Author: Donald W. Gunter

ENTRY

Keppel, William Anne, second earl of Albemarle (1702–1754)

William Anne Keppel, second earl of Albemarle, served as governor of Virginia from 1737 until his death in 1754. His father was a confidant of William of Orange and later was made first earl of Albemarle. William Anne Keppel succeeded to his father’s titles and estates in 1718. In a distinguished military career, he rose to the rank of lieutenant general and proved himself during the War of the Austrian Succession. Albemarle became ambassador to France in 1748 and a member of the Privy Council two years later. George II commissioned him governor of Virginia on November 4, 1737. Albemarle never went to America and instead employed lieutenant governors to administer the government in Williamsburg. Relations between Albemarle and his lieutenant governors were strained over their respective appointive powers, and he outmaneuvered them in making colonial appointments. These patronage policies undermined the lieutenant governors and contributed to increasing the importance of colonial assemblies and politicians. Unintentionally, Albemarle helped weaken imperial ties between the colony and England. He died in Paris on December 22, 1754.

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Fields, James A. (1844–1903)

James A. Fields, who was born enslaved and became a successful lawyer, served one term in the House of Delegates (1889–1890). A brutal beating prompted Fields to escape his Hanover County bondage, and he settled in the Hampton area during the American Civil War (1861–1865). He enrolled in Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute‘s first class in 1869 and graduated two years later. In 1882 Fields received his law degree from Howard University and began to practice law in Warwick County (later Newport News). Five years later the area’s voters elected him as commonwealth’s attorney, and in 1889 he won his seat in the General Assembly. By 1900 he paid taxes on at least twenty-five properties in Newport News and Elizabeth City County. Fields died of Bright’s disease in 1903. His late-Victorian Italianate residence in Newport News was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

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Fayerman, George (d. 1890)

George Fayerman represented Petersburg in the House of Delegates (1869–1871) for the first session in which African Americans could vote for its members. Born free, Fayerman settled in Petersburg after the American Civil War (1861–1865), and by 1867 he had become a leader in the city’s Republican Party. When, in 1869, the party split into two factions, he won a seat in the House as a member of the radical wing. Fayerman pushed for African American political rights as a delegate but did not stand for reelection in 1871. Two years later he won the first of two terms on Petersburg’s common council. In 1879 Fayerman aligned with the new Readjuster Party, and attended an 1881 convention in which most African Americans entered into a coalition with the new organization. In his later years he operated a livery stable and established a grocery. Fayerman died, possibly of consumption or typhoid fever, in 1890.

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Evans, William W. (d. 1892)

William W. Evans served one term in the House of Delegates (1887–1888). Evans, whose father served in both houses of the General Assembly, was born enslaved and became involved with politics by 1882, when Petersburg‘s voters elected him city gauger. By August 1887 Evans had become editor of the Virginia Lancet, a Republican newspaper that he used to advocate improvements in the political and material lives of African Americans. In November of that year he won a seat in the House of Delegates, representing Petersburg. He remained loyal to the Republican Party leader William Mahone during a bruising congressional race in 1888, ultimately won by the independent candidate John Mercer Langston. That year Evans obtained a law license and established a practice in Petersburg. Later he worked in Portsmouth until ill health caused him to move back to Petersburg, where he died in 1892.

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Edwards, Tommy (1922–1969)

Tommy Edwards was a singer and songwriter best known for his 1958 chart-topping single “It’s All in the Game.” Edwards showed musical promise early, hosting a Richmond radio show in his teens. By 1943 he was writing songs in New York and scored a hit with “That Chick’s Too Young to Fry.” Edwards began a recording career that peaked in 1958 with “It’s All in the Game.” The runaway hit led to a series of charting singles over the next two years and appearances on national television shows. His career declined as his balladeer style fell out of favor with musical trends. His signature song remains a classic years after his death and has been included in many music compilations.

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Delaney, McDowell (1844–1926)

McDowell Delaney represented Amelia County for one term in the House of Delegates (1871–1873). Born to free parents, Delaney worked for a Confederate infantry company during the American Civil War (1861–1865) and likely held a job later with the Freedmen’s Bureau. He entered politics by 1869, when he lost a race for the county’s House of Delegates seat. Two years later Delaney won by a large margin and sided with the majority in trying to circumvent the Funding Act of 1871. Divisions within the local Republican Party likely caused his failed reelection bid, though he did represent Amelia at a state convention of African Americans in 1875. In subsequent years Delaney served in a variety of local offices, including justice of the peace, coroner, and constable. He also became engaged in such occupations as operating an ordinary, repairing bridges, teaching, ministering in a Baptist church, and farming. He moved to Cumberland County and successfully applied for a Confederate pension in 1924. He died in 1926.

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Davis, John H. (d. 1896)

John H. Davis was an African American entrepreneur and newspaper publisher who advanced with the economic boom created by Roanoke‘s establishment in the 1880s and then lost much of his wealth in the financial panic of 1893. It is unknown whether Davis was born free or into slavery, but in 1869 he owned property in Lynchburg. In January 1879 he purchased land in the Roanoke County community of Big Lick, soon to become the railroad center Roanoke. His business holdings expanded over the next thirteen years, ultimately solely owning thirty lots, the four-story Davis Hall, and the Roanoke Weekly Press published in the Davis Building. Davis attended two state conventions as a supporter of the Readjuster Party, and had two failed bids for city council. At his peak, his real and personal property valued between $50,000 and $75,000. Davis’s holdings shrank rapidly during the economic bust of the mid-1890s, and he died in 1896.

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Davis, Cephas L. (ca. 1839–1907)

Cephas L. Davis represented Charlotte and Mecklenburg counties in the Senate of Virginia for one term (1879–1880). Born into slavery, he became free at the end of the American Civil War (1861–1865). He spent much of the 1870s as a pastor and teacher in Mecklenburg, though it appears controversy drove him from the ministry temporarily. In 1879 he ran for the state senate as a Republican, winning narrowly in a three-way race. Davis later joined the Readjuster Party, saying that the new party’s members treated him as an equal. He did not seek reelection, but he remained involved in local politics. In 1887 he moved to North Carolina, where he taught school, and served as a principal and pastor. Davis spent his final years in Philadelphia, where he died in 1907.

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Curtiss, Gaston G. (1819–1872)

Gaston G. Curtiss served as a member of the Convention of 1867–1868. He grew up in Oswego County, New York, and arrived in Virginia about 1861. Four years later he purchased land near what is now the seat of Bedford County and became active in the radical branch of the Republican Party. Newly enfranchised African American voters elected Curtiss to the constitutional convention where he chaired the Committee on the Executive Department of Government. He voted for the new constitution, which included among its reforms universal manhood suffrage, the establishment of a public school system, and more elective local offices. In 1869 he lost a bid for the House of Representatives.

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Cromwell, John Wesley (1846–1927)

John Wesley Cromwell was an educator, lawyer, and journalist. Born enslaved in Portsmouth, he became free after his mother, who was manumitted in 1849, purchased and freed his father and siblings. The family settled in Philadelphia, where Cromwell attended the Institute for Colored Youth, a Quaker school. He taught at several schools between 1865 and 1871, some of which were located in Portsmouth and Norfolk County. Cromwell acquired his law degree at Howard University and likely was the first African American attorney to argue before the Interstate Commerce Commission. He also published and edited the People’s Advocate, a weekly newspaper, from 1876 to 1884; established a series of intellectual associations, such as the Negro American Society and the Bethel Literary and Historical Association; and helped found the American Negro Academy. He resumed his career in education in 1899. Cromwell was a strong advocate for industrial and agricultural education, but later came to believe that African American leaders should also seek political solutions to racial problems. He died at his Washington, D.C., residence in 1927.

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