HAMPTON, VA (Feb. 2, 2021) — Hampton University announces the recent unveiling of two new statues recognizing Hampton alums Dr. May T. Christian and Mr. Clarence F. ‘Jap’ Curry, both major contributors and stalwart supporters of Hampton University’s mission. These new statues reside next to Twitchell Hall, near the Alumni House near the University’s scenic waterfront.
“I always thought that Dr. Christian and Mr. Curry were two of the most loyal, supportive, and dedicated graduates of this world-class institution. We commend the positive impact, good work and faithful efforts made by these two individuals,” said Dr. William R. Harvey, Hampton University President. “We honor both Dr. Mary T. Christian and Mr. Clarence F. ‘Jap’ Curry, for their service to the community and the world, as well as their support of their alma mater, Hampton University. For years, peoples lives were aided by their endeavors. For these reasons and others, it is my pleasure to unveil these new statues.”
Dr. Mary T. Christian
An educator and politician, Dr. Mary Taylor Christian was born on August 9, 1924 in Hampton, Va. After graduating from Phenix High School in 1941, where she was a member of the National Honor Society, basketball, drama and debate teams, Dr. Christian began working in the laundry department at Hampton University. It was during this time she began taking typing courses and eventually landed a secretarial job at the university.
Dr. Christian was encouraged by her mentor to further her studies and she went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in education in 1955. From 1955 until 1960, Dr. Christian taught in the Hampton City School system. She attended Columbia University during summer breaks, where she earned her Master’s degree in Speech and Drama in 1960. In 1968, she earned her PhD from Michigan State University, while working as a professor at her alma mater of Hampton University. Dr. Christian’s first major step into the political arena came in 1968 when she helped organize a voter registration drive at HU which resulted in more than a thousand people registering to vote.
In 1980, Dr. Christian was named the Dean of the Hampton University School of Education. She was the first African American to serve on the Hampton City School Board. Dr. Christian worked as a campaign manager for several political candidates before deciding to run herself in 1985. In 1986, she was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and became the first African American since reconstruction to represent the state's 92nd district, the City of Hampton.
Dr. Christian served nine consecutive terms in the Virginia General Assembly where she championed legislation on education, healthcare and prescription drugs. Dr. Christian was among three African Americans appointed to the House Appropriations Committee. She also served on the Education and Rules Committees. She served in the General Assembly from 1986 to 2004.
Known as "Dr. C" by her students on campus, Dr. Christian was professor emeritus at Hampton University. She received numerous awards for her community and humanitarian service. In 2014, a play based on Christian's life, titled "My Life Did the Singing," was performed on campus as part of her birthday celebrationAll proceeds from the celebration benefited the scholarship fund established at HU in her name.
On January 28, 2018, Dr. Christian was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Dr. William R. Harvey at the 125th Founder’s Day Celebration.
Clarence “Jap” F. Curry
A native Newport News, Virginia, Clarence F. Curry received the Bachelor of Science Degree from Hampton Institute in 1941 and completed further educational studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and The George Washington University.
Curry worked as a public servant with the United States Postal Service for forty-three years. In his career with the Postal Service, he held several positions, including Supervisor, Assistant Manager, and Station Manager. Having begun his career at the Newport News Post Office in 1941, during the segregation era, he was one of the first African Americans promoted to a management position. Upon his retirement from the Postal Service, he served as Postmaster of Williamsburg, Virginia.
A passionate musician, Curry began his musical career in high school. During his matriculation at Hampton Institute, he played clarinet and alto saxophone in the marching band, symphony orchestra, and Royal Hamptonians Jazz Orchestra. In 1948, he formed his own band, Jap Curry’s Blazers which traveled the country backing famous artists such as Sam Cooke, The Drifters, Marie Simon and Big Joe Turner and performed in renowned venues such as the Apollo Theatre of Harlem. The Blazers served as the opening act for the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the Hampton Jazz Festival, and Curry performed live on television with Johnny Mathis and Jackie Wilson.
As a Hamptonian, he was a faithful supporter of the Hampton Chapter of the National Hampton Alumni Association, Inc. and the Pirate’s Booster Club. Curry and his wife, alumna Sadie Curry, endowed a scholarship for music majors, donated a collection of big band jazz arrangements, and passed the Hampton tradition on to their children and grandchildren.
On January 23, 2011, Curry received the Presidential Citizenship Award from Dr. William R. Harvey at the 118th Founder’s Day Celebration.