African American History Month Series
- In honor of African American History Month, we are highlighting African Americans who have changed and impacted the City of Newport News.
Gregory Cherry loved his hometown of Newport News. More than just loving this city, he immersed himself in its culture and history. Although he traveled world-wide during his military service, his home and his heart remained in Newport News.
Born in 1955, Cherry was a member of the last sophomore class of Huntington High School, a lifetime member of the Huntington High School Alumni Inc. and a graduate of Peninsula Catholic High School. According to the James A. Fields House blog, he served as a Military Instructor at the United States Non-Commissioned Officers Academy at Ft. Riley, Kansas, providing students with leadership skills and management training. He also served as a Senior Instrumentalist in the Presidential Honor Guard Fife and Drum Corps, where he played taps for many ceremonial events.
Although his college and military service took him away from Newport News, in 1996, Gregory returned to the city of Newport News with a desire to give back with his strong passion for community, economic development, tourism and history. He was the founder of the Beyond School Doors mentoring and Civil Guard Program for young men and the Downtown Newport News Merchants and Neighbors Association, Inc. and was appointed to numerous committees and commissions.
Cherry’s passion was history. He served often in interpretive programs, dressing on occasions as a Union soldier, James Apostles Fields and as the Confederate Ethiopian Serenader. He was the bugler for the 38th United States Colored Troops (USCT) and was able to enrich the lives of people of all ages, from kindergarten to senior adults. He would often accompany youth on tours of Newport News and would provide them with the history of the city that was not always taught in the classroom.
A large portion of Cherry’s legacy lies with his acquisition, restoration and preservation of the James A. Fields House and the history of James A. Fields, a runaway slave and contraband of war during the Civil War. Fields later served as justice of the peace, commonwealth attorney for Warwick County and was elected to the Virginia General Assembly. The James A. Fields House was the site of the first black hospital (Whittaker Memorial Hospital) in the city of Newport News. Through Cherry’s efforts the James A. Fields House is now listed on the Virginia Landmark Register, the National Register of Historic Places, and the Virginia Civil War Trails.