Hampton University honors alum with 2 new statues near university's waterfront

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Posted at 7:39 PM, Feb 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-06 20:46:19-05

HAMPTON, Va. - Hampton University has unveiled two new statues honoring alums Dr. Mary T. Christian and Mr. Clarence F. ‘Jap’ Curry.

Both are known for being major contributors and supporters of Hampton University’s mission. The new statues reside next to the dorm Twitchell Hall, which is near the Alumni House near the waterfront.

“I always thought that Dr. Christian and Mr. Curry were two of the most loyal, supportive, and dedicated graduates of this world-class institution. We commend the positive impact, good work and faithful efforts made by these two individuals,” said Dr. William R. Harvey, Hampton University President. “We honor both Dr. Mary T. Christian and Mr. Clarence F. ‘Jap’ Curry, for their service to the community and the world, as well as their support of their alma mater, Hampton University. For years, peoples lives were aided by their endeavors. For these reasons and others, it is my pleasure to unveil these new statues.”

Dr. Christian is a Hampton native that was born on August 9, 1924.

She began working in the laundry department of Hampton University. During that time she took typing classes which landed her a secretarial job at the university. After being encouraged by her mentor, Dr. Christian received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1955. After graduating from Hampton she taught in Hampton City Public Schools. During summer breaks, Dr. Christian took classes at Columbia University where she earned her master's degree in speech and drama in 1960.

In 1968, she earned her PhD from Michigan State University, while working as a professor at Hampton University. Dr. Christian is known for organizing a voter registration drive at HU that helped more than 1,000 people register to vote.

In 1980, Dr. Christian was named the Dean of the Hampton University School of Education. She was the first African American to serve on the Hampton City School Board. In 1986, she was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and became the first African American since Reconstruction to represent Hampton. She served in the General Assembly from 1986 to 2004.

"Dr.C" received many awards for her service. HU performed a play based on her life and gave all proceeds to a scholarship that was founded in her name.

On January 28, 2018, Dr. Christian was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Dr. William R. Harvey at the 125th Founder’s Day celebration.

Clarence Curry is a native of Newport News and received a Bachelor of Science Degree from Hampton in 1941. He furthered his studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and The George Washington University.

Curry worked at the United States Postal Service for 43 years where he was one of the first African Americans promoted to a management position. After retiring, he served as Postmaster of Williamsburg.

At Hampton he played in the marching band, symphony orchestra, and Royal Hamptonians Jazz Orchestra. In 1948, he formed his own band, Jap Curry’s Blazers. His band backed famous artists such as Sam Cooke, The Drifters, Marie Simon and Big Joe Turner. The Blazers served as the opening act for the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the Hampton Jazz Festival, and Curry performed live on TV with Johnny Mathis and Jackie Wilson.

From 1983-1988, Curry served as the Alumni Trustee on the Hampton University Board of Trustees. Curry and his wife, alumna Sadie Curry, endowed a scholarship for music majors and donated a collection of big band jazz arrangements.

Curry received the Presidential Citizenship Award from Dr. William R. Harvey at the 118th Founder’s Day celebration.