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DID YOU KNOW, February 2023

Updated: Aug 9, 2023


February 6th - Dr. Gladys West


In the 1970s and 1980s, Dr. Gladys West programmed a computer to generate an extremely accurate model of the shape of Earth, which became the basis for the Global Positioning System (GPS). This work eventually led to her induction into the United States Air Force Hall of Fame in 2018 and her 2021 acceptance of the Prince Philip Medal by the United Kingdom’s Royal Academy of Engineering, among other awards and recognition.


Speaking of navigating, Dr. West had to navigate some difficult times during her career. When Ralph Niemann hired her to work at the Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren in 1956, she was the fourth black employee and the second black woman working on base. Aware that others would be watching her, Dr. West worked conscientiously to set an example for those who would come after her, particularly for young women interested in STEM fields.


Would you like to learn more about Dr. Gladys West and her husband, Ira? Come visit the museum Fridays through Sundays, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, to see the special exhibit “Pioneers of the 20th Century: The Story of the Wests.” Scan the QR code to see a video about the exhibit.


Did you miss out on the University of Mary Washington's February 2, 2023, Great Lives Lecture about Dr. Gladys West?

You can view a recording of the lecture now at https://www.umw.edu/.../gladys-west-technology-pioneer/




February 13th - The Dahlgren Frogs Baseball Team


Have you ever heard of King George’s popular black baseball team? For several decades, the Dahlgren Frogs was a source of great pride for the entire community. It showcased the talents of local African Americans such as Abraham “Lee” Lewis (left) and Lawrence “Odell” Parr (right). The base built a ball field to host the Frogs’ games as the team gained fame by defeating other teams in the region.


This information, as well as a quote from one of the team’s members, is just one of several topics discussed in the traveling exhibit “The Navy Lands at Dahlgren: The Early Story of the King George County Community and the Navy Base (1918-1945)”, which UMW’s Museum Design and Interpretation class created for the museum. You can currently view the exhibit at the UMW Dahlgren Campus. Although their usual business hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday, their hours are contingent upon the academic and event schedule. You can verify the hours for the day of your visit by calling (540) 663-4030.



February 20th - Edgehill Training School & Ralph Bunche High School


As in many other places, members of the black community in King George had to fight for a quality education.


The Dahlgren base had a one-room schoolhouse in 1918, a frame-structure facility in 1922, and then a larger brick building that opened in 1942. Although the school was open to some students who did not live on base back then, black students were not allowed. White students in King George County were able to attend a four-year high school beginning in 1923.


Edgehill Training School for African Americans opened in the mid-1930s, offering grades eight through eleven, but the State Board of Education would not accredit it, because it did not go through the twelfth grade. After a 1948 noncriminal lawsuit ended in the declaration that black students were “unlawfully discriminated…against”, Ralph Bunche High School opened on September 2, 1949, offering facilities comparable to those of the local white school.


This topic and many others are covered in the traveling exhibit “The Navy Lands at Dahlgren: The Early Story of the King George County Community and the Navy Base (1918-1945)”, which UMW’s Museum Design and Interpretation class created for the museum. You can currently view the exhibit at the UMW Dahlgren Campus. Although their usual business hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday, their hours are contingent upon the academic and event schedule. You can verify the hours for the day of your visit by calling (540) 663-4030. Please be mindful that classes may be in session during your visit.


Edgehill Training School, Class of 1939, Courtesy of King George Historical Society

Ralph Bunche High School, Courtesy of Ralph Bunche Alumni Association

Image One: Edgehill Training School, Class of 1939, Courtesy of King George Historical Society

Image Two: Ralph Bunche High School, Courtesy of Ralph Bunche Alumni Association

















February 27th - Ira West


Ira West was the second black male scientist hired to work on the Dahlgren naval base, beginning his career there in 1955 as a mathematician. He helped pioneer the technology for the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Program and oversaw much of its development as the Supervisory Mathematician in the Ballistics Sciences Branch, Computer Programing Division.


To find out more about Ira’s education, service to his country, dedication to his family, and support of his community, come see the special exhibit “Pioneers of the 20th Century: The Story of the Wests” on Fridays through Sundays, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. You can scan the QR code to see a video about the exhibit.


Image: Ira West (U.S. Navy Photo)

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