The Library of Virginia, in collaboration with Dominion, presents the 2015 Strong Men & Women in Virginia History. This program highlights eight African American leaders and their achievements.

For information on past honorees (Trailblazers and Strong Men & Women), use the following links: African American Trailblazers and Strong Men & Women: Excellence in Leadership series. Visit our research guide for digital resources on African American History sites.

Sheila R. BaxterSheila R. Baxter
(b. 1955–)
Franklin
Brigadier General Army Medical Service Corps
Brigadier General Sheila Baxter was the first female and the second African-American brigadier general in the Army Medical Service Corps.

James “Plunky” BranchJames “Plunky” Branch
(b. 1947–)
Richmond
Musician and Educator
For decades, multi-talented saxophonist and bandleader James “Plunky” Branch has promoted the cultural importance of music at home and abroad.

Beth Anne BrownBeth Anne Brown
(February 4, 1969–October 5, 2008)
Roanoke
Astrophysicist
An astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Beth A. Brown worked to inspire women and minorities to pursue careers in science.

William Harvey CarneyWilliam Harvey Carney
(February 29, 1840–December 9, 1908)
Norfolk
Medal of Honor Recipient
For his bravery during battle in the American Civil War, Sergeant William H. Carney was the first African American to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Lott CaryLott Cary
(ca. 1780–November 10, 1828)
Charles City County
Baptist Minister and Settler of Liberia
Born into slavery, Lott Cary purchased his own freedom and became an early leader in the new West African colony of Liberia.

Earl Francis LloydEarl Francis Lloyd
(April 3, 1928–February 26, 2015)
Alexandria
Basketball Pioneer
Earl Lloyd was the first African American to play in the NBA and the league’s first African- American assistant coach.

Alonzo Harding “Zo” MourningAlonzo Harding “Zo” Mourning Jr.
(b. 1970–)
Chesapeake
Basketball Player and Philanthropist
Hall of Fame basketball player Alonzo Mourning Jr. is a champion of charitable causes and persevered against kidney disease.

Jamelle Smith WilsonJamelle Smith Wilson
(b. 1968–)
Hanover County
Educator
Jamelle Smith Wilson is the first woman and first African American to lead the Hanover County Public School Division.