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One Woman's Opinion

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A Year to Remember: 1965 (Part 3)

Mary Wakefield Buxton

by Mary Wakefield Buxton
Part 1Part 2

Urbanna, Va.— Early seeds of feminism along with desire to become a writer had taken over the young woman’s brain. The young are so vulnerable to ideology, and like all trapped in the iron teeth of dogma, unless she could break free, she would be held in irons and severely limited in her ability to doubt, think and reflect.

Writers must fend off the narcotic attraction of tenet and creed as the world doesn’t need more thinkers who operate in the grip of ideologue. But would she come to realize this simple truth and evolve into a free and independent thinker?

It’s difficult not to be washed away with the passion of one’s times, think beyond what everyone else thinks, and imagine far horizons. But if writers don’t do this, why write?

The unrest she felt was but a speck of sand in the turbulent sea as waves of massive social changes slammed ashore across the country. The 1964 Civil Rights legislation a year earlier had halted segregation at every level of society. Julia’s daughter, now in college, asked to speak to her mother by her last name when she called the house, instead of “Julia.”

One late evening that summer as she and her husband were sitting on the beach overlooking the U.S. Naval Base in Norfolk under a full moon and marveling at the silvery fish that flashed below the surface of the sea, two men dressed only in pajama bottoms, came running down the beach, one carrying a shotgun. “What are you doing with that gun?” she called in the dark. 

“Negros on our beach!” they shouted, running off.

Telephones rang at the big house more than usual. One day when she was in the library reading a book, the phone rang and she answered it. A woman’s voice spoke harsh words: “If you sell your house to a Negro, your name will be mud!” The words fell like gunfire in her ear. “Click,” and the line went dead, leaving her staring out the window at the sea.

That night at the dining room table, as Dr. Buxton was carving the prime roast rib, she took a long sip of wine and reported the odd call. “Are you selling your house?” she asked.

He pursed his lips as the others at the table frowned mightily into their drinks. “But why would you want to sell your house?” she continued, ever the lamb at slaughter, too new to Virginia society to know as yet of what subjects one never spoke.

It turned out Dr. Scott, an African-American doctor who worked at the hospital with Dr. Buxton, had made an offer to buy the big house.

“But where would you live?” she pressed on, stunned at such news. There were no answers to her questions as the silent diners continued moving through the evening feast.

The telephones kept ringing day and night, with quick conclusions, and she could only imagine what was being said. She went through the busy days almost as if she were in a dream.

One day a stepbrother, the youngest that had just turned 16, was driving an open convertible through Stuart Gardens and was stopped at an intersection by a gang of black teens. They had circled the car and made threats. She never heard details; why this was done or how the incident ended or whether the police had become involved. The subject was never discussed. 

Soon it was announced, however, the big house had been sold. The family moved to an apartment on the other side of town and eventually into a home on Corbin Lake. The subject was dropped forever from conversation. Except for one detail—they had left the crystal chandelier that had graced the dining room for so many years, which was deeply regretted.

Dr. Scott’s son graduated from Harvard, became a lawyer, was elected to public office and now serves as Congressman in his district. The old Buxton home on Hampton Roads is open every Labor day for a picnic in appreciation to party supporters.

Her husband became a lawyer, went to work in the legal department at the shipyard, moved to Gloucester, ran for supervisor in 1968, was defeated by a margin of 20 votes, and went into the private practice of law in 1978.

She still battles ideology along with what is still the number one suppresser of women . . . group peer pressure. She began writing for the Southside Sentinel in 1984 when Fred Gaskins published her account of a canoe trip she took up Perkins Creek. She has been writing ever since.

Several years ago a brother attended an annual Scott Labor Day picnic in Newport News and reported the crystal chandelier was still in place, still twinkling, still playing gracious host to what she has always imagined were many elegant dinners. Conclusion.


“1965” was written in recognition of Women’s History Month in March and celebrates the pursuit of dreams.

posted 03.26.2014

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