Virginia Tech Honors First Known Black Employee

Virginia Tech is honoring its first known Black employee -- Andrew Jackson Oliver -- by dedicating a campus plaza in his name.

Nearly 150 years ago, Oliver worked as a janitor on the campus, where he lived with his wife, Fannie Vaughn Oliver, and their seven children. Born a slave and freed after the Civil War, Oliver first began working at the university when it opened in the 1870s. Despite his contributions to maintaining the campus, the school, then called the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, never allowed Oliver to enroll because of his skin color. Andrew Jackson OliverAndrew Jackson Oliver

Now, in tribute to the Oliver family's "time, service, and influence to the history of the university," the plaza at the entrance of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences building will be called the Vaughn-Oliver Plaza.

According to school research, one of the Olivers' sons, Andrew "A.J." Oliver Jr., went on to break color barriers of his own. With the support of his parents, Oliver Jr. received an education from Christiansburg Industrial Institute and later trained to become a lawyer. In 1887, Oliver Jr. became the first Black person admitted to the bar in West Virginia. Two years later, he moved to Roanoke and is believed to be the city’s first barred Black attorney.