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The original item was published from 11/7/2018 1:48:47 PM to 11/16/2018 12:00:05 AM.

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Posted on: November 7, 2018

[ARCHIVED] Norfolk Public Library Honors the Legacy of Richard A. Tucker

City leaders break ground for Norfolk’s new library

NORFOLK, VA – Richard A. Tucker was a Norfolk Native, Howard University graduate, ordained Baptist minister, retired Norfolk Public Schools principal, husband and father. City leaders will pay tribute to his contributions with a new library named in his honor on Wednesday, November 14th at 11:00 a.m.  The public is invited to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Richard A. Tucker Memorial Library located next to the Southside Aquatics Center, at 2350 Berkley Avenue EXT. 


“We are excited to break ground on this branch and celebrate the rich history and contributions of Richard A. Tucker to the Norfolk community,” said Sonal Rastogi, Director of Libraries.


The Richard A. Tucker Memorial Library will be the 13th library location for the Norfolk Public Library system.  The new 12,000 square foot library will include the following:

A significant book collection of more than 30,000 popular and classic fiction and nonfiction titles, and other materials for all ages
  • Computer Lab with 24 computers
  • Meeting Room
  • Collaboration Room
  • Two Study Rooms
  • Teen Reading Area
  • Reading Patio
  • Children’s Library with a Playscape and KidZone
  • A 5,000 Square Foot Nature Explorium, an outdoor classroom with active learning stations that will offer a way to connect learning, literacy, and an appreciation of nature as a regular part of a library visit for children and families 
The library is named in honor of Richard Allen Tucker, born February 1850 to Reverend Lewis Tucker and Elizabeth “Betsey” Hunter in Norfolk City, Virginia.  Both of his parents were free blacks living in Norfolk during the early 1800s when the free black population only made up about 7% of Norfolk’s total population.

His father, Lewis Tucker, was from the Berkley section of Norfolk County (previously named Ferry Point).  He owned 80 acres of land which he inherited from his father. Lewis joined the Baptist faith at nineteen-years-old and decided to take up the ministry as his life work.  It led him to become the first African-American ordained Baptist minister in Norfolk City.  He served at Norfolk’s First Baptist Church.[1]

Richard Tucker was educated locally and then went to Howard University for training in Theology between 1870 and 1874.[2]  He was sent to North Carolina by the Congregational Church for missionary work.  Tucker came back to Norfolk City in 1876, where he was hired as a school teacher for Norfolk Public Schools on August 14, 1876.[3]  The city and school system approved the building of the Cumberland Street School (renamed the S. C. Armstrong School), the first African American school built by the Norfolk Public Schools, in 1883.  When the school opened in 1888, Tucker was made the school’s rector (principal).[4]  He held the post for the rest of his career in Norfolk Public Schools.  For his untiring labor and extended service, the Norfolk City School Board named the Campostella school in his honor. 


Richard married Josephine Spooner on May 5, 1874 in Washington, DC.[5]  Their union produced twelve children, however, only five children lived into their adulthood.  By 1910, his wife and surviving children had moved to Baltimore, Maryland, while Richard stayed in Norfolk.[6]   In 1918, he was forced to retire due to ill health.  Richard A. Tucker was 73 years old when he died on January 25, 1924, at his family’s home in Baltimore, Maryland.  His funeral was held on the following Monday at the A.M.E. Church in Baltimore.   His obituary mentioned that he loved art, especially sculpture and painting. Tucker even composed and published several poems.[7] 

[1]   Richard H. Bowling, “Norfolk’s First Regular Ordained Negro Minister Acted as Choir Leader and Composer as Well,” Norfolk Journal and Guide, 5 November 1932, page 2.

[2] U.S., School Catalogs, 1754-1986 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

    Kelly Miller and Howard University. Howard University Alumni Directory, 1870-1919. Washington, D.C.: Howard University, 1920.

[3]   School Board, Norfolk Public Schools (Va).  “Minutes,” 14 August 1876.

[4]   School Board, Norfolk Public Schools (Va).  “Minutes,” 17 July 1888. 

[5] District of Columbia, Compiled Marriage Index, 1830-1921 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc, 2014.

[6]   1910 US Federal Census – Norfolk City, VA and Baltimore, MD

[7]  “R. A. Tucker Dies at Baltimore Home,” Norfolk Journal and Guide, 2 February 1924, page 1.

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