She was called “Madam” with great honor and pride because Annie Belle Daniels labored to contribute to her community of Newport News. For many decades, she was considered a model for business, civic, political and social activism for people regardless of their race.
Madam Daniels, the founder of the once thriving Madam Daniels School of Beauty and Culture which she founded, died April 27 at age 101.
The obituary on the website of the funeral home which handled her funeral was only two paragraphs long, but her life spanned a long tenure of dedication to her community which was much deeper.
According to an article in April 29 edition of the Newport News Daily Press, “self-confidence and civic pride were the curriculum at the Madam Daniels School of Beauty and Culture on Chestnut Avenue.”
She was born in Alabama as one of 11 children and migrated to Virginia in the 1930s, graduating from cosmetology school here and opening her own salon three years later, .according to her biography.
Political leaders, such as Congressman Robert Scott, were among those she respected. Scott recalled her fondly as one he respected for the grassroots network she established that helped him stay connected to his constituents, according to the Newport News Daily Press article. “She launched a young lawyer named Bobby Scott on a political path that eventually brought him to Congress,” stated the article “I had my first fundraiser at Madam Daniels’ – a fish fry,” Scott recalled. “In fact, that’s where I announced I was running for the House of Delegates.”
Over time other politicians courted her support.
“She was a strong supporter of President Obama, and worked the precincts both elections he ran and won,” said Joni Ivey, Cong. Scott’s Chief of Staff, who is retiring this spring. “We could not tear her away. We worried about her being out there all day. But she worked hard.”
Her bio said she would sell cups of soup to help people pay their poll tax during the Jim Crow era in Virginia, before the levy was killed by court actions.
Ivey said she and Scott would visit Daniels at least twice a month. and she would ask him when “he would take her to the White House again.”
The last time the pair saw Daniels was the Saturday before Easter. She was in good spirits to see them in her final days.
She was honored by most of the civic organizations and the NAACP, Hampton University, the Urban League and the Virginia General Assembly, according to Ivey.
Ivey said she met Madam Daniels when Daniels was President of the Newport News NAACP in 1979. She became the Life Time membership chair locally and was on the national Lifetime membership board.
The Newport News NAACP received many awards for securing Lifetime memberships during Daniel’s tenure in that role.
“She was somebody,” Ivey said. “She was my mentor and she invested so much in me and so many other people.”
In 2010, Newport News dedicated a historical marker to honor her “untiring humanitarian service and her contributions to the general welfare of the city.”
Madam Daniels began learning her art of cosmetology early and furthered her education at schools in Savannah, Georgia, and Newport News, where she moved in 1945. She opened her own salon in 1948 and dreamed of creating a school of cosmetology. In 1959 she opened the Madam Daniels School of Beauty Culture on Chestnut Avenue where she trained thousands of students.