NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Hampton Roads recently lost a hero. Patricia Godbolt White, one of the Norfolk 17, passed away on Friday.
White was one of the first black students to enroll in Norfolk Public Schools when segregation in the city ended in 1959.
On Tuesday, her family gathered to remember her bold spirit. They say her spirit propelled White to also become the first black woman to graduate Washington College.
She endured a lot of prejudice, slurs and threats but returned to the classroom to give back. She taught for 42 years, mostly at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk.
“If you think about teaching three to four classes a day and you think about doing that over the course of 42 years, her reach was great,” White’s eldest son, Louis White Jr., told WAVY.com.
In her classroom, White let many students know education is not free: she and others paid the price for them.
“And then she would say, ‘no one is born a hero, but everyone is born to be a hero,'” recalled White’s daughter Patrice Jones.
For decades, White passed down knowledge, and in her final moments son Lavell White said, her spirit as well: “there was an unspoken transference of boldness and strength that she left with me that I’m different.”
He is dedicated to making sure his mother’s story will never die.
“We’re obligated, we’re obligated because she did it not for herself, but for us and for others,” he said. “So for us to not tell her story and share her story is a disservice to the work she and others did.”