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Two Hampton Roads Leaders Honored During Dominion Program

Two Hampton Roads leaders, Col. Quentin Joseph Smith Jr. and Sheila Bowen Taylor, were honored during the Dominion Energy and Library of Virginia’s Strong Men & Women in Virginia awards program for their significant contributions and achievements in their respective fields.



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Two members of the Hampton Roads community were honored recently during the Strong Men & Women in Virginia awards program in Richmond. This is the 11th year that Dominion Energy and the Library of Virginia have presented the event.

Col. Quentin Joseph Smith Jr. (Ret) of Hampton and Sheila Bowen Taylor of Norfolk were among six notable African American business and community leaders spotlighted at this year’s event for overcoming obstacles to make significant impacts across the state.

Growing up in Hampton in the 1940s, Quentin Smith Jr. dreamed of becoming a military pilot.

By the time he joined the Air Force in the 1960s, African Americans like Smith were not even allowed to sit in the front of the bus due to racial segregation under Jim Crow laws. So, his hopes of flying a plane seemed out of reach.

Despite naysayers, Smith never gave up.

Not only did Smith become a U.S. Air Force pilot, but he also rose to the rank of Colonel. Plus, he earned a Distinguished Flying Cross and other awards for his valor in combat during the Vietnam War. Throughout his career, Smith clocked more than 8,000 flying hours.

Sheila Bowen Taylor of Norfolk became the second woman and the first Black woman in 1981 hired as a nuclear engineer at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, working in the Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department on submarines, surface ships, and aircraft carriers. There, she helped organize the Hampton Roads chapter of the Society of Women Engineers to help connect women in the engineering field.

Taylor grew up in the St. Juliens Creek community of Chesapeake (formerly Norfolk County) near the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, where her father worked as an electrician. After earning a degree in physics from now Norfolk State University, she went on to study nuclear physics at Old Dominion University.

She earned a Master’s in Organizational Leadership and Administration at Central Michigan University. During the 1970s, Taylor worked as a structural engineer at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Today she promotes the importance of diversity in engineering and the sciences, as well as mentoring young people and early career professionals

Smith and Taylor join the list of members of the armed forces, engineers, authors, community leaders, educators, journalists, judges, and politicians who have been celebrated throughout the program’s history.

Sheila Bowen Taylor

“Each generation builds on the achievements of the one before. That’s why we are proud to honor Strong Men & Women in Virginia History who have used their talents and efforts to improve communities for the present and future generations,” said Bill Murray, Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs and Communications at Dominion Energy.

“These amazing men and women have proven that hard work and determination can shape one’s destiny and the world. Throughout time, African American leaders have used their unique skill sets and unwavering passion to mentor leaders of the future. It’s important to honor their efforts and their legacy,” said Sandra G. Treadway, Librarian of Virginia.

The 2023 honorees are Kendall Holbrook, CEO and Mentor, Fairfax County; Ora Scruggs McCoy, Farmer and Community Activist, Appomattox County; Wendell Oliver Scott (honored posthumously), Stock Car Driver, Danville; Col. Quentin Joseph Smith Jr. (Ret), Air Force Pilot and Mentor, Hampton; Sheila Bowen Taylor, Nuclear Engineer and Mentor, Norfolk; and Rev. Raymond Rogers Wilkinson (honored posthumously), Baptist Minister and Civil Rights Leader, Roanoke.

In addition to attending a special gala, each honoree was provided the opportunity to choose a non-profit to receive a $5,000 grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation. The Library of Virginia will host a traveling exhibition featuring each of the honorees and their biographical information.

In 2013, Strong Men & Women in Virginia History was born when Dominion Energy and the Library of Virginia began a new educational initiative that merged two Black History Month programs: Dominion Energy’s 22–year–old series, Strong Men & Women: Excellence in Leadership and the Library of Virginia’s eight–year–old program, African American Trailblazers in Virginia History.

As part of the initiative, high school students from each region of Virginia are invited to submit essays on outstanding African Americans. Winners each receive an Apple MacBook Air laptop and $1,000 for their schools.

The 2023 Student Creative Expressions Contest winners are Jonah Burton, Henrico HS, Richmond; Alexa Koeckritz, Grafton HS, Yorktown; Lily Vietmeyer, Washington-Liberty HS, Arlington; and Maria Turner. Patrick County HS, Stuart.

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