Highway marker to honor Pearl Bailey

Published 7:38 am Friday, July 3, 2009

FRANKLIN—Soon a new state historical highway marker will be installed in Southampton County to honor Pearl Mae Bailey, a Southampton native and Tony award-winning singer and actress.

The marker honoring Bailey was recently approved, along with nine others to be installed across the state, by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Bailey was born in Southampton County in 1918 and raised in Newport News. She began her more than 50-year entertainment career at the age of 15, according to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. She performed in secondary roles in several movies during the 1950s and 1960s before winning a Tony for her performance in an all-black-cast version of “Hello, Dolly!” in 1968.

Bailey died in 1990 at the age of 72.

The marker honoring Bailey will be funded by a federal transportation grant as part of the Department of Historic Resources’ initiative to recognize significant people, places and events in the history of women, African-Americans and Virginia Indians.

The exact location of the marker in Southampton County is “still to be determined,” according to Randy Jones, a spokesman for the Department of Historic Resources. He was also unsure about how long it would take for the marker to be installed after the location is determined.

“It can take anywhere from a minimum of three months up to six months,” he said.

More than 2,100 markers have been installed since Virginia’s historical marker program started in 1927. Most of them are installed and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation.