1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



Virginia Steele  - Obituary

September 9, 2006

Virginia Steele, age 83, formerly of Santa Rosa and Berkeley, CA, died Saturday, September 9, 2006 at Friends Care Community, Yellow Springs, Ohio. She was born in Alderson, West Virginia, the 7th of eight children of Robert and Mamie Beckett Steele. She received a B.S. from the U. of Pittsburgh and a Master of Library Science from U. of California-Berkeley and taught many years in the Berkeley Public Schools.
In 1964, responding to her friend Robert Moses’ call for volunteers to join the Freedom Summer project to register disenfranchised Black voters in Mississippi, she and two other volunteers drove her VW bus from Berkeley, California to Oxford, Ohio for several days of non-violence training. One of her passengers, who became a life-long friend until his death, was Mario Savio who later was a leader of the University of California-Berkeley, Free Speech Movement. They left Oxford, Ohio for Mississippi shortly after the murder of civil rights workers Cheney, Schwerner and Goodman.
As the only librarian volunteer she was assigned the responsibility of creating “Freedom Libraries” from the thousands of books shipped to Black communities from northern donors. (African Americans in Mississippi were barred from public libraries.) Black children eagerly helped in packing and transporting the books to stores, barber shops, service stations and other public places. These young helpers dubbed Steele’s Volkswagen bus “The Freedom Bus”.
In 1974 she purchased an abandoned mountain farm adjacent to the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, near Hillsboro, and spent the summers there writing and enjoying local events. Her articles were published in Wonderful West Virginia and Goldenseal. She encouraged the development of, participated in and subsequently became a generous benefactor of High Rocks, a year-round leadership development program, located on her farm, for rural high school girls. Its summer outdoor program is named Camp Steele in her honor.
She is survived by her sister, Mary M. Morgan, of 540 Ridgecrest Drive, Yellow Springs, OH 45387, 4 nieces, 1 nephew and many Quaker friends. She donated her body to The Anatomical Gift Program at Wright State University Medical School. Memorial gifts can be directed to American Friends Service Committee, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA19102 or High Rocks, HC 64, Box 438B, Hillsboro, WV 24946.

Please enter your name to comment.