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VA Notes



Virginians who made or are making waves you should know.


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Muhammad Ali


Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali

VMSoul cannot express the love and admiration we have for The Greatest--Muhammad Ali.

It is with sincere sorrow that we mourn his passing and great veneration we celebrate his life, accomplishments, and legacy.

Ali was a regular visitor to Virginia, having businesses and residents here as well as many friends.

On May 8th 1968, Muhammad Ali spoke at Norfolk State College, (now Norfolk State University) as the third visiting speaker sponsored by the Norfolk State student government.

Muhammad Ali

He shook up the world--in many ways.

Maxx Kidd


Maxx Kidd

Carl Lomax Kidd was a friend of the Virginia music scene operating out of Washington D.C. Kidd was a producer and promoter who helped to pioneer a brand new sound that became known as "Go-Go" music during the late 1970s, a music he once described as, "It's hittin' and stickin' like Popeye's chicken."

During the same time, Kidd was forming his own record label, T.T.E.D. Records. He was also a founder of the Black Music Association (BMA).

Chuck Brown's "We Need Money," which Kidd was also responsible for, helped form the foundation for GoGo.

He will be greatly missed.  He passed away March 13, 2017.

Funeral services for MAXX KIDD will be held MONDAY, MARCH 27TH at First Baptist Glenarden.  More information will be posted as we receive it

Kara McCullough

Miss District of Columbia USA Kara McCullough

Andre Ingram

Congratulations to Richmond native Andre Ingram for becoming the oldest rookie to play in the NBA when on April 9, 2018, Ingram signed with the Los Angeles Lakers for the final two games of the 2017–18 NBA season.  He scored 19 points in his debut.

Andre Ingram

Jay Pharoah

Jay Pharoah

Chesapeake born, Jay Pharoah is a noted actor, stand-up comedian, impressionist, rapper, and voice actor,  whom graduated from Indian River High School and went on to Saturday Night Live fame with an incredible array of impersonations, including: Barack Obama, Will Smith, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Eddie Murphy, Charlie Murphy, Chris Rock, Kanye West, Stephen A. Smith and Denzel Washington.

Nate Parker

Norfolk, VA born Nate Parker is an actor, director, writer, and producer who attended Great Bridge High School.  He has appeared in movies such as "The Great Debaters" with Denzel Washingtona and Forest Whitaker, as well as "Red Tails," starring Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Nate Parker

He has also played in "The Secret Lives of Bees," along side Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Dakota Fanning, and Jennifer Hudson.

Parker's current project is a film based on the life of Nat Turner, called "The Birth of a Nation," a film written and directed by Parker and in which he also stars.

Frankie Faison

Watch out for these Virginians making waves.

Frankie R. Faison
                                              Frankie Russell Faison

A familiar face on TV, stage, and in films, playing in everything from sitcoms to Shakespeare, is right from the Chestnut Avenue area in Newport News, VA.  It belongs to Frankie Russell Faison.  Frankie R, Faison currently appears in an episode of the CBS drama, The Good Wife, or as Richard Evans in One Life to Live, but you have probably spotted him in a number of other roles: Nurse Barney Mathews, in the movies, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Red Dragon with Anthony Hopkins.

The Landlord in Coming to America with Eddie Murphy, John Amos, Madge Sinclair, and Arsenio Hall.

He was Coconut Sid in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.

He played Commissioner Ervin H. Burrel in the HBO series, The Wire, starring Wood Harris, Idris Elba, Sonja Sohn, and Dominic West.

Faison has also appeared in Oz, Law & Order, Law & Order SVU, All My Children (Frank Dawson), Prey (Frank Peterson), True Colors (Ron Freeman), Grey’s Anatomy, New York Undercover, and Cosby among other TV shows.

Some of the movies Frankie has performed in are Mississippi Burning with Gene Hackman and William Defoe; Showtime with Robert De Niro; The Cookout, with Ja Rule, Jennifer Lewis, Farrah Fawcett, and Tim Meadows; White Chicks with Shawn and Marlon Wayans; The Rich Man’s Wife with Halle Berry and Clive Owens; The Thomas Crown Affair with Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, and Ben Gazarra; and he played L.B. Brown in Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns with David Mann, Angela Bassett and Margaret Avery.

This prestigious actor kicked of his acting career in 1974 in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of King Lear starring James Earl Jones.

Faison received an honorary Doctorate Degree from his alma mater, Illinois Wesleyan University, in 2002 and was the keynote speaker at the commencement ceremony, where he said,
"As an actor I live a life of ups and downs, highs and lows, feast  or famine.  But when you remember who you are and where you came from, you are prepared to live in dignity as you experience [life's] ups and downs."

Frankie Russell Faison has never forgoten he came from Huntington High School in Newport News, VA. where he learned to cherish his role as a boisterous class clown.

Faison went on to study acting at the graduate level at New York University, obtaining an M.F.A. in 1974 and performing with The Negro Ensemble Company in New York in various productions.

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Sonja Sohn

Another child of Newport News also starred in The Wire, Sonja Sohn, born Sonja Williams.

Sonja Sohn
Sonja Sohn
Sonja Sohn
Sohn has made her mark in acting, writing, and community activism.  A product of Warwick High School, she overcame a difficult life of mixed heritage (Korean/African-American) where she was often targeted in the neighborhood.

 Sonja Sohn

Sohn was a poet on the Slam circuit and cowrote the script for the film Slam, which won the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Film at the Sundance Film Festival.  or you may have seen her in the film Shaft, or episodes of Cold Case.

Grant Gustin

Norfolk born Thomas Grant Gustin attended Granby High School is best known for his role as Barry Allen aka The Flash on the CW TV series.

Grant Gustin

Among other roles, he also played  Sebastian Smythe on the Fox series Glee.

Grant Gustin

In 2015, he was nominated for the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards Favorite TV Actor; won the Teen Choice Awards for Choice TV: Breakout Star; and received the Saturn Awards for Breakthrough Performance Award.

Hidden Figures

Margot Lee Shetterly

Margot Lee Shetterly

Margot Lee Shetterly is a Hampton, VA native, where she  attended Phoebus High School and who wrote the book, ", Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race," from which the award winning movie was made.

Her father worked as a research scientist at NASA-Langley Research Center, and her mother was an English professor at Hampton University.

Katherine Johnson

Currently residing in Hampton, VA is Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, whom was portrayed in the movie "Hidden Figures" by Taraji P. Henson.

Tyrod Taylor

Tyrod Taylor

Tyrod Taylor, out of Hampton High School, in Hampton, VA. Taylor was a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and track.  He went on to play football at Virginia Tech, was drafted into the NFL by the Baltimore Ravens and was traded to the Buffalo Bills where Taylor was named starting quarterback of the Bills for the 2015 season by head coach Rex Ryan, beating out former Bills first round pick EJ Manuel and veteran Matt Cassel after a preseason quarterback competition among the three.

Chancellor Saunders-White

Hampton, Va., native, Debra Saunders-White is the first African-American woman to be chancellor of North Carolina Central University.

Chacellor Debra Saunders0White

Saunders-White began as the 11th chancellor of North Carolina Central University (NCCU) on June 1, 2013.

About the Chancellor

Kam Chancellor

Maury High School graduate, Kam Chancellor, was born in Norfolk and played football at Virginia Tech, where he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks where he won Superbowl XLVIII as a member of the  Legion of Boom.

Kam Chancellor

Kam Chancellor

E. J. Manuel

Erik James "EJ" Manuel, Jr. is an American football quarterback for the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League.

Manuel Bills

Rookie EJ Manuel, make his NFL debut on Sunday's (September 8, 2013) 23-21 loss to the New England Patriots.  Virginia Beach born, Manuel attended Bayside High School in Virginia Beach where he
was named to Parade magazine’s All-America High School Football Team.

EJ Manuel

Minnie Gentry

She was born Minnie Lee Watson in Norfolk, Virginia, 1915, the daughter of Mincie and Taylor Watson.

Minnie L Gentry  Minnie Gentry

Her family moved to Cleveland where she started playing piano at the age of nine, sang in church choirs and performed in operettas.

She married Lloyd Gentry and became Minnie L. Gentry became a stage and television actress.

She began  her acting career with the Karamu Theater, a distinguished African-American theater in Cleveland, OH.

In 1946, Ms. Gentry came to New York and appeared in a Broadway production of "Lysistrata" with Sidney Poitier.

You may have seen her in films and TV shows like:

Brother from Another Planet

Black Caesar

Come Back, Charleston Blue


Greased Lightening

School Daze

Def by Temptation

Jungle Fever

All My Children

The Cosby Show

Law and Order

  Gentry as Cliff's great-aunt Gramtee on The Cosby Show

   Mavis Staples and the choir honor Gramtee from Norfolk, VA on The Cosby Show

Minnie Gentry's great-grandson is actor Terrence Howard. He credits her with his becoming an actor. Watching her perform several different characters is what made him realize acting was his passion. She was his first acting coach, and while working he would often play the role of the other characters his great-grandmother was working on at the time.  She also introduced him to music by giving life to its notes.

Terrence Howard
"She would make me sit down at the piano and would teach me the relationship between A and D and G and C, why they were best friends, why they were relatives," Howard says. "She talked to me about music in terms of family, so it's become part of my family." --NPR--

Bennie McCrae

VMSoul celebrates the life of long-time Newport News resident, Bennie McCrae, who passed away Nov. 22, 2012.

Bennie McCrae

McCrae is a former American football cornerback who played nine seasons in the National Football League for the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, playing alongside players like Mike Ditka, Willie Galimore,
and Ed O'Bradovich, as they became the 1963 NFL Champions under head coach, George Halas, and his assistant coach, George Allen.

McCrae was a standout athlete in track and field and football at Huntington High in Newport News, Virginia.    McCrae's good often had people thinking he was a "pretty boy" instead of a star quality athlete.  He was so successful on the field, he had at least 30 offers from colleges.

With all his success on the field, Benny McCrae may best be remembered by the contributions to his hometown of Newport News.  On land passed down to him by his family, Bennie's construction company,
McRae Construction, built the New Hope Towers in southeastern Newport New.  McCrae wanted to make life easier for the people in the area who grew impoverished by providing affordable housing as well as inspiring and motivating them through his own example.

Bennie McCrae was a Hampton Roads shining star. who will be greatly missed.


Avion Jones

Avion Jones

Norfolk's own Avion Jones clears 7'7" in eyeing the Olympic Trials in July in Oregon with hopes of making the Rio Games in August 2016.

Avion Jones

Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock wins Oscar as Best Actress for her portrayal in "The Blind Side."

Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock Gives $1 Million To Haitian Earthquake Victims

Sandra Bullock has donated a million dollars for the victims of
the Haitian earthquake. "The Blind Side" actress, who recently won Best
Actress at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards, has pledged the
generous amount for the catastrophe relief.

Her contribution will go to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency operations in Port-Au-Prince.

said in a statement, "I wanted to ensure that my donation would be used
immediately to meet the needs of the Haitian people affected by this
catastrophic event."


Wanda Sykes

Portsmouth native Wanda Sykes is breaking new ground on FOX with her late night TV show--The Wanda Sykes Show.

Wanda Sykes

Ed Schultz

Norfolk native, Ed Schultz, is hitting hard with his daily show on MSNBC, The Ed Show.

Ed Shultz

Ace Parker

VMSoul salutes the life of

Clarence "Ace" Parker
(May 17, 1912 – November 6, 2013)

Ace Parker   Ace Parker Ace Parker

Ace Parker was the son of Ernest and Mabel Parker and grew up near Norfolk, Virginia. He attended Woodrow , graduating with the class of 1933 and starring in five sports. He enrolled at Duke University as a freshman in 1933.

1933 Portsmouth's Wilson High School graduate, Clarence "Ace" Parker, grew up near Norfolk, VA. He was the son of Ernest and Mabel Parker and he attended Duke University where he was a three sport standout.

Drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers in football, Parker also played baseball with the Philadelphia Athletics.

Danny Coale

Danny Coale

Danny Coale

#81 WR
Graduated from Virginia Tech and drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, is currently playing for the Pittsburg Steelers..
a graduate of Episcopal High School in Alexandria, VA.  Coale was born and raised in Lexington, Virginia.

Arthur Moats

Moats was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and was raised in Portsmouth, Virginia, where he attended Churchland High School. 

Arthur Moats

He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

He current;y plays for the Pittsburg Steelers.

James Avery

Best known for his role as the beloved, "Uncle Phil," in the hit television series starring Will Smith, James LaRue Avery was born in Hampton Roads, VA, in the Pughsville section of what is now Suffolk.

He was also a popular voice over actor, he has done voice work for numerous cartoons and advertisements, probably his most famous voice over was that of Shredder for seven years on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Avery, a  classically trained actor, played in numerous TV shows and movies including “The Blues Brothers,” CBS’ “CSI,” and NBC’s “L.A. Law.”

Avery also wrote scripts and poetry for PBS.

Avery passed away New Year's Eve of heart complications.

Rodney Hahn

Virginia Beach native, Rodney Hahn, now holds the Guinness World Record for most pull-ups completed in 24 hours.

Hahn, a 55-year-old Navy Veteran, completed 6,844 pull-ups and now aspires to be a competitor on American Ninja Warrior.

Chad Pinder

Chad Pinder,
a Poquoson High School product, played collegiately at Virginia Tech is now hitting home runs for the Oakland A's in Major League Baseball.

Chad Pinder

John Preston "Pete" Hill

Negro League Star and Baseball Hall of Fame member, John Preston "Pete" Hill was born in Culpeper County, VA.

Pete Hill

Hill (October 12, 1882 – December 19, 1951) was an American outfielder and manager in baseball's Negro leagues from 1899 to 1925. He played for the Philadelphia Giants, Leland Giants, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, Milwaukee Bears, and Baltimore Black Sox. Hill starred for teams owned by Negro league executive Rube Foster for much of his playing career.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Rick Lovato

Rick Lovato, a 2015 Old Dominion University graduate, was working at his parents' deli in New Jersey in 2016, the Redskins called Lovato in to be their emergency long snapper.  He played two games for the Redskins then the Eagles acquired Lovato. Philadelphia Eagles long snapper is first ODU Monarch to play in Super Bowl.

Rick Lovato

Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe

Richmond, VA born Thomas Kennerly Wolfe Jr. was an American author and journalist widely known for his association with New Journalism, a style of news writing and journalism developed in the 1960s and 1970s that incorporated literary techniques.  He was known for his verbal pyrotechnics in books like “The Right Stuff,” and  "The Bonfire of the Vanities," not to mention his sartorial flair.