Steve Helvin headshot

Steve Helvin

Lane High School


Steve Helvin, a retired General District Court judge, looks back to his growing awareness and understanding of the Black experience. Born in July 1943, he entered Virginia schools at a time when the “Burley kids were happy, we were happy” and he “never even thought about race.” He attended public schools in Charlottesville, Venable and Johnson Schools, then Lane, where he played varsity football. He attended the “basement” schools while Lane High School was closed during the 1958-59 academic year, and his father enrolled him in Rock Hill Academy, from which he graduated in 1960 before accepting a football scholarship to attend Hampden-Sydney College. It was after the “massive resistance” to desegregation and after he became a judge that he realized Black people began every day in the knowledge that “somebody’s going to do something there—not even consciously—that’s going to hurt you.” When he was a sitting judge, he was able to deal with the bias of some police officers. But he began to realize that it was not the “big things but the subtle, little things,” such as addressing Black individuals using only their first name or a derisive nickname.

Full Interview