I’m still proud of Luray; here’s what that really means

Luray-Main St old

By Alex White, columnist ~ “Small towns, big potential”

“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.” – Attributed To Lincoln

I’m still proud to call Luray “home”, and that pride has nothing to do with anyone serving in government.

As a matter of fact, if our value was tied up in any of America’s government officials, then none of us would be worth a darn.

I’m proud, because it is THE PEOPLE that make this place great. Not Town Hall (ANYONE in Town Hall) and CERTAINLY NOT anyone at the Washington Post.

I’m proud to be from a place where a black pastor could invite local police to a prayer vigil, railing against injustice while declaring that it is something that our home has largely (though not completely) been protected from.

I’m proud to live in a place where people work hard, love their families, and try their best every single God-given day.

When you leave social media (and the national media) to approach someone on our streets, you’ll find an open heart (if not always an open mind). 

Most importantly, you’ll find a friend, and a friend from here is a friend for life — regardless of race, creed, gender, or orientation.

Yes, we have lots of work to do; that’s more obvious now than at any point in recent history. 

Nonetheless, as the world learns our name from something that we are ashamed of, I encourage folks to remember that this is a place for everyone who is willing to work hard and participate in the life of their community.

As legend has Lincoln saying, “God must have loved the common people: he made so many of them…”

Our “common people” are the best thing we’ve got, and I am proud to say that they’re the best we could possibly hope to have.

Let’s not let that get lost in all of the soul-searching.


Jack “Alex” White is a student at Harvard University, where he is studying Government. While there, he has become the Policy Director for Harvard Undergraduates for Bipartisan Solutions (HUBS) and Senior Content Editor for the Harvard Economics Review. Alex is a lifelong native of Page County and graduate of Luray High School.

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  1. Have you read White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo, or Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad? Curious if acknowledging your white privilege would change your opinion. Do you think a black tourist in Luray would experience the same “open heart” that a white tourist would?

  2. I do actually; as I have seen it happen as someone who has worked in various tourist industries for the last five years. If you are interested in authentic lifelong black voices from the county, I can refer you to plenty of them (after all, this is about them, not me). Thank you!

  3. The news keeps saying the black population is 230. That diminishes us to a small number and ignores there are more in surrounding county. It doesn’t look at WHO we are either. Women and men. Women who cooked for large families..their own and others…and men who were laborers because for the large part..thats what we were limited to. There are exceptions.. men who ran businesses Hiram Tyree had a lime kiln in Hamburg..responsible for many of the white washed buildings in Luray. A pre-civil war free black man. Andrew Jackson was proprietor of a small store on the west side. We named a school after him. The Williams brothers were FREE men also, forgemen in the furnaces of nearby mountains..made ammunition for the Swiss immigrant Forrer Brothers for the Confederacy! We were carpenters as well as cooks and cleaners and caregivers. We were and are hard workers. Some were Among first Blacks in nearby Park Service employ. Among others, we are Tutts. Ve(a)neys. Haines. Bundys. Broaddusses. Johnsons. Duggans. Taylor’s. Cyruses. We “escaped” when wars came and our services were needed elsewhere. Retired “back home.” Some, like me, were grandchildren here. Talk to us. We have stories..not all of them having to do with pancakes.

  4. Exactly! Thank you for that! Let me know, and I would love to do some kind of write-up on the proud history of African Americans in this town and county. Whether it was the awesome story of Bethany Veney or the sagas of the many black soldiers who hailed from here, they deserve to be celebrated. That’s a legacy that a nasty joke or stack of controversial pancakes could never diminish!

  5. Del Price and Alex, don’t forget my grandfather and my father who ran a barber shop in Luray for almost 50 years right in the heart of town and cut the hair of several generations of Luray residents – Parks Barber Shop. Nor can we forget the Black men and women from Luray who served in the armed forces and gave their blood (and lives). I have relatives who were WWI veterans and my dad, along with a lot of other Black men from Luray, was a WWII veteran. In addition, there is the tradition of “Homecoming” which has been celebrated every August for the past 73 years. The 74th year this August was canceled due to COVID 19 but for the past 73 years people from all over the world have returned each August (and brought friends) to Luray to celebrate family and friends and have contributed to the economy of the town. We have a rich history. We are a resilient people and Barry Presgraves cannot change who we are. He has just shown the world, in an ugly way, who he is.

  6. Thank you for sharing Ms. Parks! These stories are so important, and we can’t act like the nastiness that our mayor indulged in in that moment somehow translates to a Luray that has no place for African Americans. Our history shows that the opposite is true!

  7. I have seen no black, brown, yellow, red or white in Page County. I see friends, neighbors and families, I see no good reason to change and start identifying people by our color of skin. I choose to help people not by identification but by all being God’s children. We are all guilty of saying and doing very stupid things at times but our love for each other will “PREVAIL” if we all choose that path.

  8. Some. 10 years ago, I was a delegate from my church to the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee Annual Convention. In a large room were tables for 8. Each church had 4 people; so a table held 2 churches. I was. Seated next to an African American man from the other church. We introduced ourselves, and I asked if he had always lived in Tennessee. He replied he had come to Oak Ridge from Ohio but was born in Washington. I told him I grew up in a small town 90 miles from Washington. He asked what town. When I said, Luray, he said, “My mother was from Luray.” I asked, “Would her name be Tutt?” With a startled expression, he said, “”Yes”. I did not know his mother, but I remember his grandfather Vass Tutt who drove a blind horse pulling a wagon. A dog walked beside the horse and barked to give directions. This in the 1930s

  9. I remember your grandfather very well. As little girls my sister and I got our hair cut at his shop. He cut our father’s and our grandfather’s hair. Your grandfather was a kind and gentle person.

  10. Hi my mother was a Tutt and her dad was Will Tutt and I believe Vass was his brother. I will ask my older brother. Thanks for sharing

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