What Station Is The Wvu Football Game On Today Virginia Tech’s Early Black History

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Virginia Tech’s Early Black History

In 1890, Charles Owens began working at Virginia Tech (VT) as a janitor in one of the barracks. Soon after, he joined the student band as a drum major. Floyd Mead was introduced to the Virginia Tech family when, after living with the Thomas family, Thomas would bring Floyd to hang around the barracks as a small child. The Cadets quickly took to Floyd and made him the mascot of the VT athletic teams. When he got a little older, he got a job in the dining room. He later handed his mascot over to a turkey he trained to cheer for the football team while parading it around on a leash.

The next black to work in VT was John Sears in 1917; who became known as Jovan the Barber, a nickname given to him by his cadets as their favorite barber. Soon after in 1919, Pat Mills became a janitor and a much-loved debater. He even won the old black debate.

In the 1950s desegregation came to the VT Presbyterian Church in Blacksburg. After desegregation, black students began attending Virginia Tech with Irving L. Peddrevo III led in 1953. In the same year, Jerry Bonnet founded the group that later became the Council on Human Relations. Fittingly, their meetings were held at the Presbyterian Church in Blacksburg.

It was 15 years later that the first black student graduated from VT with a degree in mechanical engineering. This student was Charlie Yates who later served as a member of the Virginia Tech faculty. A year later, in 1959, Mr. Whitehurst became the first black member of Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors. He was also the first black man to go to the Ring Dance.

While blacks were enrolling in college earlier, black women did not appear at Virginia Tech until 1966. Now that blacks were receiving more privileges and winning more honors, scholarships soon followed. The first was an athletic scholarship, given to Jerry Gaines for running. He was also the first black man to be inducted into the Virginia Tech Hall of Fame.

In 1968, after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Virginia Tech students held a vigil in his honor. On a lighter note, that same year, the first black woman was chosen as homecoming princess. As the 60s drew to a close, more and more black students were playing and starting on athletic teams at VT. This is just a small glimpse of the accomplishments and achievements of black members of the VT family.

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