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History Department Chair Wins Honor

(NSU NEWSROOM--May 21, 2014)--A research article from a Norfolk State University history professor was recently selected as the best overall in the 2013 issues of the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography by the Virginia Historical Society.

Norfolk State History Professor and Department Chair Dr. Charles H. Ford and Sam Houston State Professor Dr. Jeffrey Littlejohn, formerly of NSU, were named recipients of the 2013 William M. E. Rachal Award, which is given annually for excellent scholarship.

Their essay, “Reconstructing the Old Dominion: Lewis F. Powell, Stuart T. Saunders, and the Virginia Industrialization Group, 1958–65,” explores the origins of modern conservatism in Virginia and was featured in the May-June rendition of the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.

The historical society’s selection committee picked the article Ford co-authored as “best overall” from articles featured in the magazine. The two will be recognized at a ceremony the organization will hold in July.

Ford said he is honored to be a co-recipient of the award. The professor said his expertise is researching the history of African-Americans and the struggle for equality, but said he took a detour when he found a forgotten folder of documents and memos in the Lewis F. Powell Papers in 2009 during a research trip to the Washington and Lee University Law Library.

The professor presented his analysis at the Virginia Forum in March 2011 and later teamed up with Littlejohn for another research paper they co-authored in 2012. The article was featured in the historical society’s magazine in 2013.

“I found this folder about the Virginia Industrialization Group that I don’t’ think many people have seen,” Ford said. “It was interesting because it was about how white policy makers and how members like Powell and Saunders positioned themselves in crisis such as racial desegregation and school closings in the 1950s and 60s.”

Both Saunders and Powell, who are both deceased, were members of the Virginia Industrialization Group, a coalition of business owners, bankers, lawyers and manufacturing executives. In the late 1950s, the group met with state legislators to reach a solution about mass resistance to integrate schools because they believed it would impede industrial development in Virginia. The article examines some of the meetings that took place.

Powell was a former Associate Justice for the United States Supreme Court from 1971 to 1987. He was also a former president for the Virginia State Board of Education in the late 1960s. Saunders is the former president of the Norfolk & Western Railway, now known as Norfolk Southern Railway. He also served as the head of the Pennsylvania Railroad and helped create the Penn Central Railroad in the 1960s.

“This is very exciting news for the NSU History Department,” Ford said. “There are so many stories with 20th Century history in Virginia and the article examines how the origins of conservatism in the state are much more complicated than people think.”


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