The Roanoker - May/June 2020 - 21

the gist

the most powerful steam engines in the world - the
J-Class locomotives, the building of Victory Stadium, the
construction of the Roanoke Star, the start of the region's
civil rights movement, the end of World War II, the advent
of drive-in movie theaters and the final days of the city's
streetcars.
The book documents local performances by Louis
Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, the birth of the Roanoke
Red Sox baseball team, the building of the Shenandoah
Life Building off Brambleton Avenue, as well as the bold
stance taken by Sarah Craig in 1941 to refuse to sit at the
back of a city bus.
The project walks chronologically through the decade,
one chapter per year. Each chapter begins with January
1 births and continues with happenings big and small
throughout the Roanoke Valley. Business openings.
Criminal trials. City council meetings. School principal
resignations. Movie auditions. Grand Ole Opry performers
shining from local stages.
" The basic thrust is to provide information, " says Harris.
" But because of the breadth of coverage of the decade, I
think people will find it not a dry reference work. It's filled
with so many anecdotes, I think readers will really find it
interesting. "

The end of the book features a seven-page list of every
Roanoke Valley casualty of World War II. The number of
names is startling.
The second appendix is a timeline of the civil rights
movement in the region. It begins with the laying of the
cornerstone of Carver School in Salem. And ends with an
appeals court ruling determining that Botetourt County native
and Olympic Gold Medal boxer Norvel Lee was not subject
to a fine for refusing to change his seat from a " whites only "
section of a Chesapeake and Ohio railway passenger train.
" Most of us tend to think of the civil rights movement
as happening around the mid-50s and gaining steam on
into the 60s, " Harris says. " We really don't think of so much
happening in the 1940s, even before World War II. "
Harris, 55, is pastor of Heights Community Church
in Grandin Village, adjunct faculty member at Virginia
Western Community College, and a native and former
mayor of Roanoke City.
If all goes according to plan, Harris's history of the '40s
will not be his last big look at the region. He's set his sights
on a similar project covering the 1950s.
" That would certainly be my hope. "
-CHRISTINA NIFONG

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The Roanoker - May/June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - May/June 2020

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