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Markers would honor Morgan and St. Clare Walker

by Larry S. Chowning

The Middlesex County Board of Supervisors has tabled a decision on how much funding the county will provide to install historical road markers recognizing the accomplishments of African-Americans John Henry St. Clare Walker and Irene Morgan.

Middlesex NAACP president Mark Lomax and Middlesex County Museum president Marilyn South said the two organizations have partnered to provide the $3,000 needed to install the road signs, but hope the county will contribute to the project.

Supervisors indicated the county will support the project, but needed some time to determine the amount of funds to be provided.

St. Clare Walker was a prominent educator for Middlesex County blacks in the 20th century. In 1921, he became principal of the county’s only all-black high school and served in that capacity until 1939 when a new brick “St. Clare Walker High School” was built at Cooks Corner. That school later became the county’s middle school but retained the name St. Clare Walker.

In 1993, a new St. Clare Walker Middle School was built at Locust Hill.

Irene Morgan was a pioneer in the American Civil Rights movement and her fight for equality started in Saluda on July 16, 1944 when she refused to go to the back of a bus to allow a white couple to sit in her seat.

The 27-year-old Morgan and her two children were visiting her mother in Gloucester County and were on their way home to Baltimore when the incident occurred.

Middlesex County Sheriff R. Beverly Segar and his deputies arrested Morgan for breaking the “Jim Crow” statute that required blacks to sit at the back of the bus.

The case was first heard in Middlesex County Circuit Court where Morgan was found guilty. The case eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court where on June 3, 1946 the court ruled by a 6-1 vote that the law was unconstitutional and that blacks could sit anywhere they wanted on commercial interstate (between states) passenger vehicles.

This case was a landmark case for civil rights in America and was heard by the court 10 years before the more-famous Rosa Parks case went to trial in Alabama.

Lomax and South said that they would like for the St. Clare Walker road sign to be placed in front of the former St. Clare Walker Middle/High School, which is now the Cooks Corner Office Complex, and the Morgan sign in front of the Historic Middlesex Courthouse where her trial took place.

Supervisors said they were in favor of the project but would have to coordinate their efforts with the Virginia Department of Transportation as to where specifically the signs could be erected at the two sites.

posted 09.21.2011

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