In memory of my uncle, Horace Linwood Orton, III (1945-2019)

Horace Linwood Orton, III was born on July 8, 1945 to the charismatic, almost mythical Horace L. Orton, Jr. “Boonie” and the lovely Lillian Vann Young. Horace was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, a city whose ethnic diversity is reflected in his lineage. He was the oldest of 7 children and 3 younger brothers and 3 younger sisters. Family was everything and Horace loved talking about his childhood in Portsmouth, swimming, and crabbing with his siblings and cousins in the inlets of the James River.

Portsmouth, Virginia: The Murder of Richard Billings (1916)

Recently, while combing through newspaper archives, I came across a terrible story about the senseless robbery and murder of Richard Billings, a young and enterprising resident of Portsmouth, Virginia.

Richard Billings, a colored chauffeur, was murdered by two white men, who hired his car early Wednesday night for a drive into the country near Norfolk. Billings’ body with a bullet hole through the head, was found on the roadside, six miles from Suffolk, and between that place and Beaman Station, yesterday. The car, a new one, is missing. The object of the murder, evidently was robbery

The Alexandria Gazette, June 17, 1916

Suffolk, Virginia: First view of Oak Lawn Cemetery’s highway historical marker!

I’ve written the text for two highway historical markers for African American cemeteries in Virginia: the Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex (est. 1879), Portsmouth, in 2016, and Oak Lawn Cemetery (est. 1885), Suffolk, in 2019. However, I never knew how they were made. Thanks to a wonderful story about the manufacturer, Sewah Studios (Marietta, Ohio), I know the answer. The historical marker for Oak Lawn Cemetery is shown briefly in this great video courtesy of WTAP News, Parkersburg, West Virginia.