R.L. Vann legacy lives on

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 30, 2005

AHOSKIE – The legacy lives on.

Thanks to a resourceful group known as the Robert L. Vann School Reunion Committee, a full schedule of events are slated for the school's 2005 gathering where tales of yesteryear will be swapped among former classmates. And one can be 100 percent sure that photos of grandchildren will be proudly shared as well.

This coming weekend (Sept. 2-5), Ahoskie's population will grow as students, faculty and staff who attended this historic Hertford County school from 1939-1970 are invited to take part in R.L. Vann's reunion.

"This event has generated more interest than ever before," said Annie Mobley, an R.L. Vann grad who heads-up the Reunion Committee. "We have heard from people that have never before taken part in our festivities. We welcome them as well as welcoming home all of our R.L. Vann family."

Those taking part in this festive homecoming have numerous activities to take part in.

Things formally get underway from 5:30-7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2 with an invitation-only reception at the Garrett House, home of the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce. Registration follows from 7 p.m. until midnight at Quinton's Restaurant, Main Street, Ahoskie. That "get-acquainted" function carries a $15 per person fee.

Saturday's agenda includes a Main St. parade (10 a.m.), official opening ceremonies (1 p.m. at the school campus), gospel program (7-9 p.m. at Roanoke-Chowan Community College) and a dance, featuring "The Legends" (9 p.m. – 1 a.m. at the Elk Shrine in Winton).

The gospel program carries a $10 entry fee. Admittance to the dance is $25 per person.

A 9 p.m. breakfast meeting at the RCCC Multi-Purpose Center will lead-off Sunday's (Sept. 4) activities. That is priced at $10 per person.

Sunday worship service will be held from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the RCCC Auditorium. That will be followed by a 2 p.m. luncheon at the RCCC Multi-Purpose Center ($20 per person).

A 10 a.m. block party (400 block of Holloman Ave. in Ahoskie) will close the activities on Monday, Sept. 5. That carries a price of $10 per person.

Those attending the weekend events are urged to wear their school paraphernalia.

As a tribute to this popular event, the Ahoskie Town Council recently approved a special proclamation and resolution.

Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn proclaimed Aug. 28 through Sept. 3 as "R.L. Vann School Reunion Week."

Additionally, Mayor Blackburn proclaimed Saturday, Sept. 3 as Timothy Newsome Day in Ahoskie. Newsome, a former athletic standout from Ahoskie, is a retired NFL player, spending his pro career with the Dallas Cowboys.

The school's namesake, Robert L. Vann, was born in 1879 in Ahoskie. He rose from obscurity in rural North Carolina to head one of the most influential African-American papers in the nation, the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Courier.

After earning his law degree in 1909 from Western University of Pennsylvania at Pittsburgh (now the University of Pittsburgh), he became treasurer of the newly established Pittsburgh Courier. The paper's editor left shortly thereafter and Vann took over as the Courier's editor-publisher. Under Vann's vigorous leadership, the newspaper became the most widely read Black-owned newspaper in the nation.

In 1932, Vann led a campaign to get African Americans to join the Democratic Party. President Franklin D. Roosevelt rewarded Vann by appointing him Special Assistant to the U.S. Attorney General in 1933. Vann died in 1940.

His legacy not only includes the Ahoskie school named in his honor, but an elementary school in Pittsburgh as well.

Additionally, in 1988, the Pittsburgh Black Media Foundation launched its journalism competition under the name of the Robert L. Vann Media Awards. To date, more than 200 individuals have earned this award.