SR188: Commemorating the life and legacy of Willis Augustus Hodges.


SENATE RESOLUTION NO. 188
Commemorating the life and legacy of Willis Augustus Hodges.

 

Agreed to by the Senate, February 24, 2023

 

WHEREAS, Willis Augustus Hodges was born a free Black man in Blackwater, now part of Virginia Beach, on February 12, 1815; and

WHEREAS, Willis Hodges grew up on his family’s farm but spent part of his life moving back and forth between Virginia and New York to escape persecution, particularly in the period after Nat Turner’s Rebellion in 1831 when free Black families were frequently harassed and arrested; and

WHEREAS, although education for Black children was illegal at the time, Willis Hodges, who had taught himself to read and write using the Bible, established a free school to develop academic opportunities for local Black youths; and

WHEREAS, Willis Hodges was also a passionate advocate for the abolition of slavery, racial integration of schools, and voting rights and property rights for Black residents of Princess Anne County; he further served the community as a minister, and he published his own newspaper, The Ram’s Horn; and

WHEREAS, Willis Hodges established a town in New York called Blacksville that was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and during the Civil War, he served as a spy for the Union; after the war, he represented Princess Anne County at the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1868 during the Reconstruction period; and

WHEREAS, in recognition of his service, Willis Hodges was appointed as night inspector of Old Point Comfort Lighthouse in Hampton; at the time, lighthouse keeper positions were federal jobs administered by the United States Lighthouse Service; and

WHEREAS, Willis Hodges was subsequently appointed head keeper of the Cape Henry Lighthouse in 1870; in that capacity, he lived at the lighthouse and was responsible for inspecting, cleaning, and maintaining the lens and lantern room equipment to ensure safe passage for ships in the Chesapeake Bay; and

WHEREAS, in the late 1870s, Willis Hodges authored an autobiography to provide insights on his life and inspire fellow members of the Black community in the Commonwealth and beyond; and

WHEREAS, Willis Hodges died on September 24, 1890, at the age of 75 and is buried in New York; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the Senate of Virginia, That the life and legacy of Willis Augustus Hodges hereby be commemorated on the 133rd anniversary of his death; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the Senate prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to descendants of Willis Augustus Hodges as an expression of the Senate of Virginia’s admiration for his contributions to the Commonwealth.

SENATE RESOLUTION NO. 188

Offered February 23, 2023
Commemorating the life and legacy of Willis Augustus Hodges.
Patron-- Rouse

WHEREAS, Willis Augustus Hodges was born a free Black man in Blackwater, now part of Virginia Beach, on February 12, 1815; and

WHEREAS, Willis Hodges grew up on his family’s farm but spent part of his life moving back and forth between Virginia and New York to escape persecution, particularly in the period after Nat Turner’s Rebellion in 1831 when free Black families were frequently harassed and arrested; and

WHEREAS, although education for Black children was illegal at the time, Willis Hodges, who had taught himself to read and write using the Bible, established a free school to develop academic opportunities for local Black youths; and

WHEREAS, Willis Hodges was also a passionate advocate for the abolition of slavery, racial integration of schools, and voting rights and property rights for Black residents of Princess Anne County; he further served the community as a minister, and he published his own newspaper, The Ram’s Horn; and

WHEREAS, Willis Hodges established a town in New York called Blacksville that was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and during the Civil War, he served as spy for the Union; after the war, he represented Princess Anne County at the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1868 during the Reconstruction period; and

WHEREAS, in recognition of his service, Willis Hodges was appointed as night inspector of Old Point Comfort Lighthouse in Hampton; at the time, lighthouse keeper positions were federal jobs administered by the United States Lighthouse Service; and

WHEREAS, Willis Hodges was subsequently appointed head keeper of the Cape Henry Lighthouse in 1870; in that capacity, he lived at the lighthouse and was responsible for inspecting, cleaning, and maintaining the lens and lantern room equipment to ensure safe passage for ships in the Chesapeake Bay; and

WHEREAS, in the late 1870s, Willis Hodges authored an autobiography to provide insights on his life and inspire fellow members of the Black community in the Commonwealth and beyond; and

WHEREAS, Willis Hodges died on September 24, 1890, at the age of 75 and is buried in New York; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the Senate of Virginia, That the life and legacy of Willis Augustus Hodges hereby be commemorated on the 133rd anniversary of his death; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the Senate prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to descendants of Willis Augustus Hodges as an expression of the Senate of Virginia’s admiration for his contributions to the Commonwealth.