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Katherine Bennett

Women’s sports pioneer and educator Katherine Howard Bennett was born on October 17, 1922 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. She was raised by a single mother who worked as a sorter and mender in a laundry. In 1940, Bennett earned her high school diploma from P.W. Moore High School, where she was a member of the debate team, band and drama club.

From 1940 until 1944, Bennett attended North Carolina A & T University where she encountered her first female athlete. Intrigued by the world of sports she immersed herself in athletics. Bennett, along with twins Mable and Inez Scott, were A & T’s first majorette team. She was also a member of the drama club, band, debate team, volleyball, tennis and gymnastics teams. Bennett also joined the Women’s Athletic Association and participated in “National Sports Day,” a weekend of sports for black, female college students. In 1944, Bennett earned her B.S. degree in English and health & physical education. She later returned to school, receiving her master’s degree in health education in 1947 from New York University and earning her doctorate in 1977 in physical education from Virginia Polytechnic University.

After earning her B.A. degree, Bennett taught physical education at Rosenwald School in South Mills, North Carolina. From 1947 until 1953, she worked as a health and physical education professor at Hampton Institute. In addition to teaching, Bennett also coordinated the women’s athletics program. In 1953, her husband was hired as the head football coach at Virginia State University; she followed him and began working as a professor of health and physical education. That same year Bennett created and established the Officiating Board and Women’s Officials at VSU. In the late 1950s, Bennett created guidelines that would ultimately lead to incorporating women’s athletics into to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association or CIAA. In 1968, Bennett coached the first competitive women’s basketball team at VSU, and in 1975 she directed the first CIAA women’s basketball tournament at Virginia State. In 1977, Bennett was appointed chairperson of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at VSU, the first woman to hold this post. That same year, Bennett became the first coordinator for women’s sports at Virginia State. In 1989 she was inducted in the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. Bennett retired from Virginia State in 1992.

Bennett passed away on December 20, 2009 at age 87.

Accession Number

A2004.200

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/13/2004

Last Name

Bennett

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Howard

Schools

P.W. Moore High School

Northeastern High School

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

New York University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Katherine

Birth City, State, Country

Elizabeth City

HM ID

BEN03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cruises

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/17/1922

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Ettrick

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken

Death Date

12/20/2009

Short Description

Academic administrator and college basketball coach Katherine Bennett (1922 - 2009 ) was a pioneer in women’s athletics, coaching the first competitive women’s basketball game, integrating women’s athletics into the CIAA and becoming the first female chair of the department. She was recognized by the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame for her accomplishments in women's sports.

Employment

Rosenwald School - South Mills, North Carolina

Hampton Institute

Virginia State University

Favorite Color

Pink, Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227979">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Katherine Bennett's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227980">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Katherine Bennett lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227981">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Katherine Bennett describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227982">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Katherine Bennett talks about living with her extended family while growing up in Elizabeth City, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227983">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Katherine Bennett describes childhood memories from Elizabeth City, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227984">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Katherine Bennett describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood in Elizabeth City, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227985">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Katherine Bennett talks about the role of music in her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227986">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Katherine Bennett recalls her experiences at Banks Street Elementary School in Elizabeth City, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227987">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Katherine Bennett talks about attending St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in Elizabeth City, North Carolina as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227988">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Katherine Bennett recalls her experiences attending P.W. Moore High School in Elizabeth City, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227989">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Katherine Bennett describes her experiences at Negro Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina in Greensboro, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227990">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Katherine Bennett describes her favorite extracurricular activities from high school and college</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227991">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Katherine Bennett talks about playing sports at Negro Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227992">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Katherine Bennett talks about her first jobs after graduating from Negro Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina in 1944</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227993">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Katherine Bennett talks about how she met her husband, HistoryMaker William Maurice Bennett</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227994">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Katherine Bennett describes her tenure working in the physical education department at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227995">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Katherine Bennett talks about joining the physical education department at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227996">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Katherine Bennett describes her experiences as a referee and teacher at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227997">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Katherine Bennett recalls the results of the implementation of Title IX on women's sports, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227998">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Katherine Bennett recalls the results of the implementation of Title IX on women's sports, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/227999">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Katherine Bennett talks about the increase in popularity of women's sports after Title IX</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228000">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Katherine Bennett describes the leadership roles she took later in her career at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228001">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Katherine Bennett talks about whether Title IX has caused funding issues in college athletic departments</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228002">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Katherine Bennett reflects on the success of Title IX</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228003">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Katherine Bennett describes her proudest achievements as a professor at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228004">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Katherine Bennett talks about achieving an Ed.D. at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228005">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Katherine Bennett talks about the National Sports Day Association</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228006">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Katherine Bennett describes her involvement with cotillions for the Beaux-Twenty club in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228007">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Katherine Bennett shares her thoughts about the growth of professional sports for women</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228008">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Katherine Bennett describes her tenure as head coach of the women's basketball team at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228009">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Katherine Bennett talks about being inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Hall of Fame</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228010">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Katherine Bennett reflects on the progress of women's sports</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228011">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Katherine Bennett describes her concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228012">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Katherine Bennett reflects upon the importance of history</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228013">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Katherine Bennett reflects upon her life, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228014">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Katherine Bennett talks about running the majorette squad at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228015">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Katherine Bennett describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228016">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Katherine Bennett reflects upon her life, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228017">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Katherine Bennett narrates her photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/228018">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Katherine Bennett narrates her photographs, pt. 2</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$2

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
Katherine Bennett talks about achieving an Ed.D. at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia
Katherine Bennett talks about playing sports at Negro Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina
Transcript
In 1977 you also got your doctorate degree, we didn't talk about that.$$Yes, right.$$Your Ph.D. [sic. Ed.D], why did you decide to do that?$$I got mad with the chairman of the department [of health, physical education and recreation, Virginia State College; Virginia State University, Petersburg, Virginia], we had an argument and I said, "You can have this department," I said, "you know what, I don't have to stay here." We had some guy who came in and we had disagreed on a lot of things, and I didn't think he was competent, and in fact I found out he was not really--I think he may have had the background, but he didn't know how to deal with us, and I said I don't have to deal with this. My husband [HistoryMaker William Maurice Bennett] said, "I think you need to take a year off or something," and I said, "Well, I'm going to go to grad school and get my doctorate." There was a guy that was at Virginia Tech [Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia] who was a friend of my husband's, and he and my husband used to room together even though segregation was still in effect. I can't think of this guy's name now who was chairman of the department of health and physical education at Virginia Tech. He used to say--so my husband called him and he said, yeah I need somebody here, tell her to send me her resume and all that and come on up. So I immediately got tired, and the chairman who was here, we had an argument, and I said "You can have this job," and I went on and applied, and Virginia Tech gave me a stipend, and I got a scholarship from the southern association for education, and I went on up to Virginia Tech. And came out and got my doctorate and came on out here in two years, and I came on back, and next thing I know I was chairman of the department (laughter).$When you were in college [Negro Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina; North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina], you had mentioned earlier that you saw all of these sports and activities for women and that's how you decided you wanted to be a physical education teacher.$$Well, we had what they called in our school was called a WAA--Women's Athletic Association, which had gotten started and I used to be in that. They had groups coming in from all colleges. All the colleges had--not all of them but several of them like Virginia State [College; Virginia State University, Petersburg, Virginia] was part of it and Hampton Institute [Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia]--it was called Hampton Institute then and they had what they called the WAA--Women's Athletic Association because they didn't have sports for women, that was the only thing that we had. So that started then and so when I got there I was active in that.$$So what did the WAA offer to women?$$Sports, so that you could play, and then we had all the other colleges that were part of it we had women's sports association meeting and it rotated from college to college.$$And what sports did you play in college?$$Volleyball, and tennis, and gymnastics.$$Did you enjoy those sports?$$Oh yeah, and I think you'll see in one of those pictures over there where I'm sitting on a boy's shoulders, that was in the gymnastics squad.$$What did your mother [Annie Howard] and your grandmother [Annie Howard] think back home?$$Oh they thought--well first place when they saw my picture--we had a paper called the [Norfolk] Journal and Guide [New Journal and Guide]. You ever heard of it? The Journal and Guide was a black paper that was put out, and Norfolk, Virginia was the base and the Journal and Guide handled all black stuff about black colleges and universities [HBCUs]. So when my picture came out, oh everybody wanted to know, how did she learn how to do that, 'cause we didn't have any of that in our high school [P.W. Moore High School, Elizabeth City, North Carolina].$$Your picture from being a majorette came out?$$Yes and I still have that picture right now. It's one of those that came out in the paper and they had listed in there that where I went to high school. And see, everybody was shocked. "How did she learn how to do that," so a lot of envy (laughter).