Richard Allen Tucker, born on February 13, 1850, was an ordained minister, educator, and poet. He was the son of Reverend Lewis Tucker, the first African-American ordained Baptist minister in the City and Elizabeth “Betsey” Hunter, a seamstress. Richard’s parents were free Blacks before the Virginia legislature passed a law preventing anyone in the state from freeing any slave. Tucker was reared in Ferry Point, (the ferry to Norfolk), Virginia (later incorporated as a town and took the name Berkley).
After the Civil War ended in 1865, Tucker received his early education in Berkley in the freedmen’s schools founded and staffed by Black teachers and tied to religious instruction. In 1870, three years after the opening of Howard University, in Washington, D.C., Tucker enrolled and majored in theological education. He was awarded the Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1874 by Reverend Doctor John Bunyan Reeve, a social activist and the first African American Dean who organized the theological department of the School of Religion at Howard.
Tucker was cognizant of the ideas of human equality, and dedicated his surplus time to reading and singing about deliverance of his people and having faith in the Lord. And even though he was six years older than his renowned fellow Virginian educators, Booker T. Washington, a graduate of Hampton Institute (now University) and James Solomon Russell, Saint Paul Normal and Industrial School, (renamed Saint Paul’s College), the three often communicated.
Richard married Josephine Spooner on May 5, 1874. Spooner also attended Howard University and was from Fredericksburg, Virginia. The couple were married in Washington, D.C. and over the life of their marriage they parented twelve children.
Tucker was a missionary in Durham, North Carolina from 1874 to 1876. He was sponsored by the First Congregation Church (now Lincoln Congregational Temple United Church of Christ) at 11th Street, Northwest in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC, and the American Missionary Association (AMA) for missionary work.
In 1876, Tucker accepted a teaching position with the Norfolk Public Schools. Twelve years later in 1888, Tucker became the principal of the newly completed S.C. Armstrong School, Norfolk’s first African American educational center. He remained there until his retirement in 1918. Reverend Richard Allen Tucker died on January 25, 1924, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was 73.
In Reverend Richard Allen Tucker’s honor, the City of Norfolk name the Richard A. Tucker School at 2300 East Berkley Avenue in Campostella, a town that had been annexed on the south side of the city. The school was constructed to serve African American children who lived on the south side of the city. The school closed in 2011 and was demolished in 2017.
In 2022, a life-sized bronze, free-standing statue of Richard A. Tucker, created by the African American sculpturist Vinnie Bagwell, was unveiled and dedicated in his honor at the Richard A. Tucker Memorial Library in Norfolk.
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