History of The Norfolk Branch NAACP
The Norfolk Branch of the N.A.A.C.P. received its charter on September 17, 1917 when James Weldon Johnson, Field Secretary of the N.A.A.C.P. came to Norfolk to make the presentation. Mr. P. B. Young, Editor of the Journal and Guide Newspaper and Mrs. Laura E. Titus, a noted educator after whom Titus Elementary School was named, signed the Original call letter to the Norfolk Community written on stationery of the Journal and Guide and dated April 20, 1917. The letter invited the Norfolkians “to join…” and to “work for racial uplift….”
Other active members in the Chapter during its infancy included C. C. Dogan, later elected Treasurer; Lizzie Rainey Hinton, Wanswer Bagnall Webb, Atty. a. N. Land, Dr. J. L. Sapp, E. P. Southall, T. P. Turner, David Edwards, Dr. and Dr. Samuel Francis Coppage, later elected Secretary and Legal Redress Chairman.
At its inception, the Norfolk Branch protested police brutality and lynching which were common occurrences nationally.
The Virginia N.A.A.C.P. launched its first attack on unequal teachers’ salaries in Norfolk. On October 27, 1938, the N.A.A.C.P. filed a petition on behalf of Miss Alene Black, a Black high school teacher requesting an end to the practice of paying white teachers higher salaries than that of Black teachers merely because of the teachers’ race. From 1938 to 1941 the battle for equalization of teachers’ salaries was fought during the time when the school board fired Miss Black because she had filed suit and Mr. Melvin O. Alston and the Norfolk Teachers’ Association were joined as plaintiffs against the Norfolk School Board. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an unequal salary scale set merely because of race was unconstitutional in violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Norfolk Branch of the N.A.A.C.P. (1) helped to integrate public facilities and eating-places; (2) helped to win two employment discrimination cases involving federal civil servants in 1980 and (3) helped to bring about a “consent decree” for increased recruitment and employment of Black police persons and fire persons in the City of Norfolk.
Seven black citizens of Norfolk, Virginia, and the Norfolk Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People appeal the district court's judgment denying their claim that the at-large system of voting for city council violates rights secured by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended in 1982, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1973. The principal issue was whether the complainants have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to elect more than one councilman as the "representatives of their choice." The Norfolk Branch was also involved in suit against Norfolk Public Schools which sought to prevent the Norfolk School Board from re-establishing segregated public elementary schools under its proposal to create ten all-Black schools and six majority white schools in a system which today (operating under a 1971 court order) has no all-Black School.
The Norfolk Branch of the N.A.A.C.P. has been led by some dedicated Presidents, including the following: Dr. J. Hamilton Frances; Mr. Charles Butler Williams, 1930-1932; Mr. Jerry Gilliam, 1993-1942; Mr. Robert D. Robertson, 1942-1957; Mr. W. B. Westbrook, 1958-1967; Mr. Joseph A. Jordan, Jr., 1968-1972; Dr. I. Joseph Williams, 1972-1974; Mr. George H. Banks, 1974-1980; Rev. L. P. Watson, 1980-June 1984; Mr. George H. Banks, July 1984-January, 1985; Mr. James H. Biggs, 1985-1986; Mr. James Gay, 1986-1988. After the presidency of Mr. Gay, Mr. Paul Riddick served as president in 1989 before running for and being elected to Norfolk City Council. He was succeeded by Mrs. Melinease Hutchinson, 1989-1991; Mr. James Biggs and Rev. James A. Patterson, respectively; 1991-1997; Rev. Bernard Spellman, 1997-1999; Mr. Leonard Parker, 2000-2002; Mr. Charlie Bryant, 2002-2005; Mr. James Wesley Hill, 2005-2007; Mr. James L. Rivers, 2007-2012, Mr. Bob Rawls, Interim, 2012. Mr. Tristan Breaux was elected in 2012. He resigned his position October 21, 2013 to accept a position in President Obama's administration as the Director of the Congressional Caucus on Black Men & Boys. Mr. Joe W. Dillard assumed the presidency as interim President.