For the third time in six months, a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker nominated by the Chowan Discovery Group (CDG) was unveiled. This time, one of the most accomplished natives of Hertford County was honored. Robert Lee Vann, the publisher, lawyer, businessman and civil rights leader of national reputation, was dedicated on April 20, Friday at 11am and it stands at the intersection of Ahoskie’s Academy Street and First Street.
The other two CDG-nominated markers are for the ancient town of Choanoac (Chowanoke) outside of Harrellsville; and for the solder, legislator and inventor, Parker David Robbins, located in Magnolia, North Carolina.
Robert Lee Vann was born just outside of Ahoskie in 1879. He first attended New Ahoskie Baptist Church and Ahoskie Colored School before moving with his mother to Harrellsville. His work in the post office there allowed him to save money to attend Waters Training School in Winton (now C.S. Brown High School).
By 1910, Vann had earned undergraduate and law degrees from what is now the University of Pittsburgh. Vann, using his experience as editor of his college newspaper, took control of the young Pittsburgh Courier newspaper. Twenty-five years later, the Courier was nationally distributed with a circulation of a quarter of a million copies. It was a leading voice calling for equal rights for all Americans. The Pittsburgh Courier is 112 years old.
Robert L. Vann supported Waters Training School and published articles contributed by Dr. Calvin Scott Brown. In the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vann was appointed to serve Assistant to the Attorney General in the Department of Justice. Robert Lee Vann died in 1940.
Students from Hertford County High School attended the dedication. The Robert L. Vann Alumni association hosted a reception afterwards at the R.L. Vann School.
The Chowan Discovery Group organized the dedication with the help of CDG Advisor Dennis Deloatch, Immediate Past President of the Robert L. Vann School Alumni Association. The event was also supported by Representative Annie W. Mobley, District 5 – NC General Assembly; the Robert L. Vann School Alumni Association, the C.S. Brown School Alumni Association, Roanoke-Chowan Community College, the Town of Ahoskie and Hertford County Public Schools.