Dictionary of Virginia Biography

Inez Catherine Fields (March 1895–9 August 1978), attorney, was born in Hampton and was the daughter of George Washington Fields, an attorney, and Sarah "Sallie" Haws Baker Fields. Her uncle James Apostle Fields, a Newport News attorney, served one term in the House of Delegates. Fields graduated from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University) in 1914. Racial discrimination in Virginia required her to enroll at Boston University's law school in order to continue her education. After receiving a B.L. in June 1922, Fields worked in the Boston law office of William Henry Lewis, a Virginia native who had been the first African American appointed an assistant attorney general of the United States. There she earned a good reputation as a criminal lawyer and title examiner. Fields married Frederick Conklin Scott, an electrician at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, in the school's chapel on 30 December 1925. They had one son.

Continuing to use her maiden name professionally, Fields had moved back to Hampton by December 1928, when she became the third African American woman (following Lavinia Marian Fleming Poe, of Newport News, and Bertha Louise Douglass, of Norfolk) admitted to practice law in Virginia. As late as 1941, the National Bar Journal listed her as one of only about fifty-five black women attorneys in the United States. Fields joined her father's law practice and qualified as a notary public in Hampton. She handled divorce cases and often served as a court-appointed counsel. She won election in September 1945 to the executive committee of the Old Dominion Bar Association.

About 1929 Fields helped establish the Women's Forum, a group devoted to civic, political, and educational causes in Elizabeth City County. As president of the forum, during the 1930s she oversaw benefit programs that collected money, food, and toys for distribution to needy families and children of unemployed parents. In October 1931 Fields and three other attorneys spoke at a mass meeting to educate residents on court decisions regarding the qualifications for registering and voting, and the following month at a meeting sponsored by a local woman's club she urged women to register to vote. In July 1943 Fields and other southern black leaders attended a hearing on the Newport News school board's dismissal without explanation of three principals and three teachers, presumably for their roles in fighting for equal pay for black teachers. She helped raise funds in 1949 to build a local child-care center, and as a member of the Hampton Woman's Service League, she helped organize a Christmas youth dance in 1959 and spring cultural activities the following year.

The Hampton City Federation of Colored Women's Clubs selected Fields as its 1957 Woman of the Year, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People honored her in 1968 with a lifetime membership plaque. Inez Catherine Fields Scott died at a Hampton hospital on 9 August 1978. She was buried next to her husband, who had died on 6 September 1974, in the cemetery at Hampton Institute (later Hampton University Cemetery).

Sources Consulted:
Birth month and year in United States Census Schedule, Elizabeth City Co., 1900 (age five on 7 June), Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; variant birth dates of 13 Mar. 1900 on gravestone and of 13 Mar. 1901 in Social Security application, Social Security Administration, Office of Earnings Operations, Baltimore, Md.; Marriage Register, Elizabeth City Co. (age twenty-four on 30 Dec. 1925), Bureau of Vital Statistics, Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health, Record Group 36, Library of Virginia; Southern Workman 51 (1922): 345, 588; ibid. 55 (1926): 87–88; Chicago Defender (national ed.), 16 Sept. 1922 (portrait), 26 Dec. 1925, 26 July 1941; Norfolk Journal and Guide, 9 Feb. 1929, 16 Aug. 1930, 31 Oct., 5 Dec. 1931, 29 June 1957; Peter Wallenstein, Blue Laws and Black Codes: Conflict, Courts, and Change in Twentieth-Century Virginia (2004), 63, 74–75; obituary in Newport News Daily Press, 11 Aug. 1978.

Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Brittany N. Heyward.

How to cite this page:
Brittany N. Heyward,"Inez Catherine Fields (1895–1978)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2015 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.asp?b=Fields_Inez_Catherine, accessed [today's date]).

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