Three local icons will be memorialized in new murals on Leesburg’s Town Hall parking garage.
One of those icons will be the namesake of the alley parallel to the parking garage, Lassiter Way. Nelson “Mutt” Lassiter was one of the first African Americans to own and run a business in Leesburg, as the longtime owner of Robinson’s Barber Shop on nearby Loudoun Street. The barber shop was also one of the first businesses to integrate during the civil rights era. Lassiter a community steward during his long life, serving in the military, and an active participant in his church, Boys Scouts, and local youth sports leagues.
Also featured in one of the niche murals will be Vinton Liddell Pickens, the founder of the Loudoun Sketch Club and an internationally-acclaimed artist. Pickens also was the chair of the Loudoun County Planning Commission upon its formation in 1941 and was instrumental in preventing billboards from flooding the county’s natural landscape. She served on the Planning Commission until 1964.
Finally, Marie Medley-Howard will also be featured in a mural. A Leesburg native, she is credited as the first African-American woman to own a business in the town. According to a staff report, Medley-Howard ran a successful beauty shop near her childhood home on Edwards Ferry Road, the current site of the Barrister building. Medley-Howard was also an advocate for education equality, and was part of the force that led to the creation of the Douglass School, Loudoun’s first and only secondary school for African Americans until the end of segregation. Her advocacy work convinced prominent attorney Charles Huston to encourage her to start a local NAACP chapter, for which she served as its first president. Incidentally, today’s Loudoun NAACP office is housed in the Barrister building, the site of Medley-Howard’s former beauty shop.
The murals will be done by local artist Kim P. Kim. Each mural will be painted on DiBond panels, and then will be installed at a later date on the garage façade. It is expected the artwork will take around eight weeks to complete, and can be installed immediately afterwards, the staff report said.
The project is being funded entirely by Friends of Leesburg Public Arts.