Above is the headline I referred to in last week's post. It's from the August 17, 2016, edition of the Fincastle Herald. The accompanying story - actually two stories - is what launched the journey I went on discovering the life lived by Norvel Lee.
The headline article summarized the known facts of Norvel Lee's life. It reports he was born in Eagle Rock (I found out later that he was born at Lick Run in northern Botetourt County) on September 22, 1924, graduated high school from the Academy Hill School for Negroes in Fincastle, Virginia, and enlisted in the service during WWII. The article goes on to summarize his incredible boxing career, his academic achievements in which he eventually earns an ABD (All But Dissertation), and his thirty year military career eventually retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves in Washington D.C. The article makes note of his career as an educator and his pro-active involvement in many civic endeavors.
But what really got my attention was the companion article on page 8 with the headline: "Norvel Lee's arrest and conviction for violating Virginia's Jim Crow Law made headlines in 1948." The article goes into the detail about the case but, in short, he was arrested for sitting in the white section of a C&O local train going from Covington to Clifton Forge. Lee was fined $5 for the misdemeanor, but instead of accepting it he appealed the case on the grounds he wasn't subject to Virginia's Jim Crow Laws because his ticket was for interstate transportation and that made him not subject to the local laws.
After reading the two articles I wanted to dig deeper. I wasn't planning on a book at that point. But I was curious about two things in particular. What was life like for Norvel growing up in Gala and how did he get involved in the Jim Crow case? I began researching both themes. Shortly after seeing the articles I began inquiries with the Botetourt County Historical Society, Botetourt County Schools, the C&O Railroad History Museum in Clifton Forge, and the Virginia Supreme Court. Next week I'll talk about what I learned from the Virginia Supreme Court.