Norfolk 17 member and civil rights pioneer Andrew Heidelberg has died

Posted at 11:25 AM, Jul 07, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-07 20:34:27-04

Norfolk, Va. - Most of us cannot remember a time when children of all colors didn’t have the right to sit side by side in a classroom.

One of the people who fought for that right has passed away. Andrew Heidelberg was among 17 students who broke the color barrier in Norfolk Public Schools in 1959, he died Monday evening.

Heidelberg was 15-years-old when he and 16 others were asked by the local NAACP to enroll at the previously all-white schools.

Virginia officials closed all the public schools in Norfolk in 1958 as part of the state’s 'Massive Resistance' movement to prevent schools from being integrated.

The next year federal courts ordered the schools to reopen and Heidelberg and the other students known as the Norfolk 17 were the first to break the color barrier in the city.

Heidelberg remained active in civil rights throughout his life. He retired from banking, authored a book about the Norfolk 17  and was working to complete his graduate degree at Old Dominion University studying sports integration when he passed away far too soon.

He is survived by his wife, two daughters and three sons. He was 74.