NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A member of the Norfolk 17 has passed away.
The daughter of Louis Cousins Senior told WAVY TV 10 he died from heart failure Friday at a hospital in Houston. He was 76 years old.
Cousins was the first black student at Maury High School in Norfolk, in 1959. He was part of the Norfolk 17, a group of African American students who became the first to desegregate Norfolk schools. They courageously withstood angry mobs and threats of violence to go to school.
It is reported that other members of the group referred to Louis as “the professor” because of his intelligence.
In an article in the San Antonio Express-News, Cousins talks about how he felt alone during his time at Maury.
“This school was totally white, all white students,” he said. “The only thing that might have been black was the staff that did the floors.”
After high school, Cousins joined the Air Force then later moved to Texas, where he retired as a medical technician.
Doctor Delano Tucker is former Norfolk State Professor and also the first male to graduate from what was called Forest Glen High School of Suffolk in 1966.
“Anyone who took that leap during that particular time, it was tough, because I was only one of two students that integrated the school back in Suffolk,” said Dr. Tucker. “Looking back on it, it was one of those educational experiences that I couldn’t have gotten without being in it.”
So many appreciate the path that those like Tucker and Cousins took to get us where we are today, including Darrin Adams.
“For Norfolk to be one of the pioneering places is very empowering to us,” Adams said.
During the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday in downtown Norfolk, there was also a celebration for Cousins.
“They gave us the opportunity so we could all provide or attend schools that were desegregated, schools where we could learn to live with one another as brothers and sisters,” said Rodney Jordan, a member of the Norfolk School Board. “Louis Cousins and others provided the opportunity for us today to make sure no child’s zip code determines the quality of their education.”