Fredericksburg's Wall of Honor: Honorees for 2000-2005
Wanted: local leaders in education, medicine, civil rights, government, good works, patriotism, historic preservation, and other fields.
Do you know someone in Fredericksburg's past who has made an outstanding contribution to the community? The Memorials Advisory Commission and the City of Fredericksburg chooses noteworthy citizens who have been deceased at least five years to add to Wall of Honor on display in the chambers of the City Council every year. Anyone can make a nomination, and applications are available online in Adobe Acrobat format. You may also visit the City's Memorials Advisory Commission Web site at www.fredericksburgva.gov/boards/memorials.asp.
Fredericksburg's Wall of Honor was unveiled and dedicated August 22, 2000. They have since added over thirty names of noteworthy citizens. The information below was derived from the Clerk of the Council's files on the City's Wall of Honor. The copies from the files are available in the Virginiana Room of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.
Honorees for 2000
(c. 1740—September 3, 1804)
John DeBaptiste was an African-American early business owner who owned a wharf and operated the Falmouth Ferry in the days before bridges over the Rappahannock. He was an important member of the free black community and served in the navy during the Revolutionary War aboard the ship, Dragon. He is buried in Falmouth Cemetery, and his grave bears a marker from the Sons of the American Revolution.
Reference: A Different Story: A Black History of Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania, Virginia by Ruth Coder Fitzgerald, pp. 33–34, 47, 50–54.
Alvin Thomas Embrey, Sr.
(February 1, 1874—February 17, 1957)
Mr. A. T. Embrey, a lawyer and judge, helped form the early historic preservation organizations, Rappahannock Valley, Inc., and Citizens Guild of Washington's Boyhood Home. He achieved political success early on when elected to the Virginia House of Delegates representing Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County in 1896. He was then re-elected for second term where he represented the best interests of Fredericksburg.
He was a master and district deputy grand master of Lodge 4, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons and a member and president of the local Kiwanis Club as well as serving as president of the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce and also served on the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce. His other affiliations include: member of Potomac Bridge Commission, chairman of Wallace Library board, president of Bar Association of the 15th Judicial Circuit, and vestry of St. George's Episcopal Church
He obtained funding and started the Fredericksburg Power Company, later called the Spotsylvania Power Company. The companies bought land to create a system of dams to generate electric power throughout the area. The companies were later merged with the Virginia Electric and Power Company. At that time, Judge Embrey still managed the district office, then became corporate counsel. The Embrey Dam in Fredericksburg was named after him.
He donated an extensive law library to the city of Fredericksburg and the Fredericksburg Bar Association for use by lawyers in the 15th Circuit. The library included very early indexing of deeds, wills, and liens from all the surrounding areas-- Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Stafford, King George, and Caroline counties. The library also included bound copies of numerous abstracts of titles he searched.
He published two books that have been used widely for research in the Fredericksburg area: History of Fredericksburg, published in 1937 and Waters of the State, published in 1931, written at the request of the State Commission on Conservation and the Development of the State of Virginia.
He also served the City directly in the following ways:
Appointed Judge of the Corporation Court, predecessor to the present Circuit Court of City of Fredericksburg, in 1903. He declined re-election to return to private practice.
Appointed to National Defense Council during WWI by President Wilson and appointed to Selective Service Appeal Board during WWII.
He is buried in the City Cemetery in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
"A River Story" Free Lance Star, February 6, 1986, pg A 18–21
"Judge Alvin Thomas Embrey, Historian" Term Paper presented at the Department of History, George Mason College by Wane Roy Dittman, December, 1971.
(1905—December 15, 1986)
In 1950, Anne Hamrick and Julia Tyler, an African-American woman, opened the Mission School on lower Charles St. for underprivileged children which is now called the Ann Hamrick Preschool.
She was a minister with the United Methodist Church, a taxi driver, a newspaper owner, and a community activist. Her faith extended to ministering a prison mission in the area, and she hosted a radio program in Fredericksburg called "Inspiration Time." She made a difference in the lives of Fredericksburg's children by improving their education and exposing them to books and cultural events. The Fredericksburg Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3105 named Anne Hamrick Citizen of the Year in 1982.
Gospel for the 21st Century by Thomas G. Faulkner, Jr., p. 79.
Her obituary is in the Free Lance-Star, December 16, 1986.
Levin James Houston, Jr.
(October 22, 1877—November 16, 1966)
Levin Houston was the city manager of Fredericksburg for 37 years, from 1918 to 1955. During his service, a water treatment plant was installed, 90% of the streets were paved, street lights were added, a door-to-door garbage system (state of the art nationwide) was instituted, and the Battlefield Parks system of Fredericksburg was saved by his determination and foresight. A canal where Kenmore Avenue is today was made a street, and he attracted a major company, American Viscose (Sylvania, later FMC), in 1920 with no tax breaks given. He demonstrated his capabilities by training other city managers throughout the nation. He was certainly a leading force in Fredericksburg's growth and laid out the present-day Route 1 bypass.
His other associations included presidency of the Virginia Municipalities Association; National VP of National Associaton; VP of Virginia AAA Association; Lodge #2 Masons; the Knights of Pythias; the Elks; and charter membership in Gamma Alpha Cornell honorary scholastic society.
Mr. Houston is buried in the City Cemetery in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
"Can-do Spirit: The Old Days of Trash" in Flashback in the Free Lance-Star's "Town & County" section, October 12, 1991.
"Houston Retires, Offers City Two Farewell Bits of Advice" front page of the Free Lance-Star, Oct. 15, 1955.
Jerry G. Miller
(February 1, 1922—September 7, 1982)
Jerry Miller, a city councilman and popular merchant, was known for his charitable works. He was president of the B'nai B'rith, the United Jewish Appeal, and the Beth Sholom congregation in the 1950s. He also served as president of the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, and the Retail Merchants Association.
He was the first fund chairman in Fredericksburg for the American Cancer Society and a director of both the City's Red Cross chapter and of the Salvation Army. His local civic responsibilities included serving on the City's Board of Zoning Appeals, as well as involvement with Historic Fredericksburg, Inc. (HFFI) and the Rappahannock Development Association, the forerunner of GWRC: George Washington Regional Commission.
He was a World War II army veteran who was wounded in action and received the Purple Heart. Mr. Miller was a member of the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans
His other associations and awards included: presidency of Mary Washington Hospital's board of managers; Fredericksburg Jaycees' "Young Man of the Year" award for 1956; a lifetime service award from the Beth Sholom Temple, then located on Charlotte Street; and service on the board of directors of Farmers and Merchants State Bank.
Jerry Miller owned Millers, the first ladies' apparel specialty shop in Fredericksburg and opened another similar shop, The Fashion Plate, in 1948.
Mr. Miller is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Fredericksburg.
Dr. Frank C. Pratt
(1883—January 22, 1964)
Dr. Pratt established the Fredericksburg Medical Center (later known as the Pratt Clinic) in 1936 and encouraged other doctors to come to the Fredericksburg area. His own specialty was surgery, and he was a member of the Virginia State Hospital Board, the Medical Society of Virginia, and president of the Fredericksburg Medical Society. The Frank C. Pratt chapter of the Virginia Association for Mental Health was named for him.
Dr. Pratt saw military service in France as a major during World War I.
He is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Dr. Pratt's obituary appears in the January 22, 1964 issue of the Free Lance-Star.
Silvanus Jackson Quinn
(March 8, 1837—September, 1910)
S.J. Quinn first came to Fredericksburg during the Civil War as a captain in Company A, 13th Regiment of Barksdale's Brigade, in the Confederate Army. After the war, he returned to the city where he became owner of the Free Lance newspaper. He served on city council, the school board, the library board, and the fair association. Capt. Q., as he was affectionately called, was member of the masons and a leader of the local Baptist church.
He went on to hold the positions of Commissioner of the Revenue, Superintendent of City Water Works, and Justice of the Peace. His most lasting work may have been his book, A History of the City of Fredericksburg, Virginia, originally published in 1908.
His obituary appears in The Free Lance, September 8, 1910; and an additional article of interest may be found in the December 19, 1899 issue of that same paper.
Clarence R. Todd
(October 15, 1914—March 8, 1977)
Mr. Todd served his country in World War II and continued to do so after the war as a civilian employee at Quantico Marine Corps School. In the 1960s, he was active in the local chapter of the NAACP and helped to desegregate lunch counters in Fredericksburg.
On June 11, 1963, City Council (by a 10-1 vote) selected Clarence Todd to be Fredericksburg's first black school board member. During the 1960s, there were few cultural opportunities for young people of color in the Rappahannock area. Mr. Todd organized youth for a program called "Shades of Soul" in 1968. The program stressed drama, dance, and music and was extended in November, 1973, and renamed Harambee 360 (degrees). His daughter, Gaye Adegbalola, had worked with him during its development and continued to foster the group after her father's death.
A Different Story: A Black History of Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Stafford, Virginia by Ruth Coder Fitzgerald.
The Free Lance-Star, Wednesday, March 9, 1977, p. 17.
Honorees for 2001
Dr. Urbane F. Bass
(1880—October 7, 1918)
Dr. Bass was the first African-American to practice medicine in Fredericksburg, from 1906 to 1917, shortly after having graduated from Shaw University. He was a medical pioneer for the area who practiced in the black community from his office on Amelia Street in spite of severe discrimination and denial of hospital privileges.
A small town doctor's life early in the 20th century was not a wealthy one. "Bass often treated Fredericksburg-area patients in their own homes, doing surgery on kitchen tables if necessary" wrote Ruth Fitzgerald in A Different Story. "As was common in those days, he was often paid in food or services."
He volunteered for service in World War I and served from April 1917 until his death in battle on October 7, 1918. He bore the rank of lieutenant and served as a medical officer in the 372nd Infantry Regiment. According to Brenda Sloan, Church Archivist/Historian of Shiloh Baptist Church (New Site), "Dr. Bass was heroic--he gave his life while saving lives." Indeed, Shiloh Baptist remembered his heroism in 1920 by providing a beautiful church window, four feet by eighteen feet, which bears his image and may be seen today.
Dr. Bass was posthumously awarded a Distinguished Services Cross and was the first black commissioned officer to be buried in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery in 1921. Even in death, his reputation for selflessness inspired positive changes in the community. In 1921, the Urbane F. Bass Memorial Fund and Hospital were established. At its inception, it was the only hospital serving blacks in Fredericksburg. His name also became a part of the local veterans community with the establishment of the Bass-Brittenham-Bundy American Legion Post 142. His name has not been forgotten. In 1993, the Bass-Ellison Federal Social Service and Health Department Building was dedicated in Fredericksburg .
"Men of the Month" The Crisis, November 1919.
Urbane F. Bass in Black Defenders of America: 1775-1973 by Robert Ewell Greene, Johnson Publishing Company, Chicago, 1974.
"Lt. Urbane F. Bass, MD, and the African-American Medical Corps in the First World War 1917-1918 by Frederick Newsome, MD MSc, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Harlem Hospital Center, New York, New York, October 5, 1995 (paper).
"Doctors Example Shines" Free Lance-Star, February 24, 1999.
Morgan Lafayette Combs
(June 11, 1892—October 25, 1955)
Dr. Combs' presidency of Mary Washington College saw a time of dramatic growth in the institution as it grew from three buildings to 36, from 60 acres worth $500,000 to 381 acres worth $25 million and changed its mission from being a teachers' college to a liberal arts college.
His other local associations included directorship of the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce from 1924 to 1941, the Kiwanis club from 1930-1933, and the Inter-Racial Commission. Dr. Combs received the B'nai B'rith Valuable Citizen award in 1953 and was named Fredericksburg Citizen of the Year in 1952. Combs Science Hall at Mary Washington College is named for him.
Morgan Combs is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
"Combs, Morgan LaFayette" Biographical Encyclopedia of the World, 2nd edition, 1942, Institute for Research in Biography, Inc., New York.
His obituary appeared in the Free Lance-Star, October 26, 1955.
History of Mary Washington College, 1908-1972 by Edward Alvey, Jr.
Charles McDonald Cowan
(September 29, 1899—March 10, 1989)
Charles Cowan served on Fredericksburg City Council (1938--1946) and was mayor of Fredericksburg for 15 years, (1949--1964). He also held the position of president of the Virginia Municipal League and the Virginia Coal Merchants Association. Mr. Cowan was also director of the Farmers & Merchants State Bank and Served on the City's planning commission.
Cowan came to Fredericksburg to be the local representative of Standard Oil Company. He was also an automobile service station owner and operated C. H. Montgomery & Co. which sold coal, oil, fertilizers, seeds, electrical appliances, and heating systems. As an interesting side note, one of his businesses sold salt herring that was packed in the city's Old Stone Warehouse and sold abroad. The local delicacy was especially popular during World War II; 192,000 20-lb kits of it were sold in 1941.
Mr. Cowan's military service included a tour of duty in France in World War I. In World War II, he was a member of the Virginia State Guard and chairman of the Fredericksburg Salvage Committee. He also served on the Virginia Hospital Advisory Council and was a member of the Virginia Advisory Council of Educational Television.
Charles Cowan is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Fredericksburg. Cowan Boulevard, near Hugh Mercer Elementary School, is named for him.
Four Mayors of Fredericksburg: An Oral History by Archer Williams.
"Cowan Gives a Final 'No' as He Departs Planners" the Free Lance-Star, Wednesday, October 20, 1975.
"Montgomery Co. to Wind Up Operation Without Revealing Its 'Secret' Process" the Free Lance-Star, Monday, January 20, 1958.
His obituary appeared in the Free Lance-Star, March 10, 1989.
Benjamin Thomas Pitts
(January 21, 1889—July 21, 1964)
Benjamin Pitts was a state senator representing Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Orange, Goochland, and Louisa counties from 1944 until poor health forced him to resign in 1958. He was a member of the board of visitors of the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Staunton and was described in his obituary as being "a staunch Democrat." Earlier in his career, he was appointed to Fredericksburg's City Council in 1933. His appointment to Council was followed by his election in 1936 and his reelection in 1940. In private life, he owned a successful chain of movie theaters throughout the state, including downtown Fredericksburg's Colonial Theater.
Mr. Pitts was five times president of the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce and served a two-year term as the state director. He was also a director of Farmers & Merchants State Bank. The Benjamin T. Pitts Foundation distributed college scholarships to deserving high school seniors throughout the area. During World War II, he headed war bond drives in the area. He also served as president of the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania Chapter of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, Inc., and was president of the Fredericksburg Broadcasting Corporation.
His obituary appeared in the Free Lance-Star on July 21, 1964.
"In Colonial's Heyday, Big-screen Magic" by Ruth Coder Fitzgerald. "Town & County" section of the Free Lance-Star, September 11, 1999. Pp. 5–6.
Dr. Philip Y. Wyatt
(August 6, 1907—October 22, 1984)
This tireless worker for civil rights and social change came to Fredericksburg to practice dentistry after his graduation from Howard University in 1933. His office was located at 610 Princess Anne St (The Gravatt House, bearing an historic marker in Wyatt's honor), which was later moved to108 Charlotte Street, until his retirement in 1983.
Dr. Wyatt was president of the Fredericksburg branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, as well as president and vice president of the Virginia NAACP. Dr. Wyatt fought discrimination and advocated integration for years through peaceful means. He helped counsel local students to conduct a protest to desegregate Fredericksburg's lunch counters.
His other associations include serving as cochairman of the Fredericksburg Biracial Commission, a member of the Virginia State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and as the 8th District representative of a statewide black political action group, the Crusade for Voters Committee of Virginia.
Dr. Wyatt was also a deacon of Shiloh (Old Site) Baptist Church.
"Using his involvement in the church, the N.A.A.C.P. and numerous other civic organizations, Dr. Wyatt was instrumental in pricking the conscience of the community so that the problems of minority inequities, inclusion and opportunity were aired and addressed. While many cities in the nation were experiencing violence, destruction and disruption, Fredericksburg remained relatively calm. It was Dr. Wyatt's leadership combined with skillful mediation and negotiations that helped to maintain harmony and peace while historic changes were made." -- Letter from Rev. & Mrs. Lawrence A. Davies to the Wall of Honor Committee
Obituary in the Free Lance-Star, October 23, 1984.
Obituary in the Washington Post, October 26, 1984, p. B4.
"Promoter of Equality" in the Stafford County Sun, Thursday, February 13, 1992, p. B2.
A Different Story: A Black History of Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania, Virginia by Ruth Coder Fitzgerald.
Honorees for 2002
Edward Herman Cann
(February 16, 1903—December 14, 1988)
Ed Cann was known as the "Bicentennial Mayor," for his term of office coincided with the nation's Bicentennial celebrations in 1976, and, under his leadership, Fredericksburg enjoyed a period of growth in its tourism industry. Prior to his term as mayor, Mr. Cann served 30 years on city council.
Edward Cann came to Fredericksburg from Baltimore as a young boy and at 16 took a job with the RF & P (Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac) Railroad, eventually becoming a general agent. During World War II, part of his responsibility included overseeing the movement of troops out of Fort A. P. Hill by rail.
Mr. Cann's local associations were many. He worked with the Presbyterian Church in Fredericksburg, the March of Dimes, the Rescue Squad, and the local and national chambers of commerce. He was also a member of the Masonic Lodge for 62 years, and served as lieutenant governor of the local division of Kiwanis International.
Perhaps his most delightful occupation, which he continued for many years after his retirement from other activities, was that of marriage commissioner. He married over 1,000 couples in the area.
His other civic associations included being Chairman of City Planning Commission, as well as serving on the City Recreation Commission and the City Biracial Commission. Mr. Cann was chosen number one citizen of Fredericksburg 1953 and 1976 and received the Outstanding Citizenship Award 1962 from the Veterans of Foreign Wars as well as the Unsung Virginian Award. He was treasurer and elder or deacon of the Presbyterian Church, chairman of the March of Dimes chapter, a member of the Boy Scout Troop Committee, board director for the local Cancer Society, board director of the Mental Hygiene Clinic, president of the Fredericksburg Senior Citizens, member of the Northern Neck Historical Society, charter member of Historic Fredericksburg, Inc., and chairman of the Rappahannock Area Development Commission.
Mr. Cann wrote historical articles for The Fredericksburg Times magazine. In 1980, Mr. Cann's Masonic admirers founded the new Edward H. Cann Masonic Lodge in Fredericksburg.
Mr. Cann is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Fredericksburg.
Four Mayors of Fredericksburg: An Oral History by Archer Williams.
Dr. Richard C. Ellison, Sr.
(July 10, 1902—October 22, 1990)
Dr. Ellison came to Fredericksburg to practice medicine after graduating from Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and the Howard University Medical School. During much of his practice, he was one of only two black doctors in the area. He used his knowledge of family histories of illnesses to successfully diagnose and treat his patients' ailments.
He was a charter member of the Frank C. Pratt Chapter of Mental Health, a Boy Scout leader, a Sunday school teacher, and was actively involved in local, state and national medical societies. He served as football physician for the Walker-Grant Tigers for many years. A local pharmacist remembers that he continued to see patients each day until the last sick person was seen, sometimes to the early hours of the morning. Dr. Ellison helped remove racial barriers at Mary Washington Hospital and in many businesses and was greatly respected by his colleagues.
He is buried in Mount Lawn Cemetery in Caroline County, Virginia.
(c. 1830—June, 1894)
Sophia Hatch, a white woman, came from Ohio to Fredericksburg immediately after the Civil War to teach in Fredericksburg's black school system. She worked with African-American students of all ages and was the principal of the Colored School during a difficult era. This school was located at the northeast corner of Princess Anne and Wolfe streets, where the Fredericksburg Fire Station stands today. She left her position in Fredericksburg in 1890, possibly due to illness for she died of cancer four years later. The people whom she taught, who would later name a black grade school in Mayfield after her in the 1920s, warmly remembered her.
Miss Hatch is buried in the City Cemetery in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
A Different Story: A Black History of Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania, Virginia by Ruth Coder Fitzgerald, pp. 130–131.
History of Shiloh (Old Site) Baptist Church by Beatrice Hester, pp. 11–12.
Elmer Grimsley (Peck) Heflin
(February 22, 1877—July 13, 1941)
The streets of Fredericksburg are filled with residences and business designed and built by Peck Heflin. At age 15, he quit school to become a carpenter. He became a contractor by age 18. The first house he built was for his brother, George W. Heflin.
Some of his buildings include:
The Enterprise Hotel at the corner of Caroline and Hanover streets
The first Mary Washington Hospital
Farmers and Merchants State Bank Building at the corner of Princess Anne and William streets.
The Princess Anne Hotel on Princess Anne Street
Lafayette Elementary School (now the library at 1201 Caroline Street)
The first unit of James Monroe High School (Old Maury Elementary)
He also designed and built Woolworth's (today's Antique Court of Shops), J. C. Penney's, Montgomery Ward's, the Colonial Theater, the Stratford Hotel (today's George Washington Executive Center), and many fine homes.
His interest in historic properties was also keen. He once owned Kenmore Plantation, which he agreed to sell to the Kenmore Association, also making a contribution to be used for this project. His residence at 213 Caroline Street was once the home of Dr. Charles Mortimer, first mayor of Fredericksburg and physician of George Washington.
In addition to being a businessman, contractor, architect, and hotel owner, Peck Heflin was also a city councilman, a member of the Fredericksburg Baptist Church, the Elks Lodge, the Knights of Pythias, and a charter member of the Rotary Club of which he was also president.
Peck Heflin is buried in the City Cemetery in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
His obituary appeared in the Free Lance-Star, July 13, 1941.
John G. Hurkamp
John Hurkamp immigrated from the German kingdom of Hanover to Fredericksburg in 1843 at the age of 25. He was a highly skilled leather worker (currier) whose related pursuits included tanning and manufacturing.
His house at 406 Hanover Street was used as a headquarters by Federal Major General John Sedgwick. Late in the fighting, Hurkamp was one of 55 local people taken prisoner and sent to Fort Delaware Prison although he was able to secure a quick release due to his friendship with Sedgwick.
Hurkamp's creativity and business acumen led to a Centennial Medal in Philadelphia in 1876 and a Paris Exposition Medal in 1878 for a tanning agent he developed using local sumac. Previously, sumac for tanning had all been imported to the United States from the Mediterranean.
He served on City Council and chaired a post-Civil War committee on public improvements, which included developing the water supply system that was used by the City until World War II and converting a long abandoned cemetery at William and Prince Edward streets into a city park. He provided part of the financing, and it was named in his honor.
Mr. Hurkamp is buried in the Fredericksburg City Cemetery.
Honorees for 2003
Dr. Martin M. Blatt
(October 17, 1915--March 14, 1978)
Dr. Blatt, a native of New York City whose parents immigrated to this country from Europe, was known for his concern for his patients' health, beyond the field of optometry in which he practiced. He is said to have seen his work less as a business proposition and more as a chance to make a difference in people's lives. Accordingly, he sometimes treated his patients at no charge and became a positive force in his community.
He was elected to the school board in 1965 and served until 1971, helping to provide a stabilizing influence during turbulent times. A man of deep Judaic faith, Martin Blatt was active in the temple and helped coordinate the B'nai B'rith distribution of gifts to poor children during the holidays. His civic associations included membership in the Caroline Street Merchants Association and leadership positions on committees for Fredericksburg's Citizen Award and Brotherhood Week.
Dr. Blatt is buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Fredericksburg Virginia in the Beth Sholom section.
"Martin Blatt Is Honest with Life--And Himself," "The Bottom Line" column by John Goolrick. Free Lance-Star, September 13, 1977.
His obituary appeared in the Free Lance-Star, March 15, 1978
"They Shared One Thing in Common: Courage," "The Bottom Line" column by John Goolrick. Free Lance-Star, March 21, 1978.
Gladys Wright Cocke
(February 16, 1902—January 1, 1979)
Gladys Cocke was the first woman elected to a city council in Virginia. She served two terms as a councilwoman in Fredericksburg and was revered for her role as an educator in the area. She was also the first woman to serve as a lay leader in the Fredericksburg United Methodist Church. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, she was appointed to be Fredericksburg's Christmas Mother to coordinate efforts by community charities to help the needy.
Mrs. Cocke also headed local and district parent teacher associations and worked as a substitute teacher. She served on the Fredericksburg School Board and the City Welfare Board and was president of the Fredericksburg Woman's Club, and the Mary Washington Hospital Auxiliary. She also worked on Fredericksburg Biracial Commission for several years and was named by Beta Sigma Phi Sorority as First Lady of Fredericksburg in 1954.
Mrs. Cocke is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.
Professor Susan J. Hanna
(May 30, 1933—April 13, 1994)
Sue Hanna taught Victorian literature, modern poetry, comedy, and writing at Mary Washington College for twenty-five years. She was the recipient of the Grellet Simpson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1985. In 1994, a fund for an endowed scholarship at the college was established in her memory.
Dr. Hanna was involved in her community in an activist role, and her leadership made a difference in the lives of many citizens in the Rappahannock area. She was as an initial organizer of the Rappahannock Council on Domestic Violence and served on the board of Hope House, a model homeless shelter offering help to families in crisis. Nancy Fowler, Executive Director of the RCDV said of Dr. Hanna, "Sue was the first person to bring this issue to local public attention. She made the RCDV happen by her own force of will, and ours was one of the earliest programs in Virginia addressing domestic violence."
She was also on the board of the Fredericksburg Chapter of the National Organization for Women and was a founding member of the Margaret Brent Society, an investment club for area women.
Sue Hanna was a charter member of the Friends of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library and served as a force behind fundraising efforts during a period of tremendous growth. Donna Cote, the director of the library system described her as "an amazing woman who understood the vision of the public library as the people's university, and who devoted her life to making this a reality."
Reverend Cornelius Saunders Lucas
He began life as a slave and after emancipation went on to a distinguished career as a minister, businessman, and politician. He spent four years in Company H, 47th Regiment, Virginia Infantry, as a servant to the son of his owner, William G. Pollock. After the war, he received a Confederate pension and a citation from the Fredericksburg Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy for his wartime service
As a free man, he had a grocery store on Douglas Street in Fredericksburg and a coffee house in the 200 block of William Street. He was instrumental in setting up several churches in Stafford and led Little Shiloh Church in Falmouth after becoming ordained as a minister in 1882 and was active in the church until his death in 1927. Early members were baptized in the Rappahannock River.
During Reconstruction, he became involved in community affairs. He was an officer of the Shiloh Young Men's Association and Debating Society (1872) and was one of a slate of black men nominated for city council in 1876. He also served as an officer, along with other prominent local black citizens, in the local chapter of the United Order of True Reformers that offered graded insurance in 1884. In 1889, he became a member of the board of directors of the state's first incorporated black savings bank of Richmond, Virginia.
Rev. Lucas emphasized self-help and the need for education for African-Americans. He worked to improve the moral, economic, intellectual, and cultural conditions and enlisted the aid of white citizens in so doing. Among his accomplishments were improvements for his people in the areas of housing and voting rights.
He gave people food from his store when they had no money and made sure families had oil in the wintertime so their children could be warm. He lived on Douglas Street and earned the nickname of "Pap Lucas" because he was always striving to be a father to the children in the area.
"God loveth a cheerful giver." is noted on a book of donations for a new roof at Shiloh Baptist Church, a campaign moderated by Rev. Lucas. Indeed, Cornelius Lucas himself gave much to his community and is remembered fondly more than 150 years after his birth.
"Stafford Slave Served Confederacy," Free Lance-Star, October 21, 2000.
A Different Story: A Black History of Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania by Ruth Coder Fitzgerald.
Claude Thomas Parcell
(November 20, 1892—November 14, 1947)
Claude Parcell was president and general manager of the Frederickburg's Farmers Creamery Company, one of the largest in Virginia at the time of his death. He became the manager of the new enterprise when he was only 21. He had attended Virginia Polytechnic for one year before financial circumstances forced him to drop out of college. He took a job as a delivery boy on a milk route and was soon promoted to supervisor, then assistant manager, and at last was hired by another creamery to be its manager. Under his management, rigid sanitation standards were maintained by pasteurizing the dairy products. This was credited with an improvement in the health of the community.
Mr. Parcell was affiliated with the Methodist Church, the Masons, the Elks, and the Knights of Pythias. He also was a member of the Kiwanis Club, the Virginia National Guard, the March of Dimes, and the Chamber of Commerce, both locally and at the state level. He served on City Council for 22 years and was appointed mayor only two months before his sudden death from a heart attack in 1947. Parcell Street in College Heights is named in his honor.
Mr. Parcell is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Fredericksburg, Virginia
His obituary appeared on the front page of the Free Lance-Star, Friday, November 14, 1947.
Honorees for 2004
Barbara Crookshanks' article in the Free Lance-Star discusses these honorees: Hattie Howard Brown, Emily White Fleming, Susie Peach Foster, Kurt F. Leidecker, Ph.D., and Annie Fleming Smith.
Click here to access the article online.
Honorees for 2005