Letters of Legacy

Portions of correspondence between the Chairman of the VIA Legislative Council and the President of the Virginia Inter-scholastic Athletic Association were typical examples of the type of approach adopted by VIA administrative officers in dealing with pupil activity sponsor groups in existence at the time the VIA was established. The tone of the letter from the activity sponsor representative was not belligerent, but instead sought advice and made suggestions concerning the transfer of VIAL operations to the VIA. Portions of this correspondence typify the spirit of all negotiations VIA officers desired to conduct with sponsors of activities.

May 27, 1954
Dear Mr. Womble:
As President of the VIAL, I am writing you, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the VIA to clear up a few questions asked by members of the Association meeting in executive session at Virginia State College a few weeks ago.

We would like to know what to do as an organization in transferring the operation of the VIAL into the VIA . . . .
We would like to suggest the following procedure for the VIAL in order to make the merging of the VIAL easier and less complicated:
1. Let us continue the VIAL activities in basketball, baseball, and track until June 30, 1955 or the close of the school in 1954.
2. The collected membership fees for the Association for one-half year and full fees for the three sports.
This would give the Association (VIAL) an op-opportunity to clear up the business of the year ending June, 1955 and fall in line with the program of the VIA at the beginning of the fiscal year July 1, 1955.

We would appreciate your careful consideration of the suggestion given and hope that your response will be favorable. I would like for you to present the following questions for consideration by the Executive Committee:
1. What rules will govern the officials of various athletic activities?
2. Will the VIA plan a tournament for basketball in the districts or at a state level?
3. Will the VIA plan a play-off for baseball?
4. How will district and state track meets be handled?
5. Will there be eligibility rules governing all school activities?
6. Will the VIA become a member of the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations?
Mr. Womble, we realize that the questions asked cannot be answered immediately, but we are hoping that they will be presented to the Executive Committee for due consideration in forming the policies of the VIA.

Yours for a Strong Association,
S. F. Griffen
President of the VIAL

The reply of the VIA Chairman demonstrated the conciliatory and low key stance adopted by the VIA.

June 9, 1954
Dear Mr. Griffen:
Receipt is hereby acknowledged of your communication which contained questions regarding information desired by the Executive Committee of the VIAL. Many of these questions are now under consideration by the Executive Committee of the Virginia Interscholastic Association and a report in the form of recommendations will be made at the next meeting of the Legislative Council. A meeting of the Executive Committee of the VIA will be held at Hampton Institute on Wednesday, June 23. At this time, I shall read your letter to the committee.
I believe that you realize the problems which confront the activation and establishment of a new organization. As has been repeatedly stated by all concerned, with the coordination of high school activities, the solution of these problems must be worked out gradually so that none of our presently established activities will suffer. The Executive Committee is cognizant of these problems and I believe will take them into consideration in making its recommendations to the Legislative Council.

With kindest regards, I am Very truly yours,
Charles W. Womble
Chairman VIA Legislative Council

The records show that in spite of wide differences in thinking between the VIA Executive Committee and activity sponsor groups, all legitimate school activities came under coordination by VIA in more or less varying degrees. The nature of the activity and the extent to which it was organized in Negro schools affected the speed with which the transfer of responsibility was made. Some diehards in a few activities held out; but the Executive Committee, by its tactics of conciliation and firmness, was able to get all major activities to operate under VIA regulation.

Another reason for the more or less smooth transfer was the initiative taken by the VIA Executive Committee and Legislative Council in bringing about contacts with officers and/or representatives of the activity sponsor groups. Typical examples of this initiative are demonstrated by the following action taken by two VIA administrative groups:
A. The agenda of May 14, 1954 meeting of the Executive
Committee which contained the following items:
1. Procedures for notification of Chairmen of student activities now operating throughout the state.
2. Means of collecting membership fees of affiliated activity groups.
3. Means of registering existing activity groups.
4. Means of developing rules to govern operations and of codes for operation of activities admitted to participation.
B. Minutes of the September 25, 1954 meeting which in part read:
. . . Other questions raised by the Committee centered on the following problems:
1. The number of activity groups to be included.
2. Deactivation of the VIAL and other groups.
3. Initiation of 1955 activities.
C. Minutes of the February 19, 1955 Executive Committee which in part read: Members were assigned different organizations to set up rules and regulations as follows:
Mr. J. General Johnson – Student Participation
Mr. C. A. Pennington – Dramatics
Mr. Hatchett and Mrs. Dorothy Harris – Music
Mr. W. A. Brown – Science and Mathematics
Mr. O. J. Duncan, Jr. – Girls Athletics
Mr. C. W. Womble – FBLA
Mr. C. D. Paige – Boys Athletics

D. The Legislative Council meeting of October 15, 1955 approved the following recommendations:
I. The VIA will assume financial responsibility for the following:
A. Programs, certificates of awards, tickets, identification badges.
B. Sponsors, judges, adjudicators, and officials.
C. Certain secretarial services approved by the Executive Secretary of the VIA.
D. Certain forms necessary in the operation of state activities.

II. The minimum number of schools for participation in statewide activities will be eight.
Thus by the end of the school year 1959-60, VIA’s beginning years, we find that many, many efforts were made by VIA officials and Executive and Legislative action to bring all existing activity groups into the VIA program. These efforts in retrospect appear to have been successful because to some degree all existing organizations, with the exception of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) affiliated with the VIA. In addition, the record shows that there were many problems involved with the affiliation of these pupil activity groups, but it also shows that the Executive Secretary and the Executive bodies of VIA faced these problems squarely, sometimes finding satisfactory solutions, sometimes compromising, and sometimes unable to resolve the situations. When one understands that affiliating with the VIA meant the transferring of power and the diminution of the authority of many activity leaders, then one can appreciate how significant VIA affiliation by existing activity sponsor groups was to VIA leaders.

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