Boone: Suffolk native is activist and educator

Published 8:22 pm Saturday, February 3, 2018

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories on Sundays during February, which is Black History Month, highlighting Suffolk residents’ memories of the Civil Rights movement.

The Civil Rights movement gained momentum in the mid-1950s, but the fight for equality has been around for decades more if you ask W. Ross Boone.

A native of Suffolk, Boone says he has been a part of the movement since the day he was born, and he knows he is still a part of that movement now.


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“The Civil Rights movement started long before people think it did,” Boone said. “Civil rights started the minute the founding fathers signed the Constitution.”

Boone graduated from East Suffolk High School in 1961, before Suffolk was forced to integrate its school system. Despite having hand-me-down equipment and supplies from the white school, Boone had nothing but good memories of his early education.

“We got all the old things that they didn’t want to use anymore,” Boone said. “What we did have was amazing teachers. That was our best kept secret.”

A love of education was born in those years, and that passion continued as Boone made his way down to North Carolina A&T State University. He graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology and chemistry.

Becoming an educator was a natural step for Boone, and he taught at a multitude of institutions, and that included Paul D. Camp Community College Hobbs Suffolk Campus.

Boone was an activist, but he doesn’t describe himself as an activist in the obvious way. He made sure to treat everyone, regardless of their color, with respect and kindness.

“You shouldn’t be judged on the circumstance of your birth,” Boone said. “You couldn’t do anything about it.”

Though he faced the Civil Rights movement with a kind heart and words, Boone remembered being arrested for a sit-in down in North Carolina. The sit-ins were happening at lunch counters and spread all over Southern states as a way to protest Jim Crow laws that refused public accommodations to black people. The original sit-in was performed by three freshmen from Boone’s alma mater in 1960.

His gentleness came from the teachings of his parents, Lemuel and Cora Boone. He remembers his parents instilling the message of being kind no matter what someone looked like.

Those messages are still what drives Boone today as a community activist in Suffolk.