Date of Service: 1870
1815: Born in Blackwater (Virginia Beach) Virginia on February 12th to a free African American family.
1836: Moves to Williamsburg, NY with his family.
1840s: Started an anti-slavery newspaper, The Ram’s Horn.
1867: Hodges was the first African American elected to represent Princess Anne County in the 1867-1868 Virginia Constitutional Convention.
1870: Appointed the night inspector at Old Point Comfort Lighthouse, VA.
1870: Willis A. Hodges served as Principal Keeper at Cape Henry Lighthouse (old), VA. on May 10th, where he served until July 26th.
1890: Willis Augustus Hodges died on September 24th, at the age of 75.
Willis Augustus Hodges Anecdotes:
Willis Augustus Hodges was born on February 12, 1815, in Blackwater (present-day Virginia Beach), Virginia to a free African American family. Hodges served as principal keeper at Cape Henry Lighthouse from May 10 to July 26, 1870.
At a young age, Hodges was taught to read and write by a white tutor hired by his parents and would go on to become an advocate for enslaved blacks in the area. After the Nat Turner Rebellion in Southampton County, Va., in 1831, treatment against the blacks became more violent. In 1836, Hodges and his family moved to Williamsburg, New York, where his brother had been living. Hodges and his brother William opened a grocery store, and Hodges soon became more involved with voting rights, the integration of schools and was a fierce advocate for the abolition of slavery.
In the 1840s, Hodges started an anti-slavery newspaper, The Ram’s Horn, whose publisher was, none other than Fredrick Douglas. Hodges also lived next door to John Brown, the abolitionist who led the raid at Harpers Ferry, WV. It is also thought that Hodges and Brown helped slaves escape from Blackwater, Va., to the north on the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, Hodges worked as a spy for the Union Army.
After the war, Hodges returned to Virginia and entered politics. In 1867, Hodges was the first African American elected to represent Princess Anne County in the 1867-1868 Virginia Constitutional Convention.
Sometime in 1870, Hodges was appointed the night inspector of Old Point Comfort because of his loyalty to the Republican Party. He was later appointed principal keeper at Cape Henry Lighthouse in May, where he worked for the next two months.
Hodges finally returned to New York where he remained until his death on September 24, 1890, at the age of 75.
Sources: Familysearch.org, Chesapeake Chapter Database, https://preservationvirginia.org/cape-henry-lighthouse-willis-augustus-hodges/ retrieved October 16, 2021