Nannie B. Hairston

Nannie B. Hairston

On Saturday, Aug. 11, at 2 p.m., the Christiansburg Library will hold a program titled “The Life and Legacy of Nannie B. Hairston”—a celebration of one of the New River Valley’s most distinguished citizens, who died last July at the age of 95.

Local historian and author Sheree Scarborough will talk about her experience recording Mrs. Hairston’s memories.

Members of the Hairston family will be presented with several resolutions honoring their relative, and the audience will be asked to share their memories.

Nannie Mae Berger Hairston (1921-2017) grew up in West Virginia, where her father worked in the coalfields. Her parents taught her the value of knowledge, kinship and kindness by sharing their home and food with travelers and neighbors.

In 1953, Hairston settled in Christiansburg with her husband, John, and their four daughters. Here, she worked quietly and tirelessly for her community.

An advocate for civil rights, she joined the Montgomery County–Radford City–Floyd County branch of the NAACP, where she held numerous offices. The chapter awarded Mrs. Hairston the first Nannie B. Hairston Community Service award. Each fall, the award in her name is given to a deserving community member.

Mrs. Hairston was also a founding member of the Montgomery County League of Women Voters. She worked to expand local employment opportunities for African-American women and opened her home to people in need. The Virginia State NAACP, in a tribute to Women of Distinction, recognized Mrs. Hairston in 1997. She was also honored by President Jimmy Carter at the White House in 1980.

In January 2006, a sculpture of Mrs. Hairston was dedicated at the Montgomery County Government Center. The sculptor, Lawrence Bechtel, was asked, why a sculpture? The answer: “She isn’t famous. She isn’t a celebrity. She isn’t a wealthy builder, or banker. She is something more. She is an elder of the community.”

In 2013, the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library sponsored an application to honor Mrs. Hairston with The Strong Men and Women in Virginia History Award. The Strong Men and Women Program is a collaboration between the Library of Virginia and Dominion Resources. Mrs. Hairston was chosen as one of eight honorees for the inaugural recognition.

The Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library also partnered with Scarborough to ensure the community will have a record of Mrs. Hairston and her husband’s life experiences and service. Scarborough met with Mrs. Hairston over a period of several months and there are now more than 20 hours of recorded memories. Scarborough is the proprietor of Tell Me Your Story Inc. and has extensive experience in collecting and recording oral histories. Previously, she authored “African American Railroad Workers of Roanoke: Oral Histories of the Norfolk & Western,” published by History Press.

All are welcome to attend this celebration. The Christiansburg Library is located at 125 Sheltman St. The event is free, and refreshments will be served.

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