RADFORD – Throughout the month of February, Radford Mayor David Horton has been posting daily spotlights honoring Radford Black History Month. His latest honorees include an icon in the Civil Rights movement, a Radford High School Hall of Fame former NFL player and two sports teams.
Friday, February 19, 2021
Today in #radfordblackhistory we go back to the early 80s at Radford High School when the dominant force in Bobcat sports was Donald Wayne Snell.
Few people have the raw talent of Mr. Snell. Basically, if there was something he attempted, he mastered it. I had the pleasure of watching him play basketball and football and he was electric. Speed, power, and an instinct for success made him THE player to watch under Friday night lights.
Following his graduation from RHS, he set records with Virginia Tech football that still stand to this day. He is considered one of their all-time greats.
In 1987, he made it to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL – a feat that only about .09% of athletes ever accomplish.
His legacy continues in the NRV as his son and nephew have been stars on the field at the High School and Collegiate level.
Donald Wayne Snell was in the inaugural Radford High School Sports Hall of Fame and his legend lives large among those of us who witnessed his talent.
Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021:
Today in #radfordblackhistory we are proud to feature one of the best teams in Radford softball history.
First, a bit of a backstory. From the 1960s through the 1980s, softball was an insanely popular sport in Radford and around the nation. There was a church league, business league, city rec league and many exhibition games – men’s, women’s, co-Ed, youth, etc. When the weather was warm, folks in Radford were playing softball on one of more than a dozen fields around the city.
At one time, teams were segregated, some even playing in different leagues. That began to change in the late 60s.
We believe that this team was the first city league team comprised of African American women. They dominated play for several years. Records are spotty so if someone has additional information, please share it.
They were sponsored by Caesar’s Cleaners, a black owned business on Tyler Avenue which we will be featuring next week.
A big thank you to Earnest Hayden (Pugie) and Earnest Hayden for help with the picture and the names. Players on softball team: Bottom Row, left to right: Zaida Ward, Kim Snell, Janet Charlton, Lois Snell, Ellen Ferguson. Top row: Paula Rollins, Harriet Clark, Brenda Grubbs, Lulabelle Lewis, Ann Hayden, Candy Adams, Carolyn McNeil, Doris Day
Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021:
As we continue to celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth with stories about #RadfordBlackHistory we would like to say thank you to all the folks who have reached out with suggestions for profiles and pictures.
There was such a positive response to the pipe shop band picture last week and the softball team photo yesterday, we found another photo to tell the story of sports and the pipe shop (foundry) as well.
John Barksdale compiled the Images of America book for Radford and this picture and story appears there.
During the era of segregation, blacks were not permitted to compete with whites in organized sporting events. Some private companies organized and supported leagues of African American teams, such as the Radford Pipe Works, whose baseball team won the southwest Virginia championship in 1920. The pipe works, also know as the Lynchburg Foundry, sponsored African American teams through the 1950s. These clubs had quite a following of fans through the years. (Courtesy of the Ken and Jane Farmer Collection.)
Prior to softball being such a big activity in Radford, it was baseball. Radford even hosted a professional team for a very short period of time – the Rockets. I will have a short profile on that team as we approach baseball’s opening day.
It would be great to share other pictures of Radford teams and trophies that might be in some family collections.
Monday, Feb. 22, 2021:
Today in #RadfordBlackHistory we salute a leader who moved the world from the streets and the pulpit in Radford and around the Nation.
Paul Thomas (P.T.) Travis was a pastor, serving many years with Zion Hill Baptist Church in Radford as well as many other congregations.
Reverend Travis was also active with the Civil Rights Movement, helping champion the cause for equity in our communities and participating in national events with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
He served on several local, state, and national church boards and assisted public organizations that attended to the well-being of all people.
He received a Bachelor of Theology (BTh) degree as well as an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the Virginia Seminary and College.
A devout leader, he paved the way in our community for many future leadership roles among his colleagues and peers and those who followed in their footsteps.
P.T. Travis Avenue in Radford is named in his honor. His legacy looms large in our community.
Thank you to Sarah Carter for her help in featuring Rev. Travis today.