Skip to main content
ODU Libraries Online Exhibitions

Patricia Godbolt

Patricia Godbolt

(pictured above
Betty Jean Reed)

Patricia Godbolt integrated Norview High School with six other black children in February of 1959. She was a senior.

As a newspaper reporter tells it*:

Patricia Godbolt White remembers a cross burning that was staged at her door to scare her from attending an all-white high school.

She remembers the threats and taunts that were part of her life when she crossed the color barrier and dared to attend Norview High, the school nearest her home, instead of Booker T. Washington High, the school designated for African-American youths, across town.

She remembers being denied entrance into the National Honor Society, and fair grades in physics class. Over and over, she had to prove with tests and papers that she saved that she deserved better.

She remembers fearing on the night of her graduation that someone would hurt and stop the first black student to receive a diploma from Norview High and a desegregated high school in Virginia.

More than 40 years have passed since Patricia G. White made history as one of 17 African-American students to seek entrance into all-white Norfolk schools. The anger she felt in her struggle for equity has receded, she says. The value of what she learned has not.

Patricia went on to get her B.S. from Washington College on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and was the first African-American female to do so. She married and became Patricia Godbolt White. She taught and headed the Science Department at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, where she tried to instill values of diversity and perseverance in her students. She attended some of the events honoring the Norfolk 17, and her recollections can be viewed on WHRO's The Norfolk 17: Their Story.

Patricia Godbolt was born on July 4, 1942, and died January 23, 2015 (obituary).

*Mooney, Jeanne. "A reflection of diversity: schools promote awareness of heritages; and some teachers provide living lessons." The Virginian-Pilot, August 15, 2002.