Passing the torch of genealogical research to the next generation

Sep 18, 2014

George A. Latimer of Eastville, Va. shared heartfelt memories of his late wife, Frances, during a reception in the couple's honor to express thanks for supporting a new UMES scholarship fund.
Credit UMES Office of Public Relations

PRINCESS ANNE, Md.. –– The largest first-floor classroom in Hazel Hall on the University of Maryland Eastern Shore campus has a new name: the George and Frances Latimer Lecture Hall.

Members of the Latimer family were guests of honor during Founders’ Week at a reception to unveil identical plaques at both entrances to Room 1020.

George Latimer, a retired chief of the New York City transit police department, has pledged $100,000 to underwrite a scholarship fund he requested should be used to assist a UMES undergraduate interested in African-American history.

Latimer’s donation is a tribute to his late wife, an educator admired for compiling a detailed history of African-Americans on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The Hampton University alumna died Nov. 25, 2010 at age 69; a loss her husband said left a painful void in his life.

“I had to do something to ease it,” he said at the reception.

Born in Seaview, Va., Frances Latimer found great joy tracking down and interpreting records that trace the history of blacks in Northampton County at the southern end of the Delmarva Peninsula.

Her dogged genealogical research inspired the founding of her own publishing company, which produced dozens of works, including a guide to local court records and “Landmarks: Black Historical Sites on the Eastern Shore.”

“One need only look at the volumes of work that she compiled … to know that Mrs. Latimer was a life longer learner with a desire to document the history of Northampton County, Va.,” UMES President Juliette B. Bell said.

“Certainly, Mrs. Latimer was fueled by the desire to make sure that young men and women would have a sense of pride in their heritage that would help them to reach for the stars. Though Frances is no longer with us, her legacy lives on,” Bell said.

In 1998, Frances Latimer was featured in a four-part Public Broadcasting System documentary, “Africans in America.” Her work was included in the TV series’ teachers’ guide, “America’s Journey Through Slavery,” an initiative underwritten by the National Endowment for the Humanities and endorsed by the National Council on Social Studies.

“I don’t know where she got the energy from,” Latimer said. “She was always digging; she always had three or four projects in the back of her mind.”

After the couple retired, the Latimers retreated to Eastville, Va., where he took up poultry farming and occasionally visited the University of Maryland Eastern Shore campus to take classes.

“I have a connection here,” Latimer said.

Dr. Ray J. Davis, dean of UMES’ School of Arts and Professions, said George Latimer’s donation is another chapter in “a love story about a man who remained devoted to his late wife.”

“Through your love, you have forever extended her memories and her passion for black history on this Eastern Shore,” Davis told Latimer. “For generations to come, I hope others will continue to appreciate your generosity and determination to share the passions of Mrs. Latimer.”

UMES is committed, Davis said, to “do all we can to encourage our students to take up the torch and delve into the Mrs. Latimer’s extensive writing about the Eastern Shore.”

Recipients of the Latimer Scholarship will be required to publish an article on African-American history on the Eastern Shore using Frances Latimer’s research as a foundation.

Would you like to set up a scholarship fund to honor a loved one or someone you know? Contact the UMES Division of Institutional Advancement @ (410) 651-6676

Bill Robinson, director, Office of Public Relations, (410) 621-2355

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