Author: Michael E. Hucles


Andrew W. E. Bassette (1857–1942)

Andrew W. E. Bassette was a teacher, lawyer, and businessman who rose from an impoverished upbringing to become a prosperous leader of Hampton‘s African American community. Born in Hampton, possibly enslaved, Bassette attended Hampton Institute and then taught school, supplementing his income with farm work. Finding time to study law, he passed the bar, and likely served as assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Elizabeth City County. In 1889 he became one of a dozen founders of the People’s Building and Loan Association of Hampton, writing the charter and serving as general counsel. Known as “Lawyer Bassette,” he was one of Hampton’s best-known African American figures, participating and sometimes presiding over the city’s annual Emancipation Proclamation Day celebration. The city named a school for him. The father of an attorney, physician, and dentist, Bassette died at his home in 1942.