WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — It was a packed house to celebrate a birthday milestone few live to see.
Former Winston-Salem alderman Dr. Virginia K. Newell turned 105 years old.
The City of Winston-Salem hosted a birthday celebration at Salem Lake Marina.
In 1977, Dr. Newell became one of the first African American women elected as a member of the Winston-Salem Board of Aldermen, which is now considered the city council.
She represented the East Ward for 16 years. “If my people were in trouble, in my area, I would stick with them,” she said. She was also a professor of mathematics at Winston-Salem State University.
She served as the university’s Chairman of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and is credited for building the computer science program from the ground up.
She retired from the university in 1985.
Loved ones and former colleagues describe Dr. Newell as someone who has advocated for a variety of community issues including quality housing and economic independence.
“She has a strong character, strong belief in herself and belief in making things happen, but she also had a wonderful sense of humor. She was just very nice when she was telling you she wanted something done. It was done in a very nice way, but you understood that she wanted it done,” Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said.
Dr. Newell founded the YWCA’s “Best Choice Center,” which focuses on academic enrichment for children from low-income households. “One thing that disturbs me very much is the fact that kids don’t have books to read, and they don’t have people to talk to them about the happenings of the world.”
To honor her years of service, Mayor Joines issued a proclamation naming October 7th, Dr. Newell’s birthday, Dr. Virginia K. Newell Day.
“It’s just so wonderful that as she has aged, that rather than forgetting her, that she is remembered and she is appreciated,” Dr. Newell’s daughter Glenda Newell-Harris said.
Mayor Joines has recommended that Winston-Salem City Council rename the room where the party was held after Dr. Newell.