The Newsome House: History of Joseph Newsome, Virginia African American lawyer

Posted at 7:10 PM, Feb 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-09 23:45:32-05

The Newsome House Museum and Cultural Center, located in Newport News, is the restored home of Joseph Thomas Newsome and his wife.

Joseph Thomas Newsome was one of the first African American lawyers to practice before the Supreme Court in 1913.

Newsome was born in Sussex County and later on in life became a well respected lawyer, journalist, and civic leader of Newport News.

Newsome graduated from Virginia Normal Collegiate Institute, now known as Virginia State University, and received his law degree from Howard University.

He married his high school sweetheart, Mary B. Winfeild, and soon after moved to the house in Downtown Newport News, which has since been restored to a museum.

During his time as a lawyer, Newsome was involved in many high profile cases in the eastern Virginia area.

His most notable case, making him one of the first African American attorneys who successfully appealed a case before the Virginia Supreme Court, was the 1931 case, Davis v. Allen.

Davis v. Allen was a case centered around Hampton African American residents being routinely prevented from registering to vote.

Newsome was also heavily involved in politics and in 1921 he ran for Attorney General on a Lily Black Virginia Republican Ticket.

Newsome helped establish Trinity Baptist Church, Huntington High School, and the Colored Voter League of Warwick County, which lobbied for the community. He also served as an editor of the Newport News' black newspaper, Newport News Star.

Newsome died on March 9,1942 of pneumonia. The day of the funeral more than 2,000 people were in attendance. In his honor, Newport News courts adjourned the day of his funeral.

Newsome Park, a community of apartments, an elementary school, and stores, was named in honor of Newsome.

Newsome's house was inherited to his only grandchild which she sold to The Newsome House Foundation, Inc.

The house remained vacant for ten years as a group sought funding for the project until the City of Newport News came to an agreement.

On February 17,1991, the home was dedicated as a museum and cultural center.

For more information on The Newsome House Museum, click here.