Remembering Founding League Member Bobbye Alexander

by Phoebe Kent, Voter Co-Editor

As we celebrate our 55th year as a League (and look forward to the 2020 anniversary of the Suffrage Amendment and subsequent founding of the US League of Women Voters in 1920), it is important that we remember those who founded the Williamsburg League. On March 26, 2019, one of our founding members, Bobbye Alexander, died. A long-time community activist and educator, Bobbye, as Mary Schilling noted in her column, was a role model for all of us.

Because Bobbye and four others, including educator Clara Byrd Baker (for whom a WJCC elementary school is named), were African American, the state League refused to recognize the chapter. At that time, there were no racially integrated chapters in Virginia, and a poll tax was still in effect.

Edith Edwards, also a founding League member, recalls that Bobbye was a “driving force” among about 25 local women who sought provisional status as a local League. Because Bobbye and four others, including educator Clara Byrd Baker (for whom a W/JCC elementary school is named), were African American, the state League refused to recognize the chapter. At that time, there were no racially integrated chapters in Virginia, and a poll tax was still in effect. Not to be deterred, the women persisted. The state League reluctantly agreed if only white women served as officers. The Williamsburg women again resisted. The Virginia League finally backed down, making the Williamsburg League the first integrated League in Virginia.

Bobbye, a mathematics teacher and later department chair at Bruton Heights School, Berkeley, James Blair and Lafayette High Schools, was our League’s first treasurer. Liz Montgomery’s tribute to Bobbye during the celebration of her life on April 6 noted Bobbye’s belief that women could be counted on to get things done. As Edith and another non-League friend reported, Bobbye was very responsible and a force to be reckoned with. If she took on a task, she completed it – and more. And if she asked you to do something, she expected you to do it – and more!

Bobbye was born in Jacksonville, FL to parents who believed in service to church, community, and in politics. She and her husband Hubert followed that path as well. Bobbye’s contributions to our community included her 35 years as an educator; her faithful service in many roles at Historic First Baptist Church; more than 30 years leading the York-James City Williamsburg NAACP’S Afro-Academic Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) program that encourages black high school students’ involvement in STEM studies and the humanities, business, and cultural arts. A strong advocate of voting rights for all, she remained a staunch member of the League and loyal alumnus of her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha and leader in Le Cercle Charmante, the African American Women’s Club founded in 1944 by educators that awards annual scholarships to high school senior black women. She was “a mighty force for good.” Bobbye’s was indeed a life well lived.