With these boxing gloves, Botetourt County native Norvel Lee won an Olympic gold metal as a boxer at the 1952 Helsinki (Finland) Summer Olympics. Lee became the first Virginia African American to win Olympic gold. He was born in 1924 and grew up in Lick Run just north of Eagle Rock. He was in the U.S. Army Air Force Reserves from 1943-1948. Having trained at Tuskegee, Ala., he retired as a lieutenant colonel. In 1948 he was arrested in Alleghany County for sitting in a “whites only” section on the train. His conviction was overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court seven years before the Rosa Parks case. He died of pancreatic cancer in 1992. Lee’s memory has been immortalized by a Department of Historic Resources VDOT sign that was erected along Route 220 near his birthplace in September 2022. Route 220 from Eagle Rock to Iron Gate was renamed with the help of Delegate Terry Austin. The signs read “Norvel LaFollette Ray Lee Memorial Highway.” A book written by Kenneth F. Conklin titled “NORVEL” is for sale at the Botetourt History Museum where these boxing gloves are displayed.
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