Updated: Aug 3, 2022
In this pamphlet, dating to about 1943, Walter A. Plecker, the state registrar of vital statistics, lists the surnames of Virginians he suspects are trying to “pass” as Indian or white. "Virginia’s Indian tribes have faced numerous obstacles in their decades-old quest for federal recognition. But one person has long stood in their way — and he’s been dead for 68 years.
Walter Plecker — a physician, eugenicist and avowed white supremacist — ran Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics with single-minded resolve over 34 years in the first half of the 20th century.
Though he died in 1947, Plecker’s shadow still lingers over the state, a vestige of a vicious era when racist practices were an integral part of government policy and Virginia officials ruthlessly enforced laws created to protect what they considered a master white race. " SURNAMES, BY COUNTIES AND CITIES, OF MIXED NEGROID VIRGINIA FAMILIES STRIVING TO PASS AS “INDIAN” OR WHITE.
Albemarle: Moon, Powell, Kidd,, Pumphrey Amherst: (Migrants to Alleghany and Campbell) Adcock (Adcox), Beverly (this family is now trying to evade the situation by adopting the name of Burch or Birch, which was the name of the white mother of the present generation) ,Branham, Duff, Floyd, Hamilton, Hartless, Hicks, Johns, Lawless, Nuckles (Knuckles), Painter, Ramsey, Redcross, Roberts, Southards (Suthards, Southerds, Southers), Sorrells, Terry, Tyree, Fillis, Clark, Cash, Wood. Bedford: McVey, Maxey, Branham, Burley. (See Amherst County) Rockbridge: (Migrants to Augusta) Cash, Clark, Coleman, Duff, Floyd, Hartless, Hicks, Mason, Mayse (Mays), Painters, Pults, Ramsey, Southerds (Southers, Southards, Suthards), Sorrells, Terry, Tyree, Wood, Johns. Charles City: Collins, Dennis, Bradby, Howell, Langston, Stewart, Wynn, Adkins. King William: Collins, Dennis, Bradby, Howell, Langston, Stewart, Wynn, Custalow (Custaloe), Dungoe, Holmes, Miles, Page, Allmond, Adams, Hawkes, Spurlock, Doggett. New Kent: Collins, Bradby, Stewart, Wynn, Adkins, Langston. Henrico and Richmond City: See Charles City, New Kent, and King William. Caroline: Byrd, Fortune, Nelson. (See Essex) Essex and King and Queen: Nelson, Fortune, Byrd, Cooper, Tate, Hammond, Brooks, Boughton, Prince, Mitchell, Robinson. Elizabeth City & Newport News Stewart (descendants of Charles City families). Halifax: Epps (Eppes), Stewart (Stuart), Coleman, Johnson, Martin, Talley, Sheppard (Shepard), Young. Norfolk County & Portsmouth: Sawyer, Bass, Weaver, Locklear (Locklair), King, Bright, Porter, Ingram. Westmoreland: Sorrells, Worlds (or Worrell), Atwells, Gutridge, Cliff. Greene: Shiflett, Shiflet. Prince William: Tyson, Segar. (See Fauquier) Fauquier: Hoffman (Huffman), Riley, Colvin, Phillips. (See Prince William) Lancaster: Dorsey (Dawson). Washington: Beverly, Barlow, Thomas, Hughes, Lethcoe, Worley. Roanoke County: Beverly. (See Washington) Lee and Smyth: Collins, Gibson (Gipson), Moore, Goins, Ramsey, Delph, Bunch, Freeman, Miso, Barlow, Bolden (Bolin), Mullins, Hawkins.—Chiefly Tennessee Melungeons.” Scott: Dingus. (See Lee County.) Russell: Keith, Casell, Stillwell, Meade, Proffitt. (See Lee & Tazewell) Tazewell: Hammed, Duncan. (See Russell) Wise: See Lee, Smyth, Scott, and Russell Counties. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/surnames-by-counties-and-cities-of-mixed-negroid-virginia-families-striving-to-pass-as-indian-or-white-by-walter-a-plecker-ca-1943/
Bureau of Vital Statistics letter from Walter A. Plecker Credit: University of Virginia Special Collections
Original Author: Walter A. Plecker
Medium: Typewritten letter
Publisher: University of Virginia Special Collections
A 1924 letter from Walter A. Plecker, head of Virginia's Bureau of Vital Statistics, accuses Mrs. Robert Cheatham of lying about the precise racial makeup of her child. The midwife at the birth had stated that both the mother and father were white, but Plecker claims that he has evidence from the health department in Lynchburg that the infant's father was actually African American. "This is a mulatto child and you cannot pass it off as white," Plecker writes, and he also issues a stern warning to Mrs. Cheatham: if she doesn't do something to remedy this offense against the new racial integrity law, which precludes anyone with "one drop of negro blood" from claiming to be white, she will risk prison time for falsifying the record. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/210hpr-2eef28592a959f8/