By Matt de Simone
Last Thursday in Daleville, the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution requesting the placement of a Virginia Department of Historical Resources (VDHR) marker for Norvel LaFollette Ray Lee near the U.S. Route 220/Route 622 intersection in the Gala area.
Board of Supervisors representative Steve Clinton commended local author Ken Conklin’s book about Norvel Lee titled NORVEL. Conklin made a brief presentation at the board meeting discussing his book and how it came to be.
Norvel Lee was a Botetourt County native, an Olympic boxer who won a gold medal during the 1952 Olympics, a World War II veteran, and a civil rights leader.
A 2016 article about Lee in The Fincastle Herald sparked Conklin’s interest.
“When I saw the article, something just struck me about—not just Lee’s Olympic gold medal—but all his other accomplishments in his life and made me a little more curious,” Conklin explained in a recent interview. “So, I went online, found a boxing website, and discovered an article on Norvel Lee.”
As blogs go, many people often comment. When Conklin scrolled through the comments below the post about Lee, he noticed an entry from Lee’s granddaughter, who Conklin soon contacted. He mentioned Lee’s granddaughter was appreciative that someone took the time out to acknowledge and inform readers about Lee. Conklin and his wife soon traveled up to Maryland to visit with Lee’s family. From there, the ball soon started rolling on Conklin’s novel.
Conklin’s been a writer for his entire life, but worked professionally in the technology industry traveling the world. He’s provided essays to The Roanoke Times and also penned a few short stories. NORVEL was published last year and was a finalist for The Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
In terms of the historic marker, the resolution approval moves to the VDHR for a final decision. Former Mayor of Roanoke Nelson Harris worked with Conklin on the resolution.
“From what I understand, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will officially receive and begin working on the application for the Norvel Lee marker in September with a decision on it made by December 1, ” Harris said in a recent statement. “When it is approved, then the county and VDOT will coordinate its placement timeline. It appears its placement will be in 2022.”
The Botetourt County Historical Society is currently collecting donations for the making of the historic marker. Anyone who wishes to donate may send their donations to P.O. Box 468, Fincastle, 24090.