Virginia Cabell Randolph—Founder of “Lynchburg’s Hull House”
Virginia Randolph was an influential teacher, community leader, and role model to countless people during her nearly 90 years of life in Lynchburg.
Virginia Marie Cabell Randolph was born in 1876, the daughter of Cassie Melvin and Patrick Cabell. Her father was a slave who was only freed because his master’s son said that no slaveholder would be able to enter into Heaven. The master promptly freed all of his slaves; some moved to Central Virginia, others settled in Liberia and made lives for themselves there. Randolph once wrote, “My maternal great-grandfather was an officer in the Revolution. My paternal grandfather served in the Confederate army. Therefore I do not give up easily.”
She began her love of community early on when she would assist older neighbors down her street. As a child her mother sent her to take articles to the sick and elderly, which she felt instilled in her “the desire to be always helping others.”
Randolph was an elementary school teacher for 30 years. She retired in 1929 to pursue other projects that had captured her interest. In 1922 she established the “Woman’s Community Club,” whose main focus was to help the African American population of the city. In 1933 she opened Lynchburg’s first “Community House” at 812 Eighth Street, a haven for black children and adults alike.
At the Community House people could learn basic skills such as sewing or crochet, learn to cook and clean, and children could play or get help with their homework. It also doubled as a sort of finishing school for the older children, where they could learn to become “proper” ladies and gentlemen with eloquent manners. People in Lynchburg considered it to be the first Girl and Boy Scouts, as they did much of the same things and learned the same principles.
Everyone who met this eccentric and energetic woman loved her dearly, especially the children who were under her care at the Community House. All regarded her as a respectful and kind woman. As she got older, she even managed to become the Notary Public of Lynchburg to help her projects become a reality sooner.
Randolph was married to local attorney William H. Randolph, but they divorced in 1937 and had no children. She died in 1962 at the age of 86 years old.
—Researched and Written by Savhanna Long, April 2015