Punius/Purvis J. Chesson (1891-1961)

by Ashley Flewellen

Purvis John Chesson was born in the south of Plymouth, North Carolina on February 23, 1891 and was a citizen. Chesson’s mom’s name was Laura Chesson, and his father’s name was Henry Chesson. Purvis was Methodist, and he was a good citizen who voted as well. The Chesson family moved to Norfolk sometime between 1900 and 1910 and lived at 27 Pulaski Street. Purvis was the third of seven children, and his eldest sister Arline lived with their parents with her son, Cleon. Purvis worked as a laborer at a factory as a young man.

Purvis attended high school and started college, but only remained enrolled for a year before the war. He attended Howard University in Washington D.C. Chesson joined a popular fraternal order called Stl St. Marks Mutual Aid Society which is church-based group that made help communities. He also was married, and no children were found while doing research on him .The organization seem to be developed in churches international but popular in Methodist, Catholics, and Episcopal churches.

Before Purvis joined the war, he worked a as carpenter for the Porter Brothers construction company. During that time this was considered a good paying job and to have one year of college was looked good upon as well. He enlisted in the services July 17, 1918 and served in the Quartermaster Corps, which deals with logistics. Purvis was stationed and trained as private at Camp Lee in Virginia from July 18, 1918 through January 28 ,1919. He said that his service was good for his body, but not his mind. When discharged, he returned to Norfolk.

After his return to Virginia, he married Florence L. Lomax on March 29, 1923, whom he met while finishing his degree at Hampton University. He graduated from Hampton in 1923. The couple settled into a home on Hale Street in Norfolk. He worked as a teacher and then principal for Norfolk Public Schools until he retired in 1959. His career and work for Norfolk Public Schools is well documented in the Journal and Guide. He is most well known for helping to found the Norfolk Teachers’ Credit Union and for working for pay parity for Virginia teachers. He died of carcinoma of the liver at the VA Hospital in Hampton, Virginia on February 13, 1961. His wife, Florence, who also worked in the Norfolk Public School system, passed in 1987.


“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MPLH-34Y : accessed 5 May 2022), Purvis Chesson in household of Henry Chesson, Norfolk Ward 4, Norfolk (Independent City), Virginia, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 38, sheet 5A, family 108, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1637; FHL microfilm 1,375,650.

“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, database with images, FamilySearch(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:7HJZ-YV3Z : 25 December 2021), Purvis John Chesson, 1917-1918.

“Virginia Marriages, 1785-1940”, database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XRMV-5DQ : 29 January 2020), Purnis John Chesson, 1923.

“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, Family Search (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VTM3-WFS: accessed 5 May 2022), Purvis J. Chesson

“P. J. Chesson: Veteran Principal to Retire after 35 Years” New Journal and Guide (1916-); Norfolk, Va.[Norfolk, Va]. 30 May 1959: 6. 

The Minerva: 1922. Howard University Yearbooks, Howard University. Available online: https://dh.howard.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1190&context=bison_yearbooks