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The Honorable William E. Ward

History professor, political organizer, and mayor The Honorable William E. Ward was born on December 1, 1933 in Virginia to Annie Ward. Ward earned his B.A. degree in history in 1957 and his M.A. degree in history in 1960 from Virginia State University. He also earned both his M.A. and Ph.D degrees in American and African history in 1972 and 1977, respectively, from Clark University.

In 1963, Ward moved to Chesapeake where he began his public life as a grass-roots political organizer, helping to bring sewer and roads to poorer neighborhoods in Chesapeake and Norfolk. Between 1973 and 2000, he worked as a professor at Norfolk State University where he served as a professor and the chair of the history department. He was also the president of the Faculty Senate at Norfolk State University between 1975 and 1977 and chaired the Black History Month committee for the Faculty Senate of Virginia Benefits and Senate Grievance committees. In addition, Ward was a member of the college-wide Council of Teacher Education. In 1978, Ward ran for the Chesapeake City Council and was declared a winner forty-eight hours after having been declared a loser, when 123 uncounted votes were located. He was elected Vice Mayor under Mayor David I. Wynne between 1984 and 1986, and also in 1988 and 1990. Ward was then appointed as the city’s first black mayor in 1990 after Wynne faced allegations of fraud. Ward ran for re-election in 1992 and won and in 1996, Ward ran for re-election and defeated Republican challenger John Cosgrove, earning fifty-five percent of the vote and serving until 2004. Ward was Chesapeake’s longest serving mayor.

Ward was appointed to the Board of Visitors at Virginia State University in 2003 by Governor Mark Warner and in 2008 became a board member of the university. In addition, he served as the Executive Director of the Hampton Roads Partnership, Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, and Southeastern Public Service Authority. Additional past professional affiliations include the Virginia Society for History Teachers, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, the Southern Historical Association, the American Historical Association and the Virginia Social Sciences Association. Ward also served as the chairman of the Chesapeake Hurricane Katrina Relief Task Force.

Ward lived in Virginia and was married to Rose M. Ward. He was also the father of son, Michael, and daughter, Michelle.

Ward passed away on July 10, 2018.

William Ward was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 12, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.014

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/12/2010

Last Name

Ward

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

E.

Schools

Virginia State University

Clark University

Bluestone Harmony Academic and Industrial School

Central High School

University of Ghana

First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

Lunenburg County

HM ID

WAR13

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

New England

Favorite Quote

Epitaph: Public Servant

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Birth Date

12/1/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chesapeake

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak

Death Date

7/10/2018

Short Description

History professor, political organizer, and mayor The Honorable William E. Ward (1933 - 2018 ) was a professor and the chair of the history department at Norfolk State University. Ward was appointed as the first African American and longest serving mayor of Chesapeake, Virginia in 1990.

Employment

Norfolk State University (Va).

I.C. Norcom High School (Portsmouth, Va).

B. Altman & Co.

Charles Hamilton Houston Junior High School

Rosemont Junior High School

City of Chesapeake

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable William E. Ward's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable William E. Ward lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable William E. Ward talks about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes how he lost his eye as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable William E. Ward talks about the Bluestone Harmony Academic and Industrial School in Keysville, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes his childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable William E. Ward remembers the notable African American athletes of his youth

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable William E. Ward recalls listening to the radio as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable William E. Ward remembers listening to the party line in Keysville, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes his experiences at the Bluestone Harmony Academic and Industrial School

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes the all-black public school in Lunenburg County, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable William E. Ward recalls his classes at Central High School in Charlotte Court House, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable William E. Ward remembers his elementary and high school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable William E. Ward talks about the lack of black press in Keysville, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes his decision to attend Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable William E. Ward recalls his experiences at Virginia State College

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable William E. Ward talks about the history of Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable William E. Ward talks about the civil rights activities in Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable William E. Ward remembers the visiting speakers at Virginia State College

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable William E. Ward talks about his early work experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes his early civil rights involvement

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable William E. Ward recalls the civil rights activities at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable William E. Ward remembers the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes his role as campaign manager for two minority Chesapeake City Council candidates

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes his summer abroad at the University of Ghana in Accra, Ghana

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable William E. Ward remembers studying at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable William E. Ward recalls his congressional campaign in 1972

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable William E. Ward remembers serving as a delegate at the 1976 Democratic National Convention

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable William E. Ward talks about his campaign for the Chesapeake City Council

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes how he became mayor of Chesapeake, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable William E. Ward talks about politics in the State of Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes his tenure as mayor of Chesapeake, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable William E. Ward recalls the racial issues he handled while mayor of Chesapeake, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable William E. Ward talks about his mayoral and city council campaigns

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes how he juggled his two careers

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable William E. Ward talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes his organizational involvement

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable William E. Ward reflects upon his tenure as mayor of Chesapeake, Virginia, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable William E. Ward reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable William E. Ward recalls his conflict with Congressman Tom DeLay

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable William E. Ward talks about the trial of Lee Boyd Malvo

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - The Honorable William E. Ward reflects upon his tenure as mayor of Chesapeake, Virginia, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - The Honorable William E. Ward describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable William E. Ward narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable William E. Ward narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

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DATape

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DAStory

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DATitle
The Honorable William E. Ward talks about his campaign for the Chesapeake City Council
The Honorable William E. Ward describes his tenure as mayor of Chesapeake, Virginia
Transcript
And I ran for city council, I think, in '74 [1974]. That's where I'm getting, getting my--$$Okay (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) my dates are a little confused here.$$So, that was prior to working with the--$$Prior to the convention [1976 Democratic National Convention, New York, New York].$$Yeah.$$Yeah. Prior to the convention, I ran for city council, and I lost that by five hundred votes, and so forth. So I said, "Well, I'm not gonna run for anything else again." Spent all of my time concentrating on my work at Norfolk State [Norfolk State College; Norfolk State University, Norfolk, Virginia], and so forth. For the next two or three years, I helped to get Clarke and Owens [Hugo A. Owens, Sr.] reelected and kind of took a back seat. But then in '77 [1977] Clarke died and, and we [Chesapeake Men for Progress; New Cheesecake Men for Progress, Chesapeake, Virginia] worked to get somebody appointed to finish his term. His wife agreed to do that, so for a year or year and a half, Mrs. Clarke [Florine R. Clarke] served as the council appointed replacement for her husband, William Clarke [W.P. Clarke, Sr.]. So, in '78 [1978], she said, "I'm not gonna run again," and that's when we all looked around and said, "Well, Bill Ward [HistoryMaker William E. Ward], you gotta be the one. You gotta go for that seat. We gotta keep the two blacks on council." So I ran in 1978, had already created the model for the most part, and that is you work with your base, work with the black churches and the black neighborhood bosses, and so forth. And haven't been active in the Democratic committee over the next--over the previous seven or eight years. I had gained some white support like that. And so on election day in '78 [1978], I came in sixth, with the five, five seats, five vacancies on that--at that time. And when they counted the votes on election night, Bill Ward came in number six, and everybody said, "We thought you were gonna win." And I wasn't that far, I forgot how many votes I was behind. Two days later when they counted the votes in the official canvas, they discovered at one precinct that at one machine, votes had not been counted for Bill Ward. So, they found 123 votes at a southern city--near the southern precinct in the southern part of Chesapeake [Virginia] and moved me from the sixth place loser to a third place finisher. And so I was declared after a recount and all that, to be the winner, which knocked off one of the white winners by--and his closest competition had been about two votes or something like that. So anyway, I was finally elected to Chesapeake City Council in 1978, and served in that capacity as a councilmember until October 1990, when I became mayor. So, during the twelve years as a councilmember, I began to build up some support, you know, in the larger community working with the mayors at that time, and all the mayors were Democratic mayors and councils were primarily the Democratic council. Chesapeake didn't begin to shift until the '90s [1990s] to become a Republican city and now it's primarily Republican controlled.$The 1970s was an exciting decade where things began to stabilize. And in the, in the '80s [1980s]--here again, Chesapeake [Virginia] began to grow in the '80s [1980s], began to attract multinational businesses, residential units were come in, popping up. The population was growing at 3 and 4 and 5 percent, and then when I became mayor in 1990 for the next ten years, during my tenure, we continued to expand. I began to travel internationally and nationally to attract multinational businesses. I spent several trips into Japan, which was very lucrative for us, also in Europe and other parts of Asia, Taiwan, wherever we could--and also in this country, also I did a lot of travel. So all of this began to add to my persona as an aggressive weak mayor in a sense, and we were able to get some things done. We were able to get federal funding and approve and upgrade some of the old black neighborhoods, old traditional Chesapeake, rural Chesapeake, which was a county until '63 [1963]. Had two populations, us and them. And the us, the black people, all lived in little villages throughout the city, and so we didn't begin to integrate the city until the early '70s [1970s], and today it's much harder to determine your base if you're dependent solely on your black base, because it's no longer restricted to these, quote villages, just because it's a highly integrated city. There's 354 square miles, we have fifty-five voting precincts, black people live everywhere, all candidates, all officials are elected at large. I was always elected at large, never from a ward system, never from a precinct system. And that's the interesting part about my political life is that the demographics of Chesapeake has always remained stable, about 22 or 23 percent African American and 77, 76, 77, 78 percent majority race. So, for any candidate or any person, and any minority candidate to win, he or she must be able to build bridges, and that was one of my campaign themes, building bridges. Another one was promises made, promises kept. So, I always try to represent all the people, and in the neighborhoods, you know, I was always there. Wherever invited, I would appear; white churches, black churches, and ultimately I developed a good support base in the white churches. I had five white ministers who would meet with me on a monthly basis to pray once a month in my office. We would meet and they would pray with me, for me. And the National Day of Prayer, I had no problem in participating in that and taking on leadership in that, and, so and then I established a sister cities program, which got us into Brazil. I've been in and out of Brazil four, five, six, seven times, and we have a sister city in southern Brazil, in Joinville and Santa Catarina state. As a result of my first trip to Brazil, which was a business trip, I was able to bring Varga Brakes [TRW Brakes Brazil] to the City of Chesapeake. First trip to Japan I was able to bring Yupo [Yupo Corporation], which is a large Japanese Company. Oji-Yuka paper company [Oji-Yuka Synthetic Paper Company; Yupo Corporation], $100 million investment. So, you'll see some of the pictures I have here on the back table, the governors of Virginia, particularly George Allen. The Republican governor always came down and presented me a big check, a state incentive, a state investment check to bring a business here. So these are the kinds of exciting things that we were able to do during, during my tenure.