WATCH: Honoring the lives and legacies of hometown heroes for Black History Month

Each day, 10 News will highlight a monumental figure who has had an impact on our region

WSLS celebrates Black History Month. (WSLS 10)

February is Black History Month, and all month long, 10 News will be telling the stories and honoring the legacies of hometown heroes.

Right here at home, you’ll find areas rife with a rich history of Black pioneers who have made countless contributions and sacrifices to advance equality and inclusivity in this country.

[RELATED: 🔒INSIDER: Test your knowledge with our Black History Month quiz]

For the entire month of February, we’ll take you across Central and Southwest Virginia and highlight notable figures who were able to take tribulations and transform them into triumphs.

Each day of the month, we’ll highlight a new person and tell their story. As our segments air, we will continue to embed video throughout this article - so please continue to check back to see our full coverage.


Reuben Lawson

Reuben Lawson, born in 1901 in Northeast Roanoke, was a civil rights attorney.

In the 1938 case New Negro Alliance v. Sanitary Grocery Company, Lawson was the first African American to argue and win a case before the U.S. Supreme Court

He served as an attorney for the NAACP, arguing several school desegregation cases in Southwest Virginia in the 1950s and 1960s. He built the Lawson Law Building, which remains on Gilmer Avenue.


Winfred Beale

For decades, former Coach Winfred Beale has inspired the minds of youth on and off the field, contributing to the success of innumerable athletes.

Whether it’s teaching them core values or creating champions, his impact on the lives of those he has encountered is profound in Floyd County and beyond.

The local legend retired in Nov. 2023 after spending half a century coaching and serving as a trusted mentor.

Some of his many accomplishments include 245 career victories, three VHSL State Runner-Up seasons, three Region Championships and four District Championships as a football head coach for Floyd County High School.


Henrietta Lacks

Forever changing the medical industry, Roanoke native Henrietta Lacks died at age 31 from cervical cancer.

Her cells, taken without her permission in 1951 when she went for treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital, are responsible for medical breakthroughs, like the polio and the COVID-19 vaccine.

[RELATED: Meet Bryce Cobbs, the Roanoke artist behind the Henrietta Lacks statue concept drawing]

her story and cells have saved lives around the world and shaped bioethics, which is why she’s known as the Mother of Modern Medicine.


Lucy Addison

Lucy Addison is remembered for her dedication to education and guidance to generations of African Americans.

In 1918, Black students in Roanoke couldn’t get High school diplomas. She created a full curriculum by gradually introducing new coursework. A

After decades in education, a new high school for African Americans was named in her honor.


Roanoke’s Tuskegee Airmen

Five Tuskegee Airmen from our area helped pave the way for integrating our United States military.

Leroi Williams, Eugene Williams, Ralph Claytor, Theodore Wilson and Chauncey Spencer Sr.

[Related: Son of Tuskegee Airman to share father’s stories in Roanoke]

Despite racism and the belief that blacks were incapable of flying airplanes, these men were very successful in World War II.

Today, their history continues to inspire pilots of all races.


Oliver Hill

Roanoker Oliver Hill made a lasting impact in the battle against racism.

Oliver Hill grew up on Gilmer Avenue in Roanoke and became an attorney. He battled inequities in education and employment for Blacks and helped argue the Brown v. Board of Education case that integrated schools.

Today, a historical marker stands in front of his home, and in 2019 the Roanoke City Courthouse was renamed in his honor.


William Brown

Former Blacksburg Police Officer William Brown was a part of the department for nearly four decades.

He served as chief of police from 1994 until his retirement in 2006.

Brown broke barriers, climbing the ranks in the two decades at the department.

He was promoted to chief, besting more than 125 other applicants.

The town voted to name the new police station after him.


Brenda Hale

Brenda Hale, the longtime president of the NAACP Roanoke Branch has pushed to register eligible voters and fight gun violence by promoting the Star City’s gun buy-back event, “Groceries Not Guns.”

Today, she continues to educate the community and push for change.


Major General Cedric Wins

This month, we are celebrating a pioneer among us, Major General Cedric Wins.

He’s the current superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute and the first black superintendent.

This role comes after he served 34 years in the Army, where he was awarded the Distinguished Service medal.

During his time as superintendent, he has launched diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and modernized the military college.


To see more of our Black History Month coverage, click here.


About the Author:

Jazmine Otey joined the 10 News team in February 2021.