Strong Men & Women in Virginia History

Melody C. Barnes (1964–), Richmond
Attorney and Government Official
Fulfilling her passion for public service, Melody C. Barnes has been working to shape domestic policy in Washington, D.C., for more than 20 years.

Sheila 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.

Gwen Bingham (1959–), Prince George County
Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army
Brigadier General Gwen Bingham was the first woman to serve as quartermaster general of the United States Army.

James Heyward Blackwell (ca. February 1864–October 14, 1931), Richmond
Educator and Community Advocate
James Heyward Blackwell advanced the cause of African American public education in Richmond for more than forty years.

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

Thomas Cannon (August 3, 1925–July 2, 2005), Richmond
A postal worker who lived frugally, Thomas Cannon Sr. was a philanthropist who gave away more than $156,000 during his lifetime.

William 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.

Peter Jacob Carter (1845–1886), Northampton County
Peter Jacob Carter rose from slavery to be an influential member of the General Assembly and sought-after political speaker during the 1870s and 1880s.

Lott 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.

Jennie Serepta Dean (1848–1913), Manassas
Born into slavery, Jennie Serepta Dean founded a school at a time when segregation limited educational opportunities for African American students.

Clarence M. Dunnaville (1933–), Roanoke
Attorney and civil rights activist Clarence M. Dunnaville Jr. advocates equal justice and equal opportunities for all Americans.

William Darnell “Bill” Euille (b. 1950–), Alexandria
A leader in the political, cultural, and civic life of Alexandria, William Darnell “Bill” Euille became the first African American elected mayor of the city.

Mary Alice Franklin Hatwood Futrell (b. 1940–), Lynchburg
Educator and Organization Leader
Educator and organization leader Mary Alice Franklin Hatwood Futrell is an advocate for teachers and students in the United States and around the world.

Nannie Berger Hairston (1921–), Christiansburg
Community activist
Activist Nannie Berger Hairston strives to make her community a better place.

Leroy Rountree Hassell (August 17, 1955–February 9, 2011), Norfolk
A respected lawyer and jurist, Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr. was the first African American to serve as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly (February 1818–May 26, 1907), Dinwiddie County
Seamstress and Author
Seamstress and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln, former slave Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly wrote a book detailing her life and experiences in the White House.

Earl 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.

Mamie Evelyn Locke (1954–), Hampton
Mamie Evelyn Locke was the first African-American woman elected mayor of Hampton and the third African-American woman elected to the Senate of Virginia.

Olivia Ferguson McQueen (b. 1942–), Charlottesville
Civil Rights Pioneer
Civil rights pioneer Olivia Ferguson McQueen successfully challenged school segregation in 1959, but did not receive her diploma for another fifty-four years.

John Mitchell (July 11, 1863–December 3, 1929), Richmond
Newspaper Editor
As editor of the Richmond Planet, John Mitchell, Jr., fought against racism and for African American advancement in politics, business, and education.

Robert Russa Moton (1867–1940), Hampton
Early in the twentieth century, Robert Russa Moton was one of the foremost African American educators in the United States.

Alonzo Harding “Zo” Mourning (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.

Claude Grandford Perkins (1941–), Richmond
President of Virginia Union University
Appointed the 12th president of Virginia Union University in 2009, Claude Grandford Perkins has worked tirelessly to expand the school's horizons and preserve its future.

Xavier R. Richardson (1957–), Fredericksburg
Mentor/executive and community leader
Xavier R. Richardson is a fervent advocate for underprivileged youth.

Michael Robinson (1983–), Richmond
Football Player and Youth Mentor
A success in the classroom and on the gridiron, Super Bowl champion Michael Robinson encourages students to strive academically and participate in community service.

Robert L. Satcher Jr. (1965–), Hampton
The first orthopedic surgeon to fly into space, Robert L. Satcher's mission aboard the space shuttle Atlantis included spacewalks to repair robotic arms on the International Space Station.

Anne Bethel Spencer (February 6, 1882–July 27, 1975), Lynchburg
Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Bethel Spencer was also an advocate for the civil rights of African Americans.

James Randolph Spencer (b. 1949–), Richmond
Federal Judge
James Randolph Spencer is the first African American federal judge appointed from Virginia.

Wyatt Tee Walker (1929–), Petersburg
Civil rights activist
A nationally celebrated Baptist minister, Wyatt Tee Walker was a pioneer in the Civil Rights movement.

Marcellus Spencer “Boo” Williams (b. 1958–), Hampton
Youth Sports Mentor
Marcellus Spencer “Boo” Williams, Jr., created a nationally known summer youth basketball program and led the way in developing a state-of-the-art community sports facility in Hampton.

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

Library of Virginia