When I was a 12-year-old, my family and I had the opportunity to help integrate the Richmond city schools. My dad was the governor of Virginia at the time, and when the courts ordered the schools integrated in 1970, my family saw it as the ultimate “Opportunity Time.” That fall, my mother escorted my brother, Woody, and me to Mosby Middle, a previously all African-American school.
I played in the band and helped start a cheerleading squad. We did all the things normal middle-schoolers do, but it was my first chance to get to know students whose lives were pretty different from mine, and that was invaluable. The chance I was given to make a difference in the larger movement toward racial reconciliation in the South left its mark on me, starting me on my path toward a career in public service.
PHOTO – Mosby Middle School (1980) via Valentine Richmond History Center / Masaaki Okada of Richmond Newspapers, Inc.