Austin Hansen  Oswald Harris  Romalia Heyliger  Verne Hodge  Casper Holstein 

HANSEN, AUSTIN VICTOR Photographer St. Thomas 1910 -

Austin Hansen was born in St. Thomas, Danish West Indies, in 1910 to Felix and Amy Taylor Raimer Hansen and was taking his first photographs at 14 with his beloved Hawkeye snapshot camera. Understandably, among the first exposures he made were his relatives. Hansen took pictures of his mother and his brother Aubrey that remain to this day a key to his life--his long passion for the portrait shot, which he learned as an apprentice in Clarence Taylor's studio. Hansen's career started at the age of 19 years when he sold a photograph of Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight landing on St. Thomas to the New York. Amsterdam News, New York. It was to be the start of a relationship with Harlem, New York City, that was to become his beat--a career that would span 50 years: 100,000 portraits of families, clergy men, political leaders, sportsmen, policemen, artists, and entertainers. This would culminate in 1986 with some 50,000 photographs donated to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in Harlem, New York City. A selection of some 200 images comprised most of the exhibition, "Hansen's Harlem," from June 23-September 24, 1989, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the discovery of photography. This travelling exhibit, sponsored by Kodak and the New York Public Library, was the first photographic retrospective of the 79-year-old documentarian's work.

But if the social life of Harlem is to be celebrated as Hansen's achievement, it is the impressions of his childhood years in St. Thomas that paralleled his ambition to record human institutions with his camera. One immediately reckons with Hansen's twinkle-of-the-eye, ready smile, and infectious laugh--even now most apparent in his photographic subjects. This alertness sustained him through the early years in Harlem as a messenger, elevator operator, and music band drummer in musical bands sponsored by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) tours, which enabled him to play in large bands, in and outside New York. During the WPA years he studied art and began photographing in local night clubs, assisted by his younger brother Aubrey. His photographs of jazz greats--Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Eartha Kitt, and the Nicholas Brothers-- appeared in the museum of the archive collection at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Hansen captured notables who visited Harlem such as Joe Louis, Haile Selassie, Marian Anderson, Mary McCleod Bethune, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Harry Belafonte. From 1940 to 1987 Mr. Hansen owned and operated a studio on West 135th Street and 7th Avenue--the most popular thoroughfare in Harlem during the Thirties and Forties. From here, he recorded the worlds of Jackie Robinson, Langston Hughes, Roy Campanella, Sugar Ray Robinson, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and singer Pearl Bailey. Social events and political rallies were the pulse of a teeming life in Harlem--and Hansen's camera recorded them.

HARRIS, OSWALD EMANUEL Legislator St. Thomas 1907- 1955

Recognized in St. Thomas as a champion for the "little man," Oswald Emanuel Harris was a fearless, aggressive fighter for human rights. Starting life in Savan, once the most populated area on St. Thomas, he sympathized with the needs and problems of the underprivileged and they, in turn, envisioned him as their protector who concerned himself with their every issue. As a young adult he joined forces with his contemporaries as a member of the first political party on St. Thomas, the Progressive Guide. Organized in 1937, the Guide's goal was to educate the masses in the democratic process and to prepare them to exercise their voting franchise in the 1938 election. He later served as treasurer and supervisor of the Guide. As the Guide grew in membership, its influence was great enough to put together a slate of candidates for the Municipal Council. The success of the Guide candidates in the 1938 and 1940 elections encouraged Harris to run for a legislative seat under the Guide's banner, in 1942. He was elected and then re-elected to the St. Thomas Municipal Council in 1945, 1949, and 1951. He served as chairman of the Fifth (1945-1947) and Seventh (1949-1951) Municipal Councils of St. Thomas.

His political involvement also included being named National Committeeman for the Democratic party, and he was elected delegate to the National Democratic Conventions in 1944 and 1948. A tall man, over six feet in height, Harris was initially a tailor. He was born December 23, 1907, on St. Thomas to Samuel and Lillian Fredericks Harris. He was married to the former Reseda Parrott in 1933. They were the parents of two daughters, Iola and Alda. After Mr. Harris died on August 29, 1955, the local Senate later named one of the largest public housing units in his honor. Known as the Oswald Harris Court, the project provides public housing and has a section for senior citizens of St. Thomas.

Heyliger, Romalia Albertha Educator St. Thomas 1874 - 1979

During the 1970's Romalia Heyliger was one of the oldest living educators of the Virgin Islands. The daughter of John Valdemar and Margaret Wilson Jeppe, she was born in St. Thomas, Danish West Indies, on January 15, 1874. At an early age she moved with her family to St. Croix and completed her education on that island. After leaving school, she taught in the Christiansted Grammar School and later operated her own private school before returning to St. Thomas to live. Upon her return to St. Thomas, Mrs. Heyliger accepted employment in the public school system and taught at various schools includ ing the former Bethesda; Abraham Lincoln, now J. Antonio Jarvis; George Washington, now Evelyn Marcelli; and Leonard Dober. As a teacher she demanded excellence from her students, particularly in the correct use of the English language.

On June 28, 1919, she married Apolinaire Heyliger of St. Thomas. The couple became famous for entertaining their friends at the annual celebrations of her birthday and their wedding anniversary by his singing of songs and her recital of poems and other literary selections. As a member of the original St. Thomas Teacher's Association, she participated in several plays presented by that organization as well as in other civic and religious community programs. On January 14, 1974, in observance of her one-hundredth birthday, the Tenth Legislature of the Virgin Islands passed Resolution 694, by which appreciation and grateful thanks to Mrs. Heyliger were expressed on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands for her twenty-eight years of faithful, devoted, and inspired service in public education. She died on May 6, 1979, at the age of one hundred and five.

HODGE, VERNE ANTONIO Presiding Judge, V.I. Territorial Court 1933 -

Several outstanding Virgin Islands attorneys have served their communities as judges. Prominent among these is Verne Antonio Hodge, who, seven years after he sat and passed the local bar examinations, was named presiding judge of the Virgin Islands Territorial Court in 1976 by Governor Cyril Emmanuel King. This success did not come easily to Judge Hodge. His drive to achieve is illustrated through one of his favorite quotations, "Nothing is so complicated that it cannot be simplified by hard work." A brilliant mind, a strong sense of determination, hard work, and self-pride combined to provide the incentives which helped him to complete his goals. Born on November 16, 1933, to Idalia Stout and John Wesley Hodge, he graduated salutatorian from Charlotte Amalie High School in 1952. He entered Hampton Institute, Virginia, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in accounting, magna cum laude, in 1956.

In 1973 he was appointed attorney general of the Virgin Islands by Governor Melvin Evans, and he served in this position until 1976 when he was appointed presiding judge of the Territorial Court. As presiding judge, he is also on several boards and commissions which relate directly to his work. A past chairman of the Eastern Region of the National Association of Attorneys General, he was also a member of the Virgin Islands Industrial Incentive Commission (1963-1964) and the Virgin Islands Board of Elections (1964-1966). His sincere interest in youth is evidenced by his sponsorship and support of the Rising Stars Steel Orchestra, comprised of secondary school students. The orchestra was organized to be a deterrent to juvenile delinquency and to provide positive after school activity for potential drop-outs. The orchestra has appeared at the Kennedy Center and other places in the United States and the Caribbean.

HOLSTEIN, CASPAR Humanitarian St. Croix 1876 - 1944

Caspar Holstein in his lifetime amassed a large fortune and donated large amounts to charity and to assist young people, especially men, to complete a college education. Born to Emily Holstein in Christiansted, St. Croix, on December 6, 1876, he left the islands at a young age and migrated to New York City. Through the years, while establishing himself in the big city, he also kept in touch with the affairs of his island home. He returned home to witness the transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States of America. Never losing contact with his home base, he was aware of the problems confronting Virgin Islanders as they suffered from delusions of a great life under the stars and stripes. As the situation at home grew almost unbearable, especially under the naval administration, the picture seemed even more dismal because the islands were not represented by a congressional voice. Caspar Holstein, sensing the need for a delegate to Congress, successfully used his influence in having Halvor Berg named Delegate to Congress for the territory. Following closely on the success of this representation he later paid the Washington Post three thousand dollars for a full page photogravure spread on the Virgin Islands. This technique, which was an advanced stage of printing then and now, was used by big presses and was especially effective in depicting scenery, buildings, events, etc. The process was considered the right one to provide main landers, especially prominent politicians in Washington, with a vivid picture of the conditions in the territory under naval rule.

In addition to his financial resources, Holstein used the public media to spread the word about the discontent with the insensitive policies and attitude of the United States toward the islands.A dedicated friend of the islands, he not only manifested his interest in its political advancement, but he considered the basic needs of the poor to whom he sent food, clothing, and money during the Christmas season. He also did more for education than any other single person. Through all of this he shunned publicity while working quietly to achieve his goals. In 1924 the islands experienced a devastating hurricane. Caspar Holstein established a Hurricane Relief Fund and contributed thousands of dollars to aid the suffering.

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