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Dan Smith is an award-winning journalist in Roanoke, Va., and a member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. He is an author, photographer, essayist, father and grandfather. Co-founder of Valley Business FRONT magazine and founder of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference.

Sexual Harassment: Another Question

Yesterday I learned some valuable lessons about sexual harassment. I posted a question about the wisdom of granting an actress a $9.5 million settlement in a case against some executives working on a TV series that runs on CBS. I suggested (unfortunately) that I likely would agree to be sexually harassed for that much money. I meant that to be a light touch. It was not. It was a punch in the face of women and I apologize for it.

The question correctly opened me for quite a bit of criticism, much of it from friends I respect. I was wrong in phrasing the question. I stand by asking the question (without the bad joke), however, because without questions, there are no answers and I learned a good bit about what harassment means to some people and just how prevalent it is. One woman talked about making sure her key was handy–as a weapon–every time she walks to her car, about living in a constant state of fear, day after day.

Others talked about not being able to do their jobs because of some idiot who didn’t know boundaries. Others talked of anxiety, of fear of losing their jobs if they resist, of feeling they have no choice.

I have been sexually harassed in the distant past by a superior at work and it was not comfortable. I found a way out. But it was never something I wanted or welcomed. It made me less effective at work and more prickly at home.

The one question I still have about the $9.5 million is not whether CBS can afford it, but about where that money comes from when it is paid to the actress. Will it come directly from the people responsible for the sexual harassment or will some some single mother in the makeup department, script girl, small-part actress, assistant to the assistant director or other person near the bottom be asked to give up her job or part of her salary in order to pay the settlement? If there is anything fair about that, I want to know what it is.

My point here–and part of my original point–is: who pays and if CBS pays, does it serve as a detriment to the individuals who are guilty of sexual harassment? Are the harassers like Trump’s minions acting out with the offer of a pardon for whatever they do? If not, what should be done to correct that situation?

(Photo: tctmd.com)

Top (Maybe Bottom) 10 Quotes of 2018

Why is this man slapping his head?

Yale Law librarian Frank Shapiro annually points out the most interesting (sometimes dumbest) quotes of the previous year. Here’s his list for 2018.

1. “Truth isn’t truth.” — Rudy Giuliani.

2. “I liked beer. I still like beer.” — Brett Kavanaugh.

3. “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.” — Sanofi drug company.

4. “We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those that live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.” — Meghan McCain.

5. “We’re children. You guys, like, are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics and get something done.” — David Hogg.

6. ”(I am) not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!” — President Donald Trump.

7. “You don’t have to agree with Trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone.” — Kanye West.

8. “Our country is led by those who will lie about anything, backed by those who will believe anything, based on information from media sources that will say anything.” — James Comey.

9. “I have just signed your death warrant.” — Judge Rosemarie Aquilina to Larry Nassar.

10. “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd! And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” — Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

A Gentle Reminder for Christmas at MMT

We’re heading into the second weekend of Mill Mountain Theatre’s “The Christmas Cup” by Roanoke teacher Nancy Ruth Patterson and I wanted to put a bug in your ear about it. If you have children younger than teen age, I would heartily recommend the “Cup” for its gentle and beautiful message of the Christmas meaning, one even we non-Christians can appreciate.

This is the story of a little girl played by Mikayla Parker who learns the classic lesson: ’tis better to give than to receive. She learns it following the acquisition at an auction of a mangy cup that nobody else wants (even for a nickle). She pays the goodly sum of $5, which she earned, for the cup because she believes that is what it is worth and immediately she begins learning.

The lead character, Megan, is played as an adult by professional Christy Smith Treece, who serves as a narrator of the story, but the show is stolen by two youngsters–Sylvia MacNab and and Campbell Allen who play twins Brenda and Linda. They serve as a nasty-girls foil for the sweet Little M (Megan).

Professional Barbara Bradshaw lends considerable credibility to the cast, which is mostly local and consistently talented.

Mill Mountain’s annual gift to the children of the Roanoke Valley is a good Christmas show and this one certainly qualifies. The show, directed by Travis Kendrick (with a splendid set by Jimmy Ray Ward) runs through Dec. 23.  You can get tickets by calling 540.342.5740 or here.

The Snow That Was (and Lingers)

This leaf was hanging on to its color and what was left of its life.

This is how deep the snow was.

The first real winter storm of the winter 2018-19 is fading into history and for the first time in a couple of days, I was able to escape my castle and have a work meeting. I don’t usually like work meetings, but this one was a nice respite (and a nice assignment).

I look back on how pretty this snow was and how the only real negative for me was Roanoke City’s snow plows blocking my driveway twice after I had cleared it all the way to the middle of the street I live on. That really fries me and I simply wish the city would forget my street is in the city and leave me the hell alone.

You can see from the last couple of photos that I dug out well, but the city blocked me with some frozen boulders that I had to pick up and toss out of the way before I could even begin to shovel the blockage away. 

Anyhow, it was pretty and as my mama used to say, “First, look good.”

I did get to play some, making a messy snow angel.

You can always find color in the snow, sometimes in the form of stubborn flowers.

Light on the houses on my street is always pretty late afternoon in the snow.

This is my back yard.

Here’s where I dug out.

This blockage of my driveway is the city’s Christmas offering.

These big lumps were like stones, hard and heavy. I couldn’t shovel them; had to pick them up and toss them.

So, How Much Better Is $7 Pepper?

My $1 pepper (left) and the Co-Op’s $7 pepper in the bag. Same–exactly–amount.

The Roanoke Valley Co-Op in Grandin Village is a nice asset for the city, but as I’ve always said, it is far to expensive for me. I proved that again today.

I met a couple of people at the Co-Op for magazine story interview a little while ago and since I was in a grocery store anyway, I thought I’d save myself a stop at Kroger on the way home by buying some pepper. The young fellow pointing me to the two kinds of pepper first led me to a pre-packaged shelf where pepper was a little over $7 for a tiny jar.

I gasped and he said, “Well, we can get it in the bulk section; should save a little money.” Scooped up just exactly the right of pepper to fill my 2.5 ounce container at home (I’m pretty good at guessing how much of something I need) and went to checkout. It cost a little over $7. For pepper.

When I got home, I filled my empty 2.5 ounce pepper shaker (exactly fit) that cost $1 with the $7 pepper and sprinkled some on soup. It tasted just like the cheap stuff.

My point is made.

Great Moments in Food: Pork Roast, Just Done

There are few greater moments in the food world than those when the pork roast has cooked for a full 4.5 hours and is ready for tearing apart as it sits in the pan, deep in its juices–as we see in the photo above.

This baby is just out of MY oven, a whole Boston butt (Boston Butt Whole, as it were) rich, full-flavored, hot and ready to make my mouth water. The temptation is to eat the roast and nothing more, so much of it, in fact that I get sick. But I will exercise restraint. I promise.

The Most Famous Roanokers: Here’s the List

Some of the stars come out at night in Roanoke, but not all of them.


When you think of famous Roanokers, the list almost always starts—these days anyway—with professional sports stars. But when we put a little thought into it, we come up with some truly instrumental national figures in the arts, sports, education, law, politics, journalism, music and finance.

First, let’s define “Roanoker” for the purposes of this story. It is anybody who was born in Roanoke or lived here at any time during their lives. Roanoke is a small city whose citizens are as often as not from somewhere else, so being called a “Roanoker” doesn’t necessarily designate a birth place.

Modern float-to-the-top choices are the sports stars (pro football players Tiki and Ronde Barber, pro basketball players J.J. Redick and George Lynch) and the authors (novelists Sharyn McCrumb and Rod Belcher and non-fiction stars Roland Lazenby, Beth Macy and Pulitzer winner Mary Bishop). But there is much beyond them.

With that said, here are a list of Roanokers of the past 100-plus years that you probably ought to know, beginning in 1884 with the birth of Oscar Micheaux. We’re not going all the way back to the Civil War (William Breckinridge) or the Revolution (William Fleming) or the distant history of a city that wasn’t even born yet.

I’m also boiling down Hollins University’s contribution to Annie Dillard, but it has produced four Pulitzer Prize winners, a poet laureate (Natasha Trethewey, who won one of the Pulitzers) and one writer of one of the most beloved children’s books n our history (Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown). Hollins also graduated internationally known photographer Sally Mann and popular author Lee Smith.

I left Booker T. Washington (suggested by two people) off the list because he lived in Franklin County, not Roanoke.

Here’s my list. You are welcome to add to it.

Stanley Abbott

Stanley W. Abbott, at 29 in 1933, became one of the primary designers of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs smack through Roanoke, where he lived for a time. He was an admirer of Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York City’s Central Park and was enthusiastic about the “design with nature” concept of road construction. According to National Parks Traveler, Abbott “believed that the parkway should function as an outdoor museum of rural life, telling the story of the mountain folk, their agricultural pursuits, and the mountain retreats of the wealthy. The parkway would speak to the visitor about life and lifestyles in the mountains. It would celebrate the blending of nature and culture.”

Tiki and Ronde Barber

The Barber twins (Tiki and Ronde), pro football players, broadcasters who began their exploits at Cave Spring High and carried the football all the way to Charlottesville, where they played for the University of Virginia. Both were drafted by pro clubs (New York Giants for Tiki and Tampa Bay for Ronde). The twins each played his entire career for the club that drafted him, which is extremely unusual in today’s NFL.

R.S. Belcher

R.S. (Rod) Belcher is a nationally prominent science fiction/ fantasy author and Roanoke native, who still lives in the Star City. Among his best-selling books are The Shotgun Arcana, Nightwise, Brotherhood of the Wheel and The Six Gun Tarot from Tor Publishing. Movies and/or TV series are planned for several of his works. Belcher has degrees in criminal law, psychology and justice and risk administration, from Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s done master’s work in forensic science at George Washington University, and worked with the Occult Crime Taskforce for the Virginia General Assembly.

Mary Bishop

Mary Bishop won a Pulitzer Prize at the Philadelphia Inquirer and was a finalist twice as a reporter for The Roanoke Times. She recently became a memoirist with the book Don’t You Ever; My Mother and Her Secret Son from HarperCollins publishing. She lives in Roanoke.

Carter Lane Burgess, a soldier, business executive and diplomat, was born in Roanoke in 1916 (died 2002).  The VMI graduate was an assistant to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower during World War II and served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Personnel in the mid-1950s. The Washington Post wrote, “He overhauled the armed forces reserve system to face Cold War threats and oversaw legislation to improve military benefits involving life insurance and medical treatment.” In the late 1950s, he was president of American Machine and Foundry (AMF) and

Carter Burgess

in 1968, he was appointed Ambassador to Argentina and served on the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. He rose from a claims adjuster to president of Trans-World Airlines and AMF, which makes bowling pin setters, among other things. He died in 2002.

Mark David Chapman

Mark David Chapman killed beloved singer/songwriter and former Beatle John Lennon in December of 1980. He lived on Crystal Spring Avenue in South Roanoke—a home that no longer exists; it is a church parking lot—in 1962, the seven-year-old son of a couple from Georgia. His father was transferred to Roanoke, working for Amoco. Chapman is serving a 20-years-to-life sentence and first came up for parole in 2005. He was denied parole for the 10th time. He is serving his sentence at the maximum security prison Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, N.Y.

Ann Compton

Ann Compton was a long-time staple at ABC News, but she was educated at Hollins University and served as a young reporter at WDBJ, Channel 7 in Roanoke in 1968. She was a WDBJ intern as a Hollins junior and became its first female news reporter. She established the station’s Richmond bureau in 1973 and ABC hired her away to work in New York City. She became the first female TV reporter to cover the White House, beginning with Gerald Ford’s administration and was also one of the youngest reporters ever with that beat. She was on Air Force I with George Bush shortly after 9/11 and in 2000 was the chief Washington correspondent for ABC. She’s won a ton of professional awards but says the award most dear to heart was to be national Mother of the Year in 1988.

Adrian Cronauer

Adrian Cronauer, who died in the spring of 2018, gained his moment of national recognition in the Robin Williams film “Good Morning Vietnam,” which was very loosely based upon his experience as a DJ during that war. Cronauer was a Roanoke disc jockey, but there was far more to him than playing rock ‘n’ roll on the radio. He was an advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, represented the POW/MIA Office in a range of capacities, and earned the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service. He did radio and TV commercials in New York and taught at the university level. But it was the misrepresentation of “Good Morning Vietnam” about an anti-war, liberal, wise-cracking DJ that made him famous, although he was a Bush Republican.

Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard, who graduated from Hollins University and married Hollins Professor Richard Dillard, won the Pulitzer Prize for her first book, A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. In 1975. Her forte has been narrative prose in fiction and non-fiction and she is credited with works of poetry, essays, prose, fiction, memoir and literary criticism. She has also taught at the college level.

Henry Fowler

Henry Fowler, who was born in Roanoke in 1908, the son of a locomotive engineer, served as Secretary of the Treasury under Lyndon Johnson. He graduated from Roanoke College (where the Fowler Lecture Series by internationally prominent people remain popular) and Yale Law School. He worked his way up to Assistant General Counsel of the Tennessee Valley Authority and worked on a number of governmental advisory commissions, while running a major law firm in D.C. He became a partner at Goldman Sachs.

Oliver Hill

Oliver Hill, who was born in 1907 and lived 100 years, was a civil rights lawyer partly responsible for the success of Brown vs. the Board of Education, the landmark case which integrated the nation’s schools. He was a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner (1999) and participated in a number of other important national legal cases, including equal pay for African-American teachers, access to school buses, voting rights, jury protection and employment protection. He practiced law for 60 years. Though a Richmond native, his early home in Roanoke’s Gainsboro section is a shrine. He graduated from Howard University Law School and began his practice of law in Roanoke (newly married to Beresenia Ann Walker, niece of Maggie Walker, after whom a Richmond High School is named). The Roanoke law practice was wobbly, and he moved to D.C. in 1936. He won his first civil rights case in 1940, working with Howard classmate Thurgood Marshall (a future Supreme Court justice), among others. His list of awards and honors is lengthy and in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom, a street is named for him.

Linwood Holton

Linwood Holton was the first Republican Governor of Virginia and for a time was given consideration as a vice president when Richard Nixon had to replace Spiro Agnew, who resigned under a cloud. Gerald Ford was selected and, of course, became president. Holton, a Big Stone Gap native, graduate of W&L and Harvard Law and a WWII submariner, married Roanoker Jinx Holton and they are parents of author/historian/educator Woody, Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton Kaine (Sen. Tim Kaine’s wife), Tayloe and Dwight. During integration, Gov. Holton sent his children to integrated Richmond schools, causing something of a stir among some Virginians and when the Republican Party took a sharp rightward turn, he stayed in the center and began endorsing Democrats (including Mark Warner and his son-in-law). In 2017, Roanoke dedicated Holton Plaza and in 1999, Richmond named an elementary school for him.

David Huddleston

David Huddleston, Hollywood actor, who starred in “Santa Claus, the Movie” and who for many years was a noted character actor in major productions, is from Vinton originally. He was in 45 movies (including “Breakheart Pass,” “The Big Lebowski,” “The Producers,” “Smokey and the Bandit II,” “Blazing Saddles,” “The Klansman,” “Bad Company,” “Brian’s Song,” and “Rio Lobo” (with John Wayne). He also had nearly 60 TV credits.

Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre, easily the most controversial figure on this list, was born in New York, but moved to Roanoke when his father transferred to the GE plant here. LaPierre is generally credited (or blamed) for moving the emphasis of the National Rifle Association, which he has led since 1991, away from a gun safety instruction organization to a gun manufacturers’ lobby with heavy political influence. He worked as a legislative aide to state delegate Vic Thomas of Roanoke, a Democrat and ardent supporter of gun rights. He has a master’s degree in government and politics.

Roland Lazenby

Roland Lazenby has written more than 60 books, concentrating on the NBA in recent years, and has been a college professor, noted newspaper reporter and mentor for writers in the Roanoke region. His books on NBA stars Ralph Sampson, Jerry West, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have had large national and international audiences. He was the faculty advisor (essentially editor) of Virginia Tech’s student newspaper during the mass murders of April 2007 and guided that young group to award-winning reporting of the event.

George Lynch

George Lynch, UNC and pro basketball player, attended Patrick Henry High, where he won a state title (1988 as a junior, transferring to Flint Hill Academy as a senior) and UNC, where he won a national championship. He finished UNC as its 14th leading scorer (1,273 points) and third-leading rebounder (1,097) in UNC history. He ranks second in steals (241). He played for five teams from 1993-2005 in the NBA, a total of 774 games. He was an assistant basketball coach for six years at SMU and is now head coach at Clark Atlanta University.

Beth Macy

Beth Macy is a former newspaper reporter whose first book, Factory Man, became a New York Times bestseller and who has written two popular non-fiction books since. Options for the books to become movies have been sold. She is a native of Ohio, but lives in Roanoke now, as she has for decades. She is a member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame.

Rene Marie

Rene (Croan) Marie is a Grammy Award-nominated (2015) jazz singer who changed her last name a few years ago when she became nationally prominent. She was born in Warrenton in 1955 and her family moved to Roanoke when she was 9. She is noted for her smooth, lovely delivery and has a good-sized, national following. Before gaining a jazz following, she was a janitor, fast food employee, grocery clerk and banker in Roanoke. Critic Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune called Marie’s talent the “most expressive jazz singing one might hope to hear. … give her a stage to herself and an opportunity to shape an evening her way, and she clearly can make a statement that uses every inch of her vocal prowess and balletic grace.” She changed her name from Croan to Marie a few years ago at the behest of her management. Her early recordings were done in Salem at Flat Five Studios. She occasionally performs with her son, Michael. She was given an ultimatum by her former husband (23 years) to give up music or him. She chose the music.

Sharyn McCrumb

Sharyn McCrumb is a North Carolina native and former librarian at Virginia Tech, whose books—especially her ballad novels—have always been major sellers nationally. She has written more than 25 novels and two collections of short stories. McCrumb lives in Catawba and continues to regularly turn out novels. She has lived in Roanoke County for years.

Oscar Micheaux

Oscar Micheaux was an African-American movie-maker who lived 1884-1951 and made 44 films. He was an author, writing several novels, and director of an independent film company, running the Lincoln Motion Picture Company—the first film company owned and controlled by African-Americans. He is generally regarded as the first major African-American filmmaker, producing both silent and sound movies (most called “race films). His movies are now considered classics. He was the inspiration for Roanoke movie-maker April Marcel to become a playwright, director and actor. She works with Tim Burton’s studio in Norfolk. Roanoke erected an historical marker honoring his work in 2010 and the Post Office issued a Micheaux stamp as part of its Black Heritage series. According to a Virginia History bio in African American Trail Blazers, “in 1922 he established a corporate office in the Gainsboro neighborhood’s Strand Theatre, where he made at least six films over the next three years. Micheaux often filmed scenes in Roanoke and one movie, ‘The house Behind the Cedars (1927), of which no print survives, included a brief appearance by Oliver W. Hill, who later became an important civil rights attorney” and who is profiled earlier in this article

John Mulheren

John Mulheren was an investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, who graduated from Roanoke College (he was from Brooklyn) in 1971 and became a major benefactor to the Salem school. He was a significant part of a successful trading group in the 1980s who made millions of dollars, but he fell into trouble as part of an insider trading scandal (linked to the notorious Ivan Boesky). His charges were later overturned. He moved to management and again became quite successful. He died at 54 in 2003 and was remembered at Roanoke College as a student of legendary status as a prankster. He was a major supporter of the college for many years and his widow, Nancy Mulheren, continues as a major fundraiser.

William Grant Nabore

William Grant Naboré (formerly Nabors) is classical pianist born 1941 in Roanoke. He studied here under Kathleen Coxe, a noted Roanoke piano teacher. A cross was once burned on Coxe’s lawn because she taught Naboré, an African-American. She ignored it. As a youngster, he was accepted at Hollins College to be taught more piano. Naboré moved to Rome in 1958 to study. He won the Premier Prix de la Virtuosité and the Prix Paderewski from the Conservatoire de Musique de Geneve. He holds the “Theo Lieven” chair for advanced studies in piano and chamber music performance at the University of Music of the Lugano Conservatory.

Wayne Newton

Wayne Newton is a Las Vegas singer with the child’s voice who became famous for his hit “Danke Schoen,” recorded in 1963 and later used in the seminal film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”  He was a Vegas headliner for years and reported to be the most popular entertainer ever in Vegas. Newton was often called The Midnight Idol, Mr. Las Vegas and Mr. Entertainment. His mother and father were both native Americans and during World War II, while his father was in the Navy, Newton’s mother and he lived in Roanoke. He learned to play the piano, guitar and steel guitar by the age of six, singing all the while. He left Roanoke for New Jersey while still a child.

John Payne

John Payne was a Hollywood actor with an extraordinary physique who starred in the classic Christmas movie “Miracle on 34th Street” alongside a young Natalie Wood in 1947. He appeared in 59 movies during his career and helped dedicate the Roanoke star in the late 1940s.

J.J. Reddick

J.J. Redick is a pro basketball player who led Roanoke’s Cave Spring High School to a state title and Duke to a national championship. He is still a professional player (with Philadelphia, his fifth team). He has played in more than 760 pro games to this point.

Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds was Hollywood royalty when she married Roanoke real estate developer Richard Hamlett and from 1984-1996 she lived in Roanoke. They were divorced in the 1990s. She was the mother of Carrie Fisher, who portrayed Princess Leia in “Star Wars.” Fisher’s father was singer Eddie Fisher. Reynolds was an actor and singer for nearly 70 years (1948-2016), reaching her peak popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. Her song “Tammy” was No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1957, the same year she made the movie “Tammy and the Bachelor,” from which the song was taken. She died in 2016 at 84.

Pat Robertson is another controversial Roanoker, his contribution coming in conservative religion  and politics. He

Pat Robertson

lived in Old Southwest Roanoke as a child (though he was born in Lexington) and these days serves as chancellor and CEO of Regent University and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network. He is also a minister with a national TV show. He ran for president of the U.S. as a Republican in 1988 but lost in the primaries. He is the son of former Senator Willis Robertson.  *   *   *

(The following luminaries were missed by me on the first go-around, but sharp-eyed Facebook followers [I link my blog there] came up with some great additions.)

Nelson Bond

Nelson Bond, a science fiction writer of considerable stature, died in Roanoke in 2006 at the age of 97. He began his career writing sports and made his first science fiction sale in 1937. He wrote extensively for radio shows when radio produced serials and drama. One of his plays, “Mr. Mergenthwirker’s Lobblies,” became the first full-length play to be produced on television. He had his own ad agency in the late 1950s and sold antique books at one point. His wife, Betty, had a show on WSLS TV in Roanoke.

Margaret Wise Brown

Margaret Wise Brown was a Hollins grad who wrote, among other popular books, the classic Goodnight Moon. I have some first-hand experience with this book, having put together an interpretation of Goodnight Moon by some of the region’s writers a few years ago at Hollins.

Gene Elders

Gene Elders, according to well-known Roanoke musician Tommy Holcomb, is perhaps Roanoke’s most famous musician, especially among other musicians. “He played fiddle in several bands here including  Woodsmoke, has been George Strait’s fiddle player in his Ace in the Hole band for about 35 years. He also played with Lyle Lovett and Joan Baez. Allison Krauss once told him that she had studied his playing in her formative years.”

Tom T. Hall

Tom T. Hall was a journeyman country singer who graduated from Roanoke College and wrote the fun song “Ode to Half a Pound of Ground Round,” which had the line, “Let me tell you about the time I nearly starved to death in Roanoke, Virginia.” He worked in radio here (under the legendary King Edward Smith, whom he credited with keeping him from starving). He wrote 12 No. 1 songs (including “Harper Valley PTA”) and 26 Top 10 tunes.

Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks is far, far more famous in death than she was in life. She was a tiny (5 feet tall) tobacco farmer, born in 1920 as Loretta Pleasant, who died in 1951 of cancer. Her cancer cells are the source of the HeLa cell line, one of the most important cell lines in medical research history.

Sally Mann

Sally Mann is another Hollins grad who achieved international acclaim. Her focus is photography and she is often considered one of the world’s best at it. She lives in Lexington.

John McAfee

John McAfee founded McAfee and Associates and ran it until 1994. It was the first anti-virus software for computers. McAfee, an Englishman by birth, went to Roanoke College. He has founded several companies since McAfee and at one time his fortune was estimated at $100 million.

John Nash

John Nash is the man with the “Beautiful Mind,” recreated in a recent Academy Award-winning movie. He was a mathematician, who was a paranoid schizophrenic and winner of the Nobel Prize. He lived in Roanoke periodically with his mother. He died in here in 2007 at 72.

George Preas

George Preas was a Baltimore Colts lineman 1955-1965 who played at Jefferson High in Roanoke and Virginia Tech. He played during a vital age when the NFL reached TV and became the most popular sport in the U.S. Among his teammates was the legendary Johnny Unitas. Preas became a restaurant owner in Roanoke (I used to eat at his very good Red Lion).

Billy Sample

Billy Sample is a Salem native who played three sports at Andrew Lewis High and went on to stardom in football and baseball at James Madison. He became a superb professional player (1978-1986) for the Rangers, Braves and Yankees. In high school, he played for the high school team that faced “Remember the Titans” T.C. Williams High in the state final, though Lewis was not mentioned in the movie. He became a long-time broadcaster.

Bob Slaughter

Bob Slaughter was the World War II veteran who spearheaded the construction of the D-Day Memorial in Bedford. Slaughter, who at 6-foot-5 was one of the more noticeable targets during the invasion, survived D-Day and fought in Europe for the duration of the war. The Washington Post wrote, ““Bob Slaughter was once described as perhaps the best-known D-Day veteran in America. National media outlets turned to him when they needed a first-person account of the Normandy invasion. … he was an imposing presence as he led President Bill Clinton across a windswept Omaha Beach during a 50th anniversary commemoration in 1994.
And by all accounts, the National D-Day Memorial … would never have been built if not for Mr. Slaughter’s efforts.” (Personal note: I worked with Bob when I was a young sports writer and he the composing room foreman at The Roanoke Times in the 1970s.)

Lee Smith

Lee Smith is one of the nation’s most beloved authors and is a Hollins graduate (and former commencement speaker). One of my favorite works by her is Oral History, a portion of which became a play (“Earrings”) at Lexington’s Lime Kiln Theatre. She is also a co-writer of the truly funny play “Good Ole Girls,” which had a national run. She and Pulitzer winner Annie Dillard became go-go dancers for an all-girl rock band, the Virginia Woolfs, while at Hollins together.

Curtis Turner

Early NASCAR driver Curtis Turner (born in Floyd in 1924) who lived in Roanoke for a time. He was the classic moonshiner-to-racer story, but he also became a wealthy timber salesman. He raced cars from 1949 to 1965, winning a lot of races and helping to invent NASCAR. He died in a plane crash in 1970 on the way to Roanoke.

(NOTE: My good friend Dan Casey wrote his Sunday Roanoke Times column about this list today. It’s a good read. Here you go.)

Celebrating Roanoke’s History: Award Night

Ariel Clark photographs her mom, Susan, and award-winning dad, Mark Clark at the ceremony.

The Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation gave its annual awards last night at the Culinary Institute, one of the recipients, and, as always, it was a lively and well-fed crowd that appreciated the work done in saving our local history.

Chloe Shelton

The even was capped with the showing of one of two films by young Chloe Shelton of the Grandin Theatre Laboratory.

Chloe was honored for Heritage Education. She is a home-schooled student who wrote and directed films based on local history. “Til I Come Home,” brings to life a collection of letters between Robert Whitescarver, a young World War I soldier, and his family. “Cotton Clouds: is a film about a girl who worked at Roanoke Cotton Mill in the Norwich section in 1912.

Other award winners include:

Mark Clark and Bob Clement chat.

Mark Clark: Lifetime Achievement in Historic Restoration. As the owner of Southwest Restoration, Clark has a legacy of work on the Chaplain’s House and windows at VMI, store fronts in Bassett, historic building surveys for three Southwest Virginia towns, preservation planning for Marion, a log building at Elliston and a current project on a building at Monterey in Salem. He had a long career of restoration in Northern Virginia before he came to Roanoke 17 years ago. (His daughter, Ariel, is working with him on the Monterey building.)

Kay Dunkley of the Higher Education Center.

Culinary Institute: Heritage Education. The Roanoke Higher Education Center worked with Virginia Western Community College to expand the Culinary Institute on Henry Street in 2016. They asked the community to help develop interpretive pieces for Henry Street and the historic Strand Theater nearby. Gainsboro History Panels on Wells Avenue were developed by a History Walk Committee to tell the story of Henry Street, once a cultural and business center for African-Americans.

Roanoke College’s LBGTQ research, led by Dr. Gregory Rosenthal, was honored.

Stone House: Preservation. Michael Grosso and his son, Joseph Grosso, used stone from the old Roanoke post office to build a big house on 13th Street. After it was purchased in 2003 by Black Dog Salvage Properties, next door, it was rehabilitated into a guest house.

Southwest Virginia LGBTQ History Project: Heritage Education: Students at Roanoke College, led by Dr. Gregory Rosenthal, established an archive of regional material, developed a digital website, conducted 33 oral histories, developed free walking tours and published online exhibitions, all on the LGBTQ community

Bob Clement.

Bob Clement: Historic Neighborhood Advocacy. Clement is the retired neighborhood coordinator for Roanoke, widely credited with changing the way neighborhoods relate to city government, building relationships and engaging citizens in information about issues.

David Perry, executive director, and Megan Cupka, assistant director, of Blue Ridge Land Conservancy: Environmental Preservation. Perry and Cupka led the Conservancy in protecting over 1,100 acres through 10 conservation easements in Southwest Virginia in the past year, making a total of 20,000 acres of land, 60 miles of streams covered by easements held by the Conservancy.

Nelson Harris: Publications and Speaking. Former Roanoke Mayor Harris, president of the Historical Society of Western Virginia, has written 10 books, mainly focused on early photographs of Roanoke Valley and the region.

Historian/Writer Nelson Harris.

Light Well Lofts: Adaptive Reuse. The 1910-era Renaissance Revival building at 105 Campbell Ave., (damaged in the flood of 1985) was vacant for nearly 30 years. In 2015, ACR Investments purchased the building to renovate as apartments.

Alam Design provided architectural and engineering services and Family Builders was the contractor for the $1 million project. The building has 12 apartments and a new store front, based on historic photographs.

Will Heron of Alum Design.

David Perry.

Huff-Rutrough House: Bulldozer Award. Robert A. Gilmer and his family lived there until it was rented, then abandoned and razed this past spring. The Greek Revival building was one of only two left in Southeast Roanoke.

Anne Beckett (left) took over the Preservation Foundation’s presidency last night from Allison Blanton.

Whitney Leeson, Ruth Doan, Kay Dunkley enjoy the festivities.

Mark Clark and his proud daughter, Ariel.

George Kegley: Perfect Model

I attended the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation’s annual awards event tonight at the Claude Moore Center downtown and took a bunch of photos, none of which is better than the one above of George Kegley.

George is an old (90) friend and colleague who has been the spearhead of the foundation for years (he even put me on the board at one point). He is also one of the best photo subjects I’ve ever had. I love the shot at the top, as well as the less stylistic one above.

George and I worked together at the old Roanoke Times in the days when a newspaper was just that. George was one of the best business reporters I ever knew.