Author: William Bland Whitley

ENTRY

Fay, Lydia Mary (ca. 1804–1878)

Lydia Mary Fay was an educator who supervised an Episcopal mission school in Shanghai almost continuously from 1851 until her death in 1878. Between 1839 and 1850, when she volunteered to go to China, Fay worked as a governess and educator in Virginia and New York. Her mission work was inspired by Bishop William Meade and Rector Charles Backus Dana of Alexandria‘s Christ Episcopal Church, which she attended while living in Fairfax County. Fay became so proficient in Chinese that she supervised the translation of texts into English and taught composition courses in both languages. The year after Fay’s death, the school merged with another Episcopal boarding school in Shanghai to form Saint John’s College.

ENTRY

Evans, Joseph P. (1835–1889)

Joseph P. Evans served in both houses of the General Assembly (1871–1875). Born enslaved, Evans purchased his freedom in 1859, running a Petersburg news kiosk during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Evans became politically active by 1867, and four years later he won a term in the House of Delegates representing Petersburg. In 1873 voters elected him to the Senate of Virginia, representing the district comprised of Petersburg, and Prince George and Surry counties. A well-connected Republican, Evans secured patronage jobs and presided over the short-lived Laboring Men’s Mechanics’ Union Association. His political position began to weaken in the early 1880s when most African American members of the party found common cause with the Readjuster Party. Evans remained a staunch Republican, a faction whose members were known as straightouts, and in 1884 unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. He suffered financial difficulties followed by mental health concerns, and died in 1889 in Petersburg. His son William W. Evans later served a term in the House of Delegates (1877­–1880).

ENTRY

Davis, Marion E. (1862–1946)

Marion E. Davis, an African Methodist Episcopal minister, led the Negro Organization Society (NOS) from 1930 until 1942. Born enslaved in Mississippi, Davis moved to Virginia in 1910 and took over Portsmouth‘s Emmanuel Church. After leading congregations in Richmond and Norfolk, he served as presiding elder over four separate districts. Davis became involved with the Negro Organization Society, a community-improvement organization in line with the non-confrontational style associated with Booker T. Washington, a few years after its 1910 start. During his tenure as president of the NOS, the organization funded voter registration programs and took full advantage of opportunities made possible by New Deal federal aid. Davis died in Portsmouth in 1946.

ENTRY

Davies, Samuel (1723–1761)

Samuel Davies was an evangelical Presbyterian pastor and educator who lived and worked in Hanover County from 1748 to 1759. He played a critical role in the early years of the Great Awakening, the series of religious revivals that would eventually lead to the disestablishment of the Church of England as America’s official church. Davies was a skilled orator whose sermons were filled with vivid language and punctuated with passionate calls for conversion; his rhetorical style influenced future revolutionary and Governor Patrick Henry, who as a boy accompanied his mother to Davies’s church. Unlike other itinerant preachers of his day, Davies worked within the confines English law set for dissenters, and in doing so established no fewer than eight licensed meetinghouses in colonial Virginia. Davies also wrote poetry as a means of spreading God’s word, and was one of the first colonial Americans to compose hymns. In 1753 he traveled to London to raise funds for the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), and in 1759 left Virginia to become president of the college. He died in Princeton, New Jersey, on February 4, 1761, at age thirty-seven, and is buried in the presidents’ plot of Princeton Cemetery.

ENTRY

Daniel, John Warwick (1842–1910)

John Warwick Daniel served as a member of the House of Delegates (1869–1872), of the Senate of Virginia (1875–1881), of the House of Representatives (1885–1887), of the U.S. Senate (1887–1910), and of the Convention of 1901–1902. Daniel earned the nickname “The Lame Lion of Lynchburg” after the American Civil War (1861–1865), when he suffered an injury that required him to use a crutch for the rest of his life. A gifted writer and orator, Daniel memorialized the Confederate war effort and spoke out against Reconstruction. He began his political career as a Conservative, became a prominent Funder late in the 1870s, and then in the 1880s helped rebuild the Democratic Party. At the Convention of 1901–1902, called to revise the state constitution, Daniel chaired the important Committee on the Elective Franchise. At first advocating less-onerous suffrage restrictions, he ultimately pushed for a more aggressive path that disfranchised most African Americans in Virginia, along with large numbers of poorer white citizens. Daniel spent his last years as an elder statesman of the Democratic Party, and died in 1910.

ENTRY

Cox, Joseph (ca. 1835–1880)

Joseph Cox, a leader of Richmond‘s African American population in the years after Emancipation, served as a delegate to the Convention of 1867–1868. Born in Powhatan County, he worked a variety of jobs, including laborer, huckster, and blacksmith. He helped organize the Union Republican Party in Virginia after the American Civil War (1861–1865). He aligned himself with the Radical faction in opposition to the more conservative wing that sought support from native white Virginians. In 1867 Cox sat on the petit jury that heard the treason case against former Confederate president Jefferson Davis. The same year Richmond voters elected him to the constitutional convention where he supported radical measures such as universal manhood suffrage, institution of a public school system, and proposed disfranchisement of Confederate loyalists. Cox shifted his efforts away from politics to nonpartisan movements aimed at improving living conditions for African Americans. Reportedly, 3,000 people attended his funeral after he died in 1880.

ENTRY

Cooke, Philip Pendleton (1816–1850)

Philip Pendleton Cooke was a poet whose work emphasized lost love, the natural world, and exoticism, placing him firmly within the romantic literary movement. Cooke practiced law in western Virginia but struggled to make a living at writing. His association with Edgar Allan Poe led to the publication of his most famous work, the poem “Florence Vane” (1840), which continues to be anthologized as an example of romantic poetry.

ENTRY

Cole, George William (d. after June 10, 1880)

George W. Cole represented Essex County in the House of Delegates (1879–1880). Cole was born, most likely free, in Athens, Georgia. He enrolled at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University) in 1872, and by 1879 he lived in Essex County. He received the local Republican Party‘s nomination for the House that same year. The Republicans took advantage of a major split in the Conservative Party and captured the seat. In the House of Delegates for one term, Cole was part of a coalition between the Republicans and the Readjuster wing of the Conservatives. He voted to elect the Readjuster chief William Mahone to the U.S. Senate and for the so-called Riddleberger Bill, which later became the basis of the Readjusters’ successful restructuring of the state debt. Nothing is known about Cole’s life or death after his term ended, though he might have lived in Washington, D.C.

Sponsors  |  View all