Black History Month: Dr. Brenda Hale

ROANOKE, Va. – Meet Dr. Brenda Hale, the longtime president of the Roanoke Branch NAACP.

“I’m honored to be here today to tell the story because everybody has a story.”

Dr. Brenda Hale’s story begins in 1945. She was born at Burrell Memorial Hospital – the only hospital for African Americans in the Roanoke area at a time when health care was segregated.

“We were called ‘colored’ children back then. That’s on my birth certificate: ‘colored little girl,’” Hale said.

Hale knew a different Roanoke than the one we know today.

“Back then, in the 50s, and in the 40s. You still have a lot of segregation going on. So if you were across the tracks when the sun went down, that was not a good thing.”

She saw Henry Street at its peak, where Black-owned businesses, hotels and even nightclubs thrived before Gainsboro was decimated during urban renewal, leveling 1,600 homes, 200 businesses and 24 churches.

“A lot of African Americans were displaced,” she said. “They were scattered. Families were scattered. Families were separated and this was a hard time to live through.”

In 1965, Hale joined the army where she worked as a nurse, traveling around the country and the world.

“I went to Switzerland, Austria, Spain, France, Belgium. And during the service. I played competitive sports,” she said.

She returned to Roanoke in 1982, working at the Salem VA medical center before earning her associate degree in nursing from Virginia Western Community College in 1989.

“That’s all I want to do is make a difference. I came back home to Roanoke, Virginia to make a difference.”

Hale was first elected as the president of the Roanoke Branch NAACP in 2000 where she helped reinvent the Roanoke NAACP Youth Council and advocated for educational opportunities for students to pursue college.

“Education is the key. It’s the way in and up and out of poverty and into a better career, into a better life.”

Hale started a drive-thru voter registration and helped launch the city’s ‘Groceries Not Guns’ buy-back program.

But she admits there’s still more work to be done.

“Success is not a destination, it’s not a destination. But it’s what you choose to do each and every day of your life. So the choice is up to each and every individual. So I hope that individuals, more individuals can choose to do good to help everybody. And by helping others, you’re helping yourself.”

Her focus nowadays?

“It’s all about those social justice right now. And be an advocate for those that need the benefits of advocacy right now. Because there’s still discrimination. If you want to know the truth, it never takes a day off.”

10 News asked Hale what she thought her legacy would be.

“The thing is, is that I hope that I made a difference because my life has been one of service.”

Service to her country, community, and future generations.

About the Authors

You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!

Alli Graham came aboard the digital team as an evening digital content producer in June 2022.

Recommended Videos