Marker will honor Hawthorne

Published 10:53 am Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A highway marker will be soon erected in Lunenburg County commemorating the late civil rights leader Nathaniel Lee Hawthorne, according to a press release from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR).

The marker’s proposed location is at 701 Mecklenburg Ave. in Victoria. It is sponsored by the Voter Registration March Re-Enactment Committee.

Hawthorne (1923-1975) played a critical role in his efforts as a civil rights activist, according to the DHR press release. Hawthorne is well-known for his efforts to desegregate schools, gaining equal access to restaurants and stores and securing African-American representation in government.

A World War II veteran, Hawthorne was the owner of a radio and television repair shop in Kenbridge, according to the release. In 1965, he closed his shop to dedicate his time and efforts to the Civil Rights Movement. Hawthorne participated in marches, pickets, boycotts and demonstrations, including trips to Richmond and Boston.

As chair of the Lunenburg County NAACP from 1965-1974, Hawthorne was instrumental in desegregation of local schools by encouraging local blacks to enroll their children in previously all-white schools.

The marker will read: “Nathaniel Lee Hawthorne, civil rights leader, campaigned for racial and social justice for the people of Southside Virginia. A native of Lunenburg County and a World War II veteran, he conducted his work despite death threats and other attempts at intimidation. Operating from the ‘Freedom House’ in Victoria, Hawthorne chaired the Lunenburg branch of the NAACP from 1965 to 1974 and was a coordinator of the Virginia Students’ Civil Rights Committee. He led efforts to desegregate schools, register voters, gain equal access to restaurants and stores and secure African-American representation in local government. In 1965 he organized a voting rights march that passed along this route.”

According to Randy Jones, a spokesman for the DHR, the highway marker program was created in 1927.

Its purpose, Jones said, is to focus on and honor individuals, places and events throughout history that have regional, state or national significance.

Hawthorne’s highway marker will be erected as one of 18 approved of this quarter.