Andrew William Ernest Bassette, an educator and lawyer, was born in Elizabeth City County, Virginia, on February 14, 1865 and died August 7, 1941. He was one of seven children of Burl and Fannie Bassette.
He married Ida Elizabeth Diggs in 1884 and of this wedlock six children were born, four of whom are still living.
Mr. Bassette received his early education in Elizabeth City County, Virginia, graduating from the Hampton Normal and Agriculture Institute (presently Hampton University) in 1876, and entered the teaching profession. His teaching career spanned a period of thirty-nine years, including service in Greenville County, Elizabeth City County, and Hampton, Virginia. Mr. Bassette professional attainment and his devotion and dedication to teaching merited the naming of a school in this community in his honor in 1895, where we taught for 19 years. Although he retired from the school system a year later, he continued to teach on an individual basis through his law office.
In all probability, experiences in his early life inspired him to become a lawyer. He was as successful in law practice as he was in the field of education.
His deep interests in human welfare involved him in all aspects of civic, religious, and cultural endeavors. He was one of the founders of the People's building and Loan Association, formed in 1889, to aid Blacks in securing property and homes. Shares and dues were to be put at such a figure as to enable the poorest person to join and be benefited. He also served as the attorney of the association for many years.
He was a member of the First Baptist Church and served as legal advisor for its first major building project. It is said that on one he walked to Williamsburg, Virginia to attend to some important issues for the church. He taught Sunday School, organized several church and social choirs, gave lessons in voice and instructions in musical instruments, and organized the first Hampton Band for Blacks.
Mr. Bassette held membership in numerous fraternal and cultural organizations and provided a building in which they could conduct their meetings. the building, known as Bassette Academy, contained a theatre for presenting plays, concerts, and road shows. In addition, it included a large hall for meetings, dances, roller skating, and other forms of entertainment for both young and old.
A.W.E. Bassette was a man endowed with vision and courage. He endeavored to conduct every activity with dignity and integrity. He commanded the respect of both the white and black community.
The beautiful school, named in his honor, will be a living monument to his foresight and his untiring devotion to education, to his race, and to humanity.