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Hallie Holmes, Oral History

Hallie J. Holmes, a daughter of Joshua and Willie Mary Holmes, speaks at age 64 about growing up in Middlesex County in a loving family home and attending all-black schools until her first experience of integration when she had to leave the familiar surroundings of St. Clare Walker School to attend the Middlesex High School in her senior year and relates what a “scary” time it was for her. Her fear was somewhat eased by a white girl whose name she still remembers. She said that with integration “we gained a lot but lost a lot”. She says that her grandparents “made a good foundation for us” and how both they and her parents stressed the value of “the land, paying the taxes, and obeying the law.” They were religious people and devout members of Calvary Baptist Church. “Everyone worked hard all the time.” The ladies canned whatever they could and their efforts were enjoyed at Christmas and family gatherings. Income was hard-earned doing whatever work there was. The local canning factory was one big employer until it burned and was never re-built. Joshua Holmes, Hallie’s father, was the first black sheriff of Middlesex County from 1970-1983, and she speaks about how it happened, her father’s preparation for the job at Old Dominion University, and the two terms he served with distinction as county sheriff. The foundation of a family was laid, the values were determined, and the adversities overcome by mutual support.

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