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.

Join Us for LWV-VA Biennial Convention!

Anne Smith, LWV-WA and LWV-WA Board Member and Convention Chair

local league president and member of state league board

I am excited to tell you about the 39th LWV-VA Convention at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott on May 17-19. We think this will be both an informative and fun session! The location is close and easy to access so you can come for the full Convention or take advantage of the single-day registration.

The League of South Hampton Roads is the host League and has planned activities on Friday evening … a “Dine Around” to take advantage of Norfolk’s fine restaurants or a water ferry to those in Olde Towne Portsmouth. You can register early, beginning at 5:00 pm Friday, May 17, and join the fun. Saturday morning’s plenary session will be League business, primarily reports. Voting will take place during the Sunday morning plenary.

Diversity and Inclusion are major considerations for all levels of the League – National, State, and Local. Saturday’s lunch speaker on Diversity is Christy S. Coleman, a Williamsburg native with extraordinary accomplishments. Named by Time as “One of 31 People Changing the South,” she is the CEO of Richmond’s American Civil War Museum, which encompasses several historic sites. Previously, she was President/CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit and Director of Historic Programs for Colonial Williamsburg.

Let Mary Schilling know of your interest in attending soon.
Registration ends April 25.

We have some truly informative breakout sessions planned for Saturday afternoon. Speakers include Jim Spore, 30+ year Virginia Beach City Manager talking about Infrastructure, Innovation, Transportation issues. Others include Skip Stiles, Executive Director of Wetlands Watch on “What about This Weather?”; Walt Latham, York County Director of Elections/General Registrar and President of the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia; and W&M Law Professor Rebecca Green on Redistricting Reform. Before our Sunday a.m. plenary session, Ron Carlee will speak on “Defending Democracy on All Levels.” A professor at Old Dominium University, Dr. Carlee, past Arlington, VA County Manager and Charlotte, NC City Manager, is a global presenter for the International City Managers Association (ICMA).

Although Convention adjourns at noon Sunday, the South Hampton Roads League has scheduled a “bonus session” for the afternoon focused on THE ENVIRONMENT. It includes knowledgeable speakers on a topic relevant for us all, including combating rising sea levels. LWV-WA can send eleven voting delegates, but absolutely every member is welcome to attend as observers and participate in every way except voting … it is an opportunity to learn, meet others from around the Commonwealth, and also … have fun! I hope many of you will choose to participate as observers.