Hampton, Va. – Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey delivered a powerful warning to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT): "Not One More Inch of Land," and "Not One Grain of Sand" will be taken from our "Majestic Home by the Sea." Dr. Harvey, who has led the prestigious university for 39 successful years, was interrupted several times by an applauding audience of students, faculty, staff and concerned members of the community while reporters and photojournalists from a wide array of media outlets memorialized every word.
“As President of Hampton, it is my responsibility to protect all that is Hampton University. We want all of you here, our stakeholders and the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia to understand our commitment to this issue,” said Dr. Harvey.
The press conference took place Friday, Nov. 18, on the historic grounds of The Emancipation Oak, the site of the first Southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation after Lincoln signed it in 1863. VDOT plans included the acquisition of Hampton University’s Emancipation Oak and Strawberry banks.
“I don’t know if you know this, but Strawberry Banks was a home to Native Americans for over 1,200 years,” Dr. Harvey said Friday.
As Dr. Harvey so passionately put it, “Please understand that every inch of Hampton University, from the area that encompasses the Emancipation Oak, Strawberry Banks, to every grain of sand found along the shoreline that hugs the campus on three sides, is sacred land and essential to its historic legacy and mission.”
Dr. Harvey added, “This is not the first time our land has been the target of eminent domain.”
According to Dr. Harvey, on two previous occasions, campus property was taken using the eminent domain rule and the land ended up not being used for the purposes stated.
In 1941, more than 10 acres of HU’s land was seized by VDOT.
Today, that land is being used by a golf course.
Nearly 20 years later, VDOT secured more than 9 acres of campus property and later sold it to a private owner.
Eminent domain attorney Joseph T. Waldo. Waldo’s firm, Waldo & Lyle, was retained two weeks ago to protect campus property from current and potential future projects. When word of the university's mounting offensive against VDOT surfaced, Virginia's Secretary of Transportation, Aubrey Layne swiftly reached out to offer assurances and asked to do so in person at the conference.
“The McAuliffe administration is, certainly, about advancing transportation, but not when the benefits outweigh the costs and this is a significant cost that would have been paid by this community,” said Layne.
Layne solidified his statement with a written resolution, but Hampton University will remain vigilant.
"VDOT must proceed with the greatest caution and restraint lest it pave over and destroy irredeemable history." Dr. Harvey stated when he galvanized the press and a multitude of people in just a few days. "Turning points in our nation's history unfolded on the grounds of our campus. As a custodian of that history, I have an obligation to protect it.