Moton Museum Honors Wilson For His Commitment To Positive Race Relations

April 30, 2003

Story by Ken Woodley of the Farmville Herald

FARMVILLE – A letter from the governor. Public praise from a state senator and a member of the House of Delegates. Accolades from friends and comrades Samuel V. Wilson turned all of them around during a reception in his honor at the R. R. Moton Museum, instead naming a dozen others he called the “real heroes” in creating the museum and promoting positive race relations in the Farmville-Prince Edward community. But the letter, the praise and the accolades for the retired general and past Moton Museum president were thoroughly merited, according to those in attendance Saturday night and the dozens of others who made contributions to the museum in Wilson’s honor.

Dr. Paul Baker, among those publicly honoring Wilson, cited Robert F. Kennedy’s speech to the youth of South Africa in 1966:

“Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change…The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society.”

Pausing to end the quotation, Dr. Baker, vice-president for administration at Hampden-Sydney College, said, “Robert Kennedy must have had men such as Samuel Vaughan Wilson in mind when he penned those words.”

But Wilson, past president of H-SC, urged the audience there in his honor to “get things in context…This Robert Russa Moton enterprise has never depended and can never depend on the efforts of any one single individual. If there ever was a cooperative enterprise, this is it. We must pull together. For together we can make it.” Wilson then sounded very much like the kind of person Kennedy was referring to 37 years ago. “This is serious business we are about with the R.R. Moton Museum. We are dealing with an important part of our history, the nation’s history, and we know there are certain things we must know and understand if we are to guarantee the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for ourselves and our progeny into the 21st Century and beyond. We must never forget the cruel injustices perpetrated in the past by Caucasian Americans upon African-Americans, as well as upon native Americans. These wrongs make up the darkest chapter of the entire American story. We must face up to this sad period and learn from it,” Wilson said, joined on the stage by, among others, State Senator Frank Ruff and Delegate Clarke Hogan.

In that light, Wilson continued, “we here must make of this building not a museum that simply commemorates a monumental mistake, a mistake that set in motion the denial of five years of educational opportunity for the children of this country. We must make of this museum a temple of understanding, of hope and resolve that we will never again allow ourselves to be shackled by an insensitivity born of ignorance and intolerance, by self-centered bigotry and racial prejudice.”