Hampton Roads Community News

Highway Marker Ceremony For I.C. Norcom

PORTSMOUTH
On Friday, Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. a special celebration will be held to acknowledge the placement of a historical highway marker honoring I.C. Norcom High School’s namesake, Israel Charles Norcom (1856-1916), and the school’s rich heritage. Israel Charles Norcom was an African-American educator and administrator who served Portsmouth schools for more than 30 years. The event, which is being hosted by the African-American Historical Society of Portsmouth and supported by Portsmouth Public Schools, will be held in the school’s auditorium.

The program for the morning will feature remarks from Herman Weaver and Mae Breckenridge-Haywood, members of the historical society who were instrumental in working with the school system and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to secure placement of the marker. Norcom students will take part in the ceremony through the presentation of colors and singing the National Anthem and the school’s alma mater.

Also on the program will be Superintendent Dr. Elie Bracy III; current Norcom Principal Laguna Foster; and Mayor John Rowe who will present a special proclamation to honor the significance of the occasion. Following remarks, Dr. Colita Fairfax, a member of the Historical Marker Committee of Virginia, will lead those attending to the marker site in front of the school for a symbolic unveiling. This event is free and open to the public.

A school bearing Israel Charles Norcom’s name first opened in 1920. The school retained the name with each new building. I.C. Norcom High has been an integral part of the African-American community in Portsmouth. I.C. Norcom students conducted sit-ins to desegregate Portsmouth lunch counters in 1960, and many alumni have served as local, state, and national leaders, according to the award details.

For months, the African-American Historical Society of Portsmouth worked with School Board Clerk Kathy Chambliss to research Board archives for information.

The Society is led by Portsmouth historian and community advocate Mae Breckenridge-Haywood, who helped open the Colored Community Library Museum. Herman Weaver, whose grandmother Lavinia Weaver served as the school’s assistant principal for 37 years (from the 1920s to the 1950s, led the research effort.

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