A longtime champion of Charlottesville’s Black community died last week at the age of 85. According to an obituary in the Daily Progress, John Gaines passed away on August 22 at the University of Virginia Medical Center.
Gaines graduated from Burley High School in 1953 when it was still the segregated school for Black students for both Albemarle County and Charlottesville. After attending the Hampton Institute, he returned to Charlottesville to become a teacher and then an administrator including a long stint at principal at Jefferson Elementary School, which was closed and eventually turned into a community center.
Gaines retired from education in 1998 but did not slow down in his activism representing the Black community in the 10th and Page neighborhood. He served as president of the Albemarle and Charlottesville NAACP and was instrumental in having a new connector road in Fifeville named Roosevelt Brown Boulevard, after an NFL player who also grew up in Charlottesville.
The funeral is scheduled for tomorrow. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center’s “Embracing Our Narrative” program. That’s a one-week seminar for K-12 educators to explore local history through the Black experience. You can make that donation here.