Looking Back: Sandidge, Drake, Birdsong appointed to college board

Published 5:04 pm Tuesday, October 15, 2019

By Clyde Parker

Oct. 16, 1969

On June 9, 1969, the Virginia Community College Board announced that a NEW community college would be built, and it would be located in Region 21 of the Virginia Community College System. Region 21 is made up of the cities of Suffolk and Franklin, and the counties of Isle of Wight, Nansemond, and Southampton.

After much discussion as to location of the new college, a site in Franklin was chosen. The land, located adjacent to the new Franklin-Boykins Road, across from the Peanut Growers Cooperative Association building, was offered by Franklin officials. Owners Willie Camp Younts, of Atlanta, Georgia, and her sister, Ruth Camp Campbell, of Franklin, daughters of the late Paul D. Camp, said they would make that site available for the college without cost. The Franklin site would have water, sewer and electrical connection, along with police and fire protection. Thus, all the foregoing considerations pointed to the obvious choice — Franklin. Earlier in the year, strong consideration was being given to place the college on a site in Isle of Wight County: the 90-acre Richard Rawls farm located on U.S. Route 58, about 2 miles east of Franklin.

On Monday, the Franklin City Council appointed Robert Sandidge, Dr. Gordon Birdsong, and Roger W. Drake to represent Franklin on the yet un-named college’s board of directors.

Prior to electing its three representatives, city council adopted a resolution accepting all recommendations offered by the Region 21 ad hoc committee. The committee had proposed that membership on the 13-member permanent board include three representatives each from Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight, and two each from Nansemond and Suffolk.

The ad-hoc committee suggested that the City of Franklin be approached about constructing certain site improvements; the city might be able to handle that part of the college construction more cheaply than independent contractors. The committee further suggested that Franklin City Manager Harold Atkinson direct site improvements.

Sandidge, who resides at 307 Pine St., has achieved an outstanding record as an educator and football coach at Hayden High School. He began his teaching career in Franklin in 1953. He is a graduate of Virginia State College and holds a masters’ degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Sandidge has worked with the city’s recreation program since 1958, the last two years as its director.

Birdsong, a graduate of the University of Tennessee Medical School, has practiced obstetrics and gynecology in Franklin since 1953. He has held major offices in various regional medical societies, served on the staff and board of directors at Southampton Memorial Hospital, and is currently a member of Virginia’s Advisory Committee for the 18-state Northeastern District of the American Medical Association. He has been an important figure with the American Red Cross Tidewater Regional Blood Program for several years. Birdsong resides at 1304 Clay St., in Franklin.

Drake is president and chairman of the Board of fast-growing Franklin Equipment Company, manufacturers of logging tractors — with world-wide distribution. A native of Boykins and educated in Southampton County schools, Drake has been quite active in several public service activities. He is an active supporter of the American Cancer Society, Boy Scouts and the YMCA. He is president of the Franklin Industrial Corporation and serves on the Board of Directors of the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce. Drake is highly experienced in the development of training programs for industrial workers. He resides at 1312 Clay St., in Franklin.

Oak Street Center fund reaches $180M

With $51,800 in the bank and another $130,000 in pledges, the Oak Street Center Advisory Committee has received City Council approval to have construction drawings prepared for a community and recreational center to be built on Oak Street in Franklin. The final drawings will be developed by Marcellus Wright, the Richmond architect that also designed the Franklin YMCA building. Wright earlier prepared the schematic drawings of the center which were included in the fund-raising brochure.

Reporting on the Oak Street Center fund raising effort, Advisory Committee President Leroy Hardy told Council members Monday night, “People have worked very hard to reach our present point. We feel like the drive has been successful. But, we are continuing our canvass of potential donors. We plan to keep working until we meet the $250,000 goal.”

Hardy had praise for his committee — Levi Galloway, J.R.W. Street, Jesse Murphy, Hanes Byerly and Robert Pretlow. Pretlow donated the property — a portion of the old Pretlow Plantation. Hardy singled out Robert C. Ray for particular mention. Ray was instrumental in the fund drive to build the new YMCA building and has worked closely with the Oak Street fund-raising effort. “I can’t say enough about the help Mr. Ray has given us,” Hardy said.

City Manager Harold Atkinson suggested that the city now take on responsibility to assure collection of the 164 pledges now outstanding.