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Participating in the ribbon cutting, pictured from left, are, Dion Walker, museum committee member; Justin Reid, Director, African American Programs, Virginia Humanities; Charity Howell, Outreach Representative, Office of Senator Mark Warner; Xavier Russell, great-great grandson of James Solomon Russell; Dr. Barbara Jarrett Harris, Chair, Brunswick County Board of Supervisors; Regina Gordon - Treasurer; Senator Frank Ruff, Senator Louis Lucas, James Grimstead, Chairman; Rev. Cannon John T. W. Harmon, Delegate Roslyn Tyler, Cleo Goodwyn, museum committee member; Sylvia Allen, museum committee member; Gloria Wesson Menyweather-Woods, museum committee member; Teya Whitehead, Secretary; Carolyn Lofton, museum committee member and Barbara Whitehurst-Malone.

LAWRENCEVILLE – There was a sweet, sweet feeling in the air at the grand opening of the James Solomon Russell/Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives. Memorabilia and archives from Saint Paul’s College and a tribute to the legacy of Dr. James Solomon Russell are now housed at the Brunswick County Conference Center, 100 Athletic Field Drive.

The celebration provided the perfect opportunity for alumni of Saint Paul’s College as well as friends and supporters of the college to gather and share memories. It was a delight to watch people hug each other, share greetings and talk about what the college means to them.

The members of the James Solomon Russell/Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives Committee are: James Grimstead – Chair, Bobby Conner – Vice Chair, Teya Whitehead – Secretary, Regina Gordon – Treasurer, Dion Walker – Media Specialist, Shirley Grimstead, Gloria Menyweather-Woods, Carolyn Lofton, Cleo Goodwyn, April J. Jones and Sylvia Allen.

The day began with a wreath laying service at the Saint Paul’s Memorial Chapel Cemetery. A worship service was held at the Saint Paul’s Memorial Chapel led by Rev. Canon John T. W. Harmon.

Rev. Harmon said the life and legacy of Dr. James Solomon Russell and family of Saint Paul’s College have touched and continues to touch the lives of so many people. He said Dr. Russell was a leader who inspired people calling attention to the book he wrote, “Adventure in Faith.”

Rev. Harmon said the life of Dr. Russell was modeled after the life of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. He called everyone to come to Christ and lay their burdens down and let God transform them. Rev. Harmon said if people will let Christ into their hearts they will receive peace in their heart and mind.

Rev. Harmon turned his attention to the recent violence topping the news lately and urged Congress to pass legislation on gun control. The audience applauded their approval.

He said the professors at Saint Paul’s College cared about their students and he called to thank them for their dedication.

Grimstead offered a word of welcome and invited everyone to the ribbon cutting at 1 p.m. Because of limited parking school buses were arranged to take guests from the Brunswick High School to the Brunswick County Conference Center.

Ribbon cutting ceremony

Approximately 300 people attended the ribbon cutting ceremony. Grimstead thanked the alumni of Saint Paul’s College as well as the alumni of James Solomon Russell High School and many others who supported forming the museum. He said the closing of Saint Paul’s College in 2013 presented challenges. Grimstead thanked the Brunswick County Board of Supervisors for their support saying without their support the museum would not be possible. He also thanked Dominion Energy.

Five people were inducted into the Wall of Fame: Christine Davis Easterling – Educator, Helen G. Edmonds – Educator, Dr. Iris Lucille King – Educator/Healthcare, J. Waverly Person – Seismologist, and Waverly V. Yates – Civil Rights Activist. Easterling, Dr. King and Yates were able to attend the ceremony to accept the award.

Geraldine Woodley led in the singing of the National Anthem.

The local group Representing God’s Ministry beautifully provided musical selections.

Bill Herrington served as emcee saying it was his responsibility to introduce speakers and to keep the program moving.

Senator Frank Ruff commended the organizers of the museum and event calling the museum quite an accomplishment. He said there is a deep connection to Saint Paul’s College and he was grateful to be able to join in the celebration.

Senator Louise Lucas said she is pleased to represent the 18th District. She said the day was “history in the making”. She said those who received an education at Saint Paul’s College went on to serve in many ways. Lucas expressed concern about the future of Historic Black Colleges and Universities.

Delegate Roslyn Tyler said she was happy to be part of the celebration and was pleased to see the history of Saint Paul’s College preserved. She thanked those who had the vision to safeguard the college’s legacy because we can learn from the past and history can help us understand the present. Tyler also expressed concern about the future of Historic Black Colleges and Universities. She said the day was both a sad day referring to the closing of Saint Paul’s College but a good day for celebrating the opening of the museum.

Charity Howell, Outreach Representative, read a letter from Senator Mark R. Warner. “This museum provides a place to preserve the legacy of James Solomon Russell and the importance of Saint Paul’s College. Born into slavery and receiving education to become a priest in the Episcopal Church, James Solomon Russell understood the ability of education to change a person’s life. After recognizing a need for educational opportunities for African Americans, he established Saint Paul’s College. This institution quickly became an education lifeline for the Brunswick County community and surrounding area. I commend all those who have worked to establish the James Solomon Russell/Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives and ensure that the important work of the college and its founder are not forgotten.”

Dr. Pete Stith served as the 11th President of Saint Paul’s College and helped with finding colleges for the students affected by the closing of the college. He presented several gifts to the museum that included a portrait of James Solomon Russell and a pencil sketch of Abraham Lincoln.

Stith called attention to working with Bobby Conner to move the memorabilia from the college to area provided by the county. He said he and Conner met just after he took over as president and he gave him complete access to move the historical documents, photographs, artifacts and other items that were located all over campus.

“He and I became friends and worked well together. He did a lot of work to preserve the history of the college and its founder. Had it not been for his interest and work in saving this history, we would not be here today,” said Stith. “He deserves a lot of credit for this museum.”

Stith also made a donation of $150 from Stith Solutions and encouraged other people to make a donation to the museum.

After the ribbon cutting, Conner said he worked for two years moving the items from campus to storage. He thanked Claire Williams, who worked at the Tourism Office at the time, for helping to store all of the items and keeping a list of what was moved. Conner also thanked Supervisor Bernard Jones, who brought his trailer and helped moved larger items, such as the library table and chairs, that would not be part of the collection had he not provided his help.

Rev. Grady Powell, Class of 1954, shared several memories of Saint Paul’s College with love in his voice for the college. He led the alumni in singing the Alma Mater that was very moving because you could hear the love they feel for the college in their voices.

Woodley led those attending in singing “Lift Every Voice” to close the ceremony.

For more information about the James Solomon Russell/Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives call (434) 848-2173 or email us at jsrspc1888@gmail.com.  The museum is also accepting donations at: JSR-SPC Museum & Archives, P.O. Box 551, Lawrenceville, VA 23868.

public school system for the students who were locked out.

“The Kennedy Administration asked Harvard University trained New York educator Dr. Neil Sullivan to lead the effort, but told him before he could get started, he needed to do one thing. He needed to drive to Lawrenceville, Virginia, to the Saint Paul’s College campus and meet with college president Dr. Earl McClenney. With Dr. McClenney and Saint Paul College’s support, they opened the Prince Edward Free Schools for the students who had been locked out.

”Fifty years later when the General Assembly established a scholarship fund for these former students to attend college, my uncle was awarded a scholarship. He was a teenager when schools had closed. At age 65 he proudly earned a degree from Saint Paul’s College.

“We are proud of many things in my family, but nothing makes us prouder, motivates and inspires us more, than seeing my uncle’s college graduation photo hanging in the living room, with him smiling proudly in his Saint Paul’s College orange.

”On behalf of not just Virginia Humanities, but on behalf of my family and my community, especially those students who went back to school in 1963, I thank you for continuing to inspire us today.”

Xavier Russell, the 15-year-old great-great-grandson of James Solomon Russell, spoke on behalf of the Russell family. Russell thanked all those who have been involved with the establishment of the museum.

“The Russell family believes that it was the mission of James Solomon Russell to spread the good news and teachings of Christ and to broaden education for the marginalized and under privileged, some of whom had been freed slaves and were trying to live off the land,” said Russell.

Russell told how his great-great grandfather was assigned to a small group of worshipers attending Saint Andrews Episcopal Church in Lawrenceville and built upon that small following.

“Just across the field from Saint Andrews, he grew that group along with more than 20 churches into one of the largest memberships of African American Episcopalians anywhere in the United States,” said Russell.

Russell told the group that the three R’s; reading, writing and arithmetic were essential tools of learning that would become the bedrock of moving forward in the new found freedom of our ancestors.

“From a parochial school, to Saint Paul’s Normal and Industrial School to Saint Paul’s Polytechnic Institute and finally in 1957 Saint Paul’s College, curriculums grew for education, business, sciences and trades. Saint Paul’s continued to grow the training of masons, carpenters, plumbers, farmers, teachers and business professionals. These Saint Paulites went on to contribute to the greater good of their community and the country,” said Russell.

Russell ended by saying that the legacy of James Solomon Russell, through the museum, remains vibrant and relevant for the community and the Episcopal Church.

Easterling said she earned the award but was quick to give honor to God. She thanked the board and staff for the honor and she thanked her family and church family for sharing the day with her.

Oralia Washington accepted the award for Edmunds.

Dr. King, who is 95, contacted Grimstead and said she wanted to attend the grand opening but she needed a ride. A ride for her was arranged. She received a standing ovation when she came forward to accept the award.

Katrina Pinder from Maryland accepted the award for her uncle, Waverly Person.

Yates said he was pleased to accept the award and be a part of celebrating the legacy of Saint Paul’s College and James Solomon Russell. He said while Saint Paul’s College is closed, no one can close their memories of the college.

Dr. Pete Stith served as the 11th President of Saint Paul’s College and helped with finding colleges for the students affected by the closing of the college. He presented several gifts to the museum that included a portrait of James Solomon Russell and a pencil sketch of Abraham Lincoln.

Stith called attention to working with Bobby Conner to move the memorabilia from the college to area provided by the county. He said he and Conner met just after he took over as President and he gave him complete access to move the historical documents, photographs, artifacts and other items that were located all over campus.

“He and I became friends and worked well together. He did a lot of work to preserve the history of the college and its founder. Had it not been for his interest and work in saving this history, we would not be here today,” said Stith. “He deserves a lot of credit for this museum.”

Stith also made a donation of $150 from Stith Solutions and encouraged other people to make a donation to the museum.

After the ribbon cutting, Conner said he worked for two years moving the items from campus to storage. He thanked Claire Williams, who worked at the Tourism Office at the time, for helping to store all of the items and keeping a list of what was moved. Conner also thanked Supervisor Bernard Jones, who brought his trailer and helped moved larger items, such as the library table and chairs, that would not be part of the collection had he not provided his help.

Rev. Grady Powell, Class of 1954, shared several memories of Saint Paul’s College with love in his voice for the college. He led the alumni in singing the Alma Mater that was very moving because you could hear the love they feel for the college in their voices.

Woodley led those attending in singing “Lift Every Voice” to close the ceremony.

For more information about the James Solomon Russell/Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives call (434) 848-2173 or email us at jsrspc1888@gmail.com.  The museum is also accepting donations at: JSR-SPC Museum & Archives, P.O. Box 551, Lawrenceville, VA 23868.