Old Town Cemetery launches campaign to mark former Lynchburg manager’s grave | Local News

As Black History Month kicks off in February, Old Town Cemetery has found a way to honor a historic Lynchburg figure.

James W. Mozee, the second black principal of Dunbar High School – now PL Dunbar Middle School for Innovation – died in 1941 and was buried in Old Town Cemetery, a 27-acre public garden and historic site near Taylor Street.

But according to Michael Hudson, marketing manager and historian of the cemetery, visitors on a candlelit visit in the fall noticed that there was no headstone at the site where Mozee is buried.

According to the cemetery’s website, Mozee’s body was buried next to that of his wife, Lelia Perkins Mozee, who has a headstone on her lot.

“Our tour participants were so impressed with the story of this gentleman, James W. Mozee, who was born into slavery in Missouri and strove to educate and better himself, then became himself- same educator,” Hudson said. “But after the performance the group was taken to the cemetery a short distance away and we let the group know that is where Mr Mozee is buried but unfortunately he has no marker. And a lot of people, when they heard about this, said, ‘We can’t allow this to continue.'”

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Hudson said “many” tour participants approached the cemetery staff asking how they could help put a stone there because “‘this man deserves one if somebody does'”.

Following suggestions from attendees that day, the Old Town Cemetery announced that it would hold a special event to raise funds to pay for a headstone for the former headmaster.

The event, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 19, will feature a speech by educator Jennifer Petticolas about “Mozee’s contributions to Lynchburg’s African-American community,” according to a press release from the cemetery. It will also feature a portrayal of Mozee by Dee Brown. A reception will be held that day in honor of Mozee.

The 35-minute event will take place at the cemetery’s Pathway to Pride, which is the cemetery’s “African American History Interpretive Area”.

“Black History Month gives Old City Cemetery and its supporters a unique opportunity to thank a Black History champion, James W. Mozee, for his three decades of service to the African-American community of Lynchburg,” Hudson told The News & Advance.

“We believe providing a stone to someone who doesn’t have one is one of the most meaningful ways to show appreciation,” he said.

Born into slavery in Missouri in 1862, Mozee served as an educator in Lynchburg for more than 30 years. He started at RS Payne School, teaching there from 1909 to 1922.

In 1923 he accepted a teaching position at Dunbar High School, serving in that position until he became the school’s second black headmaster in 1930, serving until 1939.

The cemetery aims to raise $1,000 for the headstone. Tickets for the event are $10, and 100% of event proceeds will go directly to the Mozee Tombstone Fund.

Tickets can be purchased from the Old Town Cemetery website at GraveGarden.org. Those unable to attend and still wish to contribute to the fund can do so online by donating to the cemetery and writing in the special instructions “Mozee’s Headstone”.

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