showed younger members what community service meant.

David Livingston Muckle was a past imperial potentate of Arabia Temple No. 12 and helped get the Fish Bowl started.

But he was more than a beloved Shriner.

His face crops up often in the pages of social and community leaders captured forever by the late newspaper columnist, Lee Rodgers.

Muckle was a civic leader in the 1950s and 1960s who contributed to community programs from the March of Dimes and the city's Citizens Advisory Committee to the Norfolk Community Hospital and the Portsmouth Housing Committee.


1. Dr. Julian Manly Earls was a physicist with the NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland and the first black division chief in the history of the center, when selected one of Portsmouth's 28 notables in 1987.

According to a story that ran that year, Earls was among the first group voted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame.

He was inducted along with Martin Luther King Jr., soprano Leontyne Price and Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Earls founded the Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology, an organization whose members each pledge a minimum of $1,000 a year for life.

A Norcom High School graduate, Earls holds an undergraduate degree from Norfolk State University; master's degrees from the University of Rochester, the University of Michigan and the Harvard Business School; and a doctorate from the University of Michigan.

2. I.C. Norcom was born in Edenton, N.C., in 1856 and educated at Harvard and Yale.

He served as a teacher and principal in Portsmouth from 1984 until his death in 1916. After his death, the only high school for black students was named in his honor.

That name, carried to other buildings and locations, has become synonymous with pride and excellence to many residents and has spurred the push for the city's newest school now under construction.

3. Joe Langston, football coach at Norcom for more than 20 years, produced one state championship team in football and many city and district championship teams in track.

He was named state high school coach of the year in 1993.

Bill Leffler referred to him in one story as ``Portsmouth's winningest coach.''

4 and 5. Between 1865 and 1895, at least six black residents were elected to the City Council, including John Armistead, a minister; Nelson Proctor, a shipyard clerk; and Samuel Davis, John Pugh, Samuel Fisher Jr. and John Riddick.

But after Reconstruction, it was more than seven decades before Raymond Turner and James E. Holley III broke the racial barrier on City Council again.

Elected in 1968, Turner served two full terms and Holley until 1987.

Holley became the city's first black mayor in 1984.

Lee King, the Rev. Ben Beamer Sr., E.G. ``Tip'' Corprew and Johnny Clemons all have served as vice mayor.

Beamer was elected in 1979 and re-elected in 1982; Corprew was elected in 1984 and re-elected in 1988; King was elected in 1990; and Clemons was elected in 1990.

Others who have served on City Council are Archie Elliott, elected in 1974 and re-elected in 1978; Louise Lucas, elected in 1984 and re-elected in 1988; Lamar Williams, appointed in 1987; Junius Williams, appointed in 1992; and Bernard Griffin, elected in 1992 and still serving.

6. The London Street house that blues singer Ruth Weston Brown grew up in is gone now.

But that's OK. The city plans to give her a street near the new Norcom High School - or specifically name the street after her.

Brown is another of Portsmouth's ``Notables'' and one who came back to a special Ruth Brown Day several years ago.

The popular singer won a Tony Award for her Broadway performance in ``Black and Blue'' and a Grammy for her album, ``Blues on Broadway.''

She was here last weekend for a concert, along with a book-signing of her autobiography, ``Miss Rhythm.'' The book, written with Andrew Yule, will be released this month.

7. Portsmouth native Anne Williams was singing at churches and tent revivals by the time she was 5 years old.

After she graduated from Crestwood High School in the early 1960s she headed for college and work in New York City.

But she still found time for the church choir.

And that's where she was discovered by a member of the Sweet Inspirations, a female vocal group looking for the right voice for their quartet.

During Williams' work with the Sweet Inspirations, they toured 50 states and 38 countries, performing at Madison Square Garden, the Apollo Theater and Carnegie Hall.

In addition to Aretha and Elvis, they sang with Dionne Warwick and Ike and Tina Turner.

8. Kay Coles James, the new dean of Regent University's Robertson School of Government, lived in an apartment on Carver Circle in Douglass Park as a child.

She was one of six children who later moved with their mother to Richmond where they lived in public housing.

That didn't stop her from achieving.

James is former state secretary of Health and Human Services.

She also served as associate director for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, under President George Bush.

9. Bismarck Myrick grew up in the Jeffry Wilson public housing community and graduated from Norcom High School in 1959.

He joined the Army and did a tour of duty as an infantry commander in Vietnam and was awarded the Silver Star, Purple Heart and four Bronze Stars. He also earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Tampa and a master's degree from Syracuse University.

Myrick joined the State Department and was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Lesotho in South Africa last March.

10. Attorney Kenneth Melvin has been a state delegate since 1980.

11. Willie Mae Sanford was vice president of the board for the first public library for black residents established in 1945. In the 1930s she had served as librarian of a smaller library at the parish house of St. James Episcopal Church - funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and National Youth Administration (NYA).

12. If you took this quiz, you know something about Bertha Edwards' contributions to Portsmouth.

Her carefully kept scrapbooks on Portsmouth's black history chronicle everything from the crowd that awaited Junius Kellogg's victorious return to Portsmouth to the civil rights struggles in the city.

Edwards was head librarian for the Portsmouth Public Community Library and in 1963, when the libraries were desegregated, she went to work for the Portsmouth Public Library on Court Street. ILLUSTRATION: Photos on the cover

Some of the Portsmouth African Americans who have achieved

success are pictured on today's cover, designed by graphics artist

Kenneth Wright.

The center oval is I.C. Norcom, a teacher and principal in

Portsmouth from 1884 until his death in 1916. The only high school

for black students was named in his honor.

Clockwise around Norcom are:

David Livingston Muckle, a civic leader in the 1950s and 1960s.

He also contributed to many community programs..

Ida Barbour, who founded the Miller Day Nursery. It is listed in

the Library of Congress archives as one of the oldest day care

centers for blacks in the state.

Joe Langston, football coach at Norcom for more than 20 years,

produced one state championship football team and many city and

district championship teams in track.

Sissieretta Jones, an opera singer, was invited to sing at the

White House in 1892 by President Benjamin Harrison and performed for

the Prince of Wales and King Edward VII.

Army Lt. Gen. Alonzo E. Short was the highest ranking

African-American on active duty when he retired in 1994.

Jazz violinist Karen Briggs has played with Yanni's group since




Staff file photo by JIM WALKER

Photo that appeared in Life magazine shows black students trying to

get service at a Roses lunch counter. Front row: Margaret Grimes

Jackson, second from left, Donald Craun, Lessie Holland and Lizzie

Jones Trotter. Back row: Linwood M. Bridgers, left, Eleanor Turner

Boyce, Wilbur Knight, Leonard T. Johnson, Thomas E. Jones, Claude

Brown and Thomasine Turner Chandler. The others are unidentified.

Photos McCall


Throngs of Portsmouth residents gather to welcome home Junius

Kellogg, pictured at right, after he helped break up a point-shaving

scandal in college basketball. A parade was held in his honor that


A family enjoys a magazine from the new Portsmouth Public Community

Library for black residents on South Street. The photo was taken

between 1949 and 1959.

Dorothy Spruill Redford

Alex Haley


Bertha Edwards was head librarian for the Portsmouth Public

Community Library and in 1963, when the libraries were desegregated,

she went to work for the Portsmouth Public Library on Court Street.

Kay Coles James

Willie Mae Sanford

The first black YMCA in Portsmouth opened in 1946 in what had been

the USO building in the 1300 block of Chestnut St. It was torn

down in the 1960s for the interstate highway, relocated temporarily

on Lincoln Street, then moved to Effingham Street, where it is


On a recent visit to her hometown of Portsmouth, singer Ruth Brown

shares a joke with Andre Yule, who co-authored her book, ``Miss