Chairman of the Surry County School Board - 1973-1986

"I believe in doing things right as long as it's according to the law and the golden rule. I'm a firm believer in that rule." Newton M. Taliaferro

January 2, 1903-October 27, 1986

Newton Medshach Taliaferro, the fourteenth of fifteen children, was born to Richard and Harriet Taliaferro in King and Queen County. Newton Taliaferro's family history dates back to the early 1800's to the Hockley Taliaferro Plantation in King and Queen County where his grandparents, Robert and Virginia were slaves. His father, Richard, was born into slavery in 1848. Determined to free himself from slavery, Richard at the age of twelve escaped by running away to West Point where securing a rowboat, he, with is brother and another young man, traveled on the York River rowing nearly all night. He arrived at Yorktown, VA where he joined the Union Army at their Virginia headquarters. Richard and his brother traveled on foot with the Union soldiers to the Confederate camp of Fort Sumter, Charleston, South Carolina.

Newton M. Taliaferro (Image courtesy of SCHSM)

Newton M. Taliaferro (Image courtesy of SCHSM)

Richard and Robert traveled with the Union Army from South Carolina to Boston, Massachusetts and then to West Virginia. Richard was too young to be as signed as a fighting soldier, but he could be a drummer where he had the responsibility of sounding the drums of freedom.

After three years of soldiering, Richard returned to Virginia where he married Harriet Braxton of Middlesex County. From this union were born fifteen children with Newton being the fourteenth.

Newton Taliaferro received his primary and secondary education in the King and Queen County Public Schools. He attended and graduated from Hampton Institute where he met Mozelle Crawford of Surry County who in 1938 became his wife. To this union Harriett Ann was born.

The Taliaferro's moved to Philadelphia in 1948 where Newton made his living by papering and painting houses. In 1968, the Taliaferros decided to return to Surry County where they resided in a two-story white frame house off State Rt. 638.

Surry County was unique in 1968 as its school system was predominately made up of Black students with no Black representation on the school board. Taliaferro was approached by J. H. James, chairman of the County School Trustee Electoral Board who asked him if he would be willing to serve on the school board. He was quoted as saying that he would accept the job "to do the best I can." Newton Taliaferro made history by being the first of his race to be named to a key policy-making board in Surry. Newton Taliaferro served as the Chairman of the School Board from 1973 until his death in 1986.

Mr. Newton Taliaferro did his best to represent and serve all the students of Surry County Public Schools, not one group or one race. I observed this as I taught in the Surry School System from 1981 until his death in 1986.

Barbara Hopper