I was mesmerized by the treasured memorabilia and artifacts Norvel Lee's family put on display for Barbara and I during our first meeting on November 13, 2016. The image above is one of hundreds items we looked at. What I learned that day began to set the stage of what and how I wanted to tell the story. Those of you who have read the book will recognize passages or images related to the following items we discovered that day:
1) The Washington D.C. addresses where Norvel and family lived over the years.
2) Numerous certificates and awards recognizing his accomplishments.
3) Silks and jackets from his boxing days including the London Olympics, Helsinki Olympics, Pan American Games, Golden Gloves, and AAU.
4) The U.S. Air Force awarding Norvel its Meritorious Service Medal.
5) The State of Maryland's awarding Norvel its commendation medal.
6) Norvel's Master of Arts Degree from Federal City College.
7) The document from the D.C. Board of Commissioners appointing Norvel to the Boxing Commission (the first African American on it).
8) A variety of formal invitations to D.C. social events, including presidential inaugural balls, and one for a formal reception at the Mali Embassy commemorating its proclamation as an independent nation.
9) Many newspaper articles reporting on his boxing exploits.
10) The news release from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, noting Norvel's last time in the ring in an exhibition match while on two-week active reserve duty.
11) A letter from Dr. Mercer Cooke on embassy letterhead congratulating Norvel for his assignment to the goodwill tour of West Africa. In the letter Cooke mentions the French class Norvel took from him at Howard University.
12) Several photographs that are included in the book.
13) Funeral announcement from the Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church in Gala, Virginia for Norvel's father James Jackson Lee.
14) An invitation from the Montgomery County Maryland Special Olympics to host a boxing clinic.
15) His listing in the Who's Who Among Black Americans.
The above is just a sampling of the treasures I saw that day. Each item was accompanied by one of the family members relating a back story. I was glad to be able to make an audio recording of the day because there was so much contained in each story. One such story involved a group of men gathering in the basement of Norvel Lee's home playing cards on Friday nights. His grandchildren, Danielle and Daryn, (and their parents) lived with Norvel and Leslie when they were youngsters. They remembered fondly the men playing the card game pinochle. I will have more to say about that in a future blog posting.
Several months later I met with the family again, specifically to follow up some items with Margaret Russell (Weekie) which I'll also provide more details about in a future post.
Next week, I will backtrack somewhat and talk about what I learned about the Academy Hill School for Negroes where Norvel attended high school from the archives at the Botetourt County Public Schools offices.
Have a healthy and safe Memorial Day weekend!