Suffolk loses ‘a great man’

Published 8:47 pm Monday, September 17, 2012

Suffolk lost a man who was a groundbreaker in the local civil rights movement and an inveterate proponent of public education last week with the death of John Riddick.

Mr. Riddick, 85, was the first black man to serve as a uniformed sheriff’s deputy in Nansemond County. He was an Air Force veteran and had served on the board of the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority. He had retired from Newport News Shipbuilding in 1991 and was a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School. He attended Hampton Institute, which is now Hampton University.

Riddick worked for civil rights for African-Americans, along with his brother, Moses Riddick. Both men went on to serve their community, with Moses Riddick serving on the City Council and John Riddick on the School Board.

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It was Mr. Riddick’s service on the School Board that most folks in Suffolk will remember. He had represented the Nansemond borough on the board for 12 years, and previously was on the Nansemond County School Board and then the Suffolk School Board during the merger from 1972 to 1976, according to district spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw.

He was remembered with great respect last week by those with whom he served and by one person who had sought election to his seat.

“He was definitely a person who was committed to education as well as to the city,” School Board member Enoch Copeland recalled. “He gave of his time and effort to the very end, until he no longer could serve.”

Mr. Riddick resigned from his post on the School Board in 2008, citing health concerns. He was replaced on that board by Thelma Hinton, who had failed to unseat him four years earlier.

“Mr. Riddick was a great man,” Hinton said. “He had a great interest in the children’s education.”

Suffolk was a better place because of his service. He will be sorely missed.