Velma Boyd-Lawson is a retired North Carolina educator and a former member of the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners. A native of Person County, she is the ninth of 11 children born to Annie and Isiah Boyd and one of five siblings to attend North Carolina Central University. Her story proves that a firm foundation allows one to build to great heights.
Q) What was your upbringing like in Person County?
A) I was blessed with 3 brothers and 6 sisters, as well as a whole heap of cousins, nieces, and nephews. Quite often we functioned as extended family in the same house. During my early years, time was spent between our home house on Burton Street and the Brice Farm off Highway 57 in the Bethel Hill Community. My first school was Woodland Elementary for first grade. At that time, there was no kindergarten. In the middle of my second-grade year, I transferred to Roxboro Elementary. Later, our family moved to Durham and I attended Merrick Moore School for a couple of years. Although we owned a home in Roxboro, we were a transient family because a major source of our income was sharecropping. So, we moved wherever my father found the best deal for the money. After two years in Durham, we returned to Roxboro where I completed elementary and high school. My favorite subject at Person Senior High was Horticulture. I also enjoyed participating in the Drama Club, Future Business Leaders, Future Teachers, and the Book Club.
Religion and music were integral parts of my upbringing. From an early age I participated in every church activity that was offered in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and the Choir. My father later formed our own family group, The Gospel Melodies with my brother Terry on guitar, my sister Deborah as soprano, my niece Brenda and me as altos, and my father as lead singer and on piano.
I graduated from Person Senior High in 1972. My first job after high school was at the Roxboro Courier Times as a typist. At the end of the summer, I entered NCCU with the intentions of majoring in music. After the first year with a rigorous practice schedule, I decided to enjoy the music created by others and participate on a recreational level.
Q) What is your career path and what are your proudest achievements?
A) In May 1979, I received a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Health from NCCU. I received my North Carolina teacher certification that same year. That summer, I moved to Tifton, Georgia and received a State of Georgia Teacher Certification.
I taught for a total of 33 years, three in Georgia and 30 in North Carolina. I was also certified as Mentor Teacher for the state of North Carolina. While teaching in Wake Forest, I chaired the Staff Development Committee for five years. I also organized the Wake Forest Jumping Cougars Jump Rope Team. The team was a traveling, performance, and competition group of boys and girls from elementary through high school and it received numerous individual and team rewards.
I also served on the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners for 10 years; the first two years of which were appointed terms to fill a vacancy and then two elected 4-year terms. During my service as a commissioner, I was active with the North Carolina League of Municipalities and served on the Legislative Policy Committee. The committee follows an inclusive, member-driven process to form policy positions on key issues for North Carolina cities to be presented to the state legislators.
Q) What organizations or community endeavors do you participate in?
A) I am a member of Wilson Temple United Methodist Church in Raleigh. I sing in the church choir, and presently serve as chair of the Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee. I am also a seamstress with the church’s sewing ministry, focusing on charitable projects which include making 75 sundresses for young girls in the Congo, creating and sewing feminine hygiene kits for girls in Accra, Ghana, and most recently sewing face masks for children at the Methodist Home for Children. The face masks continue to be and ongoing project, from which I donate to family, friends and the community as needed.
Q) Why is it important that women be recognized for their foundational work in our community and our nation?
A) I come from a family of strong women—my grandmother, Ida Pearson, my mother, Annie Mae Boyd, my six sisters, my daughters, and my nieces. I have seen women leaders all of my life. In a professional capacity I was around women who molded the youth and helped build our future. In my capacity as a member of local government I saw women on the local and state level make decisions that impact our communities. The contributions of women are all around us and that needs to be recognized and appreciated in the same way that we recognize male leaders.
Q) What do you envision for the future of Person County?
A) Person County has a special small-town charm that can attract young professionals who prefer a slower-paced lifestyle with the conveniences of jobs in the Triangle. Additionally, many professions and employers allow employees to work from home now, thus avoiding the commute. This provides more time at home to engage with family and participate in community and civic activities. Which means that Person County needs to build up those activities and recreational places so that it can continue to attract young professionals who will add to the local economy.
Q) What is your advice for girls and young women who may look to you as motivation?
A) We are all given gifts and talents. No gift or talent is insignificant. Be a risk taker. No risk, no growth. At the same time, recognize when you need help. Share your thoughts and ideas. Collectively, we contribute our talents and abilities to make our families, communities, state, and country the best that it can be.