An open letter to Luray Mayor Barry Presgraves


Dear Mayor Presgraves:

In light of the backlash following your Facebook post about Joe Biden’s potential running mate, I am writing to suggest that you embrace this opportunity to demonstrate the spirit of humility and love that characterizes our small town by publishing a statement in which you convey your understanding of the reasons why some Luray residents took offense to your actions.

As evidenced by The Washington Post’s interest in your remarks, the controversy caused by your post reveals a division over racial injustice that is ripping at the social fabric of communities far beyond the borders of Luray, Virginia. In every state around the country, advocates for a more respectful society are being pitted against those who are concerned that today’s societal standards are impossible to meet.

By issuing a statement that demonstrates your ability to understand your critics even if you do not agree with them, you will give citizens in Luray and around the country new hope for reconciliation and healing. You will give your critics on the Luray Town Council an opportunity to continue working with you in good faith for the remainder of your term. And you will give constituents who were disheartened by your actions a chance to re-embrace you as the public leader they know and love.

In short, you will remind Luray and America that disagreement does not have to mean division.


Christopher J. Wells
Luray, VA

••• offers an open forum for the public in its LETTERS section. We encourage letters of local interest by those who live in Page County, Va.; however, we welcome all letters on all subjects from all readers. PVN reserves the right to publish letters at its discretion.



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  1. The mayor’s remark about Kamala Harris as “Aunt Jemima” belongs before civil rights, before Jim Crow, before the Civil War in its ugliness. His remark was divisive and totally inappropriate. He should be ashamed of his racist, bigoted remark.

  2. We cannot consider an American who is poisoned by the stench of racism as an American leader. The term “leader” indicates a sense of decency, fairness and respectability. Most white people have managed to get through entire lifetimes in a euphoric state of entitlement in which they can insult black and other people of color without penalty, but black people have not been so fortunate. Most of this country does not know what to do with its black population, who dare to insist on equal rights that go further than drinking at the same water fountain. The mayor’s remarks are the sounds of a man who is embarrassed about the fact he will go no further than he has. He is a man of very limited potential, small perception and inferior standards. To be honest with you, I pity him and I wish that his manners and comprehensive abilities went beyond his values as a person worthy of respect by men who are acclaimed for real leadership, social responsibility and will leave a mark on history. This mayor certainly will not. For it was all the more reason he made the ““Aunt Jemima” statement. Sometime, in his life, he may have own the right to be remembered being known for becoming of a decent man. I doubt it but we can hope.

  3. You have a racist mayor, and the world is watching you NOT kick him out. That will harm your community for decades. If you persist enabling these racist hateful people, the American people will lump you and the Town of Luray in permanently with the racism of Selma.

  4. Racist jokes come from racist folks. Nothing is more telling than what someone is will to publicly joke about.

  5. Jesus paid it all. Accept Him and be free. Believers offer forgiveness n shower with peace, joy n love. Thank u peace keepers : Police Bo Cook , Pastor Andre King .,,etc . I have 4 kids age 40 to 50. The individual under age 25 does not represent me even though he has the same last name. Jesus said “ go in peace n we are healed .” God bless America .

  6. It was an apology better than some apologies but it is still a terrible scar. It is still unacceptable. Tourists can spend their time and money anywhere, why spend it in Luray? I hoped Luray would remove this person from public office but it appears ready to sweep outward prejudice under the rug. Too bad Luray is missing a golden opportunity to show the world that bigotry has no place in public life. Allowing him to represent Luray is telling and I still hope the good people of Luray show him door, sooner rather than later. We are watching.

  7. The most appalling part of this is that he stated that it was a joke said openly so I’m left to wonder what he says privately. Mr. mayor (small m because you deserve the same respect you gave, which is none)
    apologies are just words to appease those you offended. Same ignorant behavior. Same ignorant response. Do you think they actually fell for that?

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