CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WVEC) -- Former Chesapeake Mayor William "Bill" Ward passed away. He was 84.
Current mayor, Rick West, told 13News Now that, in a word, Ward was a "leader," helping to shape current-day Chesapeake in many ways. West said Ward had a genuine love of the city and had the ability to work across party and race lines. Ward built for the future of Chesapeake while working ardently to preserve its history.
Ward, who joined city council in 1978, became Chesapeake's mayor in 1990, serving in that role until 2004. His time in elected office is roughly half the time that the City of Chesapeake has existed. Ward has been its only black mayor and its longest-serving mayor.
Delegate Cliff Hayes who served with Ward on city council knew him from the time Hayes was a child. Ward, who was a history professor at Norfolk State University, taught Hayes who said Ward was a man who deserved honor. Hayes said that Hampton Roads and Virginia had lost a "giant."
Former Portsmouth Mayor Kenny Wright posted about Ward's death on Facebook late Tuesday night, calling Ward a true statesman and one of Hampton Roads' finest leaders.
In a statement, Congressman Bobby Scott said:
It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of former Chesapeake Mayor Bill Ward. Bill spent his entire life dedicated to the Chesapeake and Hampton Roads community. As Chesapeake’s longest serving mayor, and first and only black mayor, Bill is leaving behind a powerful legacy of bringing about positive change for the city of Chesapeake. Even when he was out of office, Bill still found ways to constantly serve his community in a variety of ways. I extend my deepest condolences to all of his friends and family.
U.S. Senator Mark Warner issued the following statement:
I am saddened to hear that my friend Bill Ward has passed away. Bill had the distinction of being the longest-serving mayor in Chesapeake history, helping it become the city that it is today. As the city’s first – and so far only – African-American mayor, his election also helped open the door to the promise of more diverse representation in the region.
Bill remained deeply involved in his community after leaving elected office, teaching at Norfolk State University for 27 years and working with local organizations to help protect the history of this city and provide mentorship and support to local high school students. His service to our community was a clear testament to his commitment to Chesapeake and the region.My deepest sympathies go out to his wife of nearly 60 years, Rose, and the rest of his family, friends, and colleagues. His strong sense of duty and service will be dearly missed.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.