School History

photo of AWE Bassette

A. W. E. Bassette

(February 14, 1865 – August 7, 1941)

Andrew William Ernest Bassette, an educator and lawyer, was born in Elizabeth City County, Virginia, on February 14th, 1865. He was one of seven children of Burl and Fannie Bassette.

Andrew Bassette married Ida Elizabeth Diggs in 1884 and had six children.

Mr. Bassette received his early education in Elizabeth City County, Virginia, graduating from the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (presently Hampton University) in 1876. He immediately entered the teaching profession. His career spanned a period of thirty-nine years, including service in Greenville County, Elizabeth City County, and Hampton, Virginia. Because of his professional contributions, as well as his devotion and dedication to teaching in this community for nineteen years, a school was named in his honor in 1895. He retired from the school system a year later but continued to teach individuals through his work at his law office.

In all probability, experiences in early life inspired him to become a lawyer. He was as successful in law practice as he was in the field of education.

His deep interests in human welfare involved him in all aspects of civic, religious and cultural endeavors. He was one of the founders of the People’s Building and Loan Association, formed in 1889, to aid Blacks in securing property and homes. Shares and dues were to be put at such a figure as to enable the poorest person to join and benefit. He also served as the attorney of the association for many years.

Mr. Bassette was a member of the First Baptist Church and served as legal advisor for its first major building project. It is said that on one occasion he walked to Williamsburg, Virginia to attend to some important matters for the church. He taught Sunday School, organized several church and school choirs, gave lessons in voice and instruction in musical instruments, and organized the first Hampton Band for Blacks.

Mr. Bassette held membership in numerous fraternal and cultural organizations. He provided a building in which they could conduct their meetings. The building, known as Bassette Academy contained a theatre for presenting plays, concerts, and road shows. In addition, it included a large hall for meetings, dances, roller skating, and other forms of entertainment for all ages.

A. W. E. Bassette was a man devoted with vision and courage. He endeavored to conduct every activity with dignity and integrity. He commanded the respect of both the white and black communities.

Our school, named in his honor, will be a living monument to his foresight and his untiring devotion to education, to his race, and to humanity.