(Source: Virginia Department of Historic Resources News)
“The story of Oak Lawn Cemetery will be relayed in Suffolk. Established by African Americans in 1885, the cemetery now contains the graves of numerous prominent business, religious, educational, and political leaders in Nansemond County (present-day Suffolk), as well as Civil War-era United States Colored Troops, and veterans of other U.S. wars.
Full Text of Marker: (Oak Lawn Cemetery)
(Please note that some texts may be slightly modified before the manufacture and installation of the signs. Also locations proposed for each sign must be approved in consultation with VDOT or public works in jurisdictions outside VDOT authority.)
“Seven African American trustees acquired land here in 1885 and established Oak Lawn Cemetery. Community leaders interred here include John W. Richardson, president of the Phoenix Bank of Nansemond; Wiley H. Crocker, founder of the Tidewater Fair Association and Nansemond Development Corporation; William W. Gaines, Baptist minister and founder of the Nansemond Collegiate Institute; Fletcher Mae Howell, Baptist missionary; Dr. William T. Fuller, physician and banker; and William H. Walker, Tuskegee Airman. Also buried here are late-19th-century local politicians, United States Colored Troops, and veterans of World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam.”
Sponsor: Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation Locality: Suffolk Proposed Location: 449 Market Street Sponsor Contact: Nadia K. Orton, email@example.com.
All photos courtesy of Nadia K. Orton and Princess J. Benn-Coker. All rights reserved.
The Great American cleanup at Oak Lawn Cemetery was a great success. We caught a break with the weather, and over fifty people contributed their time and energy to help preserve the grounds of the cemetery and the history it holds. The members of the Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation would like to thank Girl Scout Troop 313 (Suffolk, Virginia); Girl Scout Troop 725 (Suffolk, Virginia); Girl Scout Troop 5292 (Driver, Virginia); Princess J. Benn Coker, Worthy Matron, Nansemond Chapter 31, Order of the Eastern Star PHA; Larry Coker; Michela Brown-Mayfield and Christiana Green (Lakeland High School); Fred Greene; Francis McNair, Suffolk Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 5; Carlena Scott, Suffolk (VA) Chapter, Links, Incorporated; Rev. Michael Frazier, East End Baptist Church; Mike Lane, Lane Environmental Consultants; Robin Barton; Tracey Tanner; Dennis E. Orton; S. McPherson; and Tyrone Hawkins. Also, special thanks to LeOtis Williams and team for grounds maintenance prior to our event, and all others who were there with us in spirit!
The Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation
Preserving African American History of Suffolk, Virginia with Integrity
Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery has been approved for state funding, specifically to repair and maintain 468 registered gravemarkers. The amount will be $5.00 per headstone. Nadia K. Orton, Secretary and Historian for the foundation, who has researched Oak Lawn Cemetery for eight years, carefully researched hundreds of obituaries and death certificates, cross-checked with available gravestone photos, to create the database of eligible graves (persons born before 1900). Working closely in conjunction, and with the invaluable assistance of the office of Del. C. E. Cliff Hayes for several months, she was able to submit all required documentation to ensure that Oak Lawn became one of the select few African American cemeteries to receive funding from the State of Virginia.
From the board of the Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation (President Reginald H. Dirtion, Vice-President Oulaniece Saunders, Treasurer Wilbur Holland, Jr., Secretary/Historian Nadia K. Orton) : Special thanks to: the African American community of Suffolk, Virginia; Suffolk Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 5, LeOtis Williams, Frances McNair, Mike Lane, M/M Hinton (Eye Catch Photos), Otis Richards, First Baptist Church Mahan (FBC), Dr. Harry Quinton and Lt. Col. Bill Burrell (Tidewater Chapter, Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.), and the staff of the East Suffolk Recreation Center. Also, Del. Hayes, Jr. (Dist. 77), Vice-Mayor L. Bennett, and Councilman C. Milteer,
Dedicated to the memory of Deacon George Lee Richards, Sr.
We had a great day on Saturday, February 9, 2019, at the Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Open House! Thanks to all who braved the cold to honor this sacred ground, including: the members of the Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation – President Reginald H. Dirtion, Vice-President Rev. Oulaniece Saunders, Treasurer Wilbur Holland, Jr., Historian/Secretary Nadia K. Orton; Delegate C. E. Cliff Hayes, Jr., chief sponsor, HB 2311; Suffolk Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 5; Frances McNair; Lt. Col./Chaplain William Burrell (USAF), President, Tidewater Chapter, Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.; Tuskegee Airman Dr. Harry Quinton; Mike Lane, Lane Environmental Consultants; Rev. Baker; the Orton Family, and Vice Mayor L. Bennett (Suffolk) . Also, huge thanks to M/M Hinton of Eye Catch Photos!
(Photos: courtesy R. Hinton, Eye Catch Photos, and Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation. All rights reserved)