Editorial: Olympic gold medalist and civil rights pioneer from Botetourt wants a historic marker | Editorial

After the war, Lee hoped to go to West Point, but the academy then accepted only a few black applicants. He ended up at Howard University in Washington, DC. He tried to join the university’s boxing team, but the coach was skeptical of a student he hadn’t recruited. Instead, Lee competed in local boxing competitions and soon had the 1948 Olympic boxing team selected as an alternative. The Howard trainer learned to pay attention.

Lee didn’t box in London in 1948, but was still an Olympic champion. In September he came back to visit his family in Botetourt. On that return trip, he was arrested on the train between Covington and Clifton Forge, taken to Alleghany County Jail and held there until a $ 250 bond was issued.

During his trial – the notes of which are extensively quoted in Conklin’s book – Lee’s attorney suggested that his client be arrested not only for being black but for being a black Olympian, an accomplishment that the white southern view of the world into Question asked work. Lee was convicted, fined $ 5 and appealed.

His attorney was Martin A. Martin of the famous Hill law firm in Richmond, Martin and Robinson – the Hill was Oliver Hill, who later argued part of Brown against the Board of Education and after whom the Roanoke courthouse is named.

The next year, the Virginia Supreme Court endorsed Martin’s argument: even though Lee was on a local train, he had a ticket to Washington, which made him an interstate traveler, and the courts had already banned separation on interstate transportation.

Comments are closed.