RADFORD – In what has become a great community effort, Radford Mayor David Horton has been leading an effort to highlight Radford Black History Month throughout February.
His latest honorees include black-owned businesses, a beloved athlete and law enforcement officer, and a highly regarded NCAA coach.
“Tuesday, Feb. 23:
“As we celebrate #radfordblackhistory we discover so many things about our community in the early and mid part of the 20th Century that we didn’t really recognize.
“Today we want to share the first in several posts about black-owned businesses in Radford.
“Rock Road has a rich past and a vibrant present. At one time centuries ago, it was the Wilderness Road, a trail to West as settlers populated America. The Lovely Mount Tavern was located along this path and was the inspiration (along with the mountain itself) for one of Radford’s early monikers.
“For decades, this stretch was full of businesses, churches, lodge halls, and homes for Radford’s African-American community. Some of those institutions and residences exist to this day. Others are gone but not forgotten.
“J.W. Stewart and Sons General Store was a thriving business located near Zion Hill Baptist Church on West Rock Road. Mr. Stewart worked at the foundry in addition to running this establishment, which included general items but also an outdoor dining area as seen in the pictures. He also had a wagon he would take to the foundry and sell ice cream during the warm seasons.
“This store was a gathering place for years, and following his retirement from the foundry, Mr. Stewart continued to keep it going. He passed away far too young in the 1950s.
“Also included today is a clipping from “The Afro American” newspaper that served our area and documented this community.
“Thanks to J.W. Webb, great-grandson of Mr Stewart, and his family along with Sarah Carter for the pictures and the story.
“As a side note, I mentioned this at our council meeting last night. I think we need to do more to document this history, and I am proposing additional marker signs be explored for the neighborhood along Rock Road and Wadsworth Street. I certainly don’t have all the answers for the content of the markers, but I think that working as a community, we should be able to come up with a few more to help carry these stories forward to future generations.
“Wednesday, Feb. 24:
“A big goal of #radfordblackhistory is to serve as a showcase of how members of the African-American community in Radford have contributed to the city in positive ways. Today we are proud to feature a Bobcat who was loved for his spirit during his life and who has continued to influence lives after his passing: Dana Palmer.
“A brief bio for Dana-
“In 1988, Dana Odell Palmer graduated from Radford High School. During Dana’s tenure as a Radford High School student, he became the most popular person in school. He was recognized for his stocky but diminutive stature and polite demeanor.
Despite his physical size he was a giant on the football field. At 5-foot-3 he rushed for 3,245 yards and 44 touchdowns.
“He was known as the “Smurf” among other nicknames that were given to him over the years.
“Anyone who ever saw him play the game of football was in awe of Dana’s accomplishments on the football field. He became a legend; his nature was kind and gentle off the football field.
“Everyone who was lucky enough to know Dana felt the love that shined from his smile into our hearts.
“After high school, Dana became a civil servant. He was a deputy sheriff at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department and later became a sergeant. He treated the prisoners there no different than he treated his friends and family. Everyone was equal in Dana’s eyes. He did not see the bad, only the good in a person, and that is what made him special.
“Dana was married and the father of four children. He was dedicated to friends and family. He was hardworking, honest, kind, and true.
“Dana passed away 20 years ago in February 2001, far too soon, but his friends and family have kept his unbeatable spirit alive with the establishment of a scholarship in his name and events that support that award.
“This program has become an annual celebration in and around Radford bringing back Bobcats of all ages for reunions, community gatherings, music, charity games and more. I dare say that the event means almost as much to the community as the actual award does to the recipient because it brings people together in good fellowship and spotlights the best in us all, something I think would please Dana and certainly was a part of his loving personality.
“More about the award
“The Dana O. Palmer Memorial Scholarship Award is given to a student athlete who exhibits a great attitude, courage, kindness, school spirit, and community service.
“This award has been established in Dana’s memory to give honor and respect to student-athletes with the same or similar characteristics. This foundation desires to inspire student athletes to be the best they can be scholastically and athletically.
“One way you can celebrate #radfordblackhistory today is to share the word about this scholarship and consider making a donation to support it at
“The information for the post today is from this site.
“Thursday, February 25, 2021
“Today in #radfordblackhistory we are proud to profile a Bobcat who has gone on to much success in the NCAA as a player and a coach: Darris Nichols.
“Coach Nichols was a star on the RHS stage at the turn of the 21st century. He was a leader on and off the court and was destined for a top NCAA program based on his talent as well as his discipline.
“West Virginia University came knocking on the door, and he was a huge success for the Mountaineers with nearly 1,000 career points and almost 400 assists. He was a great leader for his team and was twice a recipient of the Big East Academic All-Star and Sportsmanship Award> He also earned the 2008 Fred Schaus Captain Award for WVU intercollegiate athletics.
“He was destined to coach. As a natural guiding force, he was certain to be a success helping others develop on and off the court.
“Following a professional career overseas, he returned to WVU to begin his coaching tenure. His talents were quickly recognized, and for the last decade, he has served several schools, spending the last six years at Florida.
“Coach Nichols is a member of the Coaches4Change organization that is dedicated to equity, education, empowerment, and evolution to help identify and eradicate racism that damages our society so greatly.
“He is a leader among his peers and has been recognized for his work helping make teams better, helping make players better, and helping young people find better paths in life.
“He is a great member of the Bobcat Nation and a wonderful representative for Radford. #GoRadford!
2015-present Florida Assistant Coach
2014-15 Louisiana Tech Assistant Coach
2013-14 Wofford Assistant Coach
2011-13 Northern Kentucky Assistant Coach
2010-11 West Virginia Graduate Staff Assistant