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Recall Effort Divides City in Virginia

December 14, 1987|Associated Press

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The city's first black mayor faces a recall election Tuesday that stems from a dispute over the closing of a predominantly black high school and charges that he mailed anonymous hate mail to critics.

Mayor James W. Holley III, 60, a dentist and longtime civil rights activist, denied writing the letters on which his fingerprints were found and said the recall campaign was racially motivated.

Two council members, one black and one white, led the recall effort, which has split this city of 111,000. Portsmouth is 47% black.

Holley also has been criticized for running up higher travel expenses than the entire city councils of neighboring Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Suffolk.

A group of black ministers has supported Holley and urged people to vote against the recall.

"We are not going to let the black leaders just be wiped out," said Shirley Hines, coordinator for Concerned Citizens for Portsmouth in Support of Dr. Holley. "If he steps down, it's eliminating all we have worked for for 200 years."

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