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Virginia Walton Brooks

In 1943, Virginia Walton Brooks graciously offered the hospitality of her home and library at 283 Hawthorne in Memphis to a group of 14 friends who shared a common interest in genealogy. As she later said, her invitation was enthusiastically accepted by an increasing number of friends. The group soon evolved into the Memphis Historical Society ... then the Memphis Genealogical Society ... and finally, the Tennessee Genealogical Society in recognition of its being the first genealogical society issued a charter by the state. Over the years, the group of 14 expanded ... reaching 48 by 1954 ... 497 by 1960 ... and today some 1400 or so scattered from Maine to California.

Virginia headed the organization for its first seven years and was awarded an honorary lifetime membership. When she and her husband, the late Berry B. Brooks, built a new home in nearby Raleigh, TN, they named it Epping Forest Manor for the estate of her ancestor, Col. Joseph Ball, who was President George Washington's maternal grandfather. While proud of her ancestry, she did not believe in boasting about it. 'All of us have a responsibility to emulate the early colonists and preserve the freedom they won for us with their strength, courage, wealth, and their very lives,' she often said.

In addition to their leadership in genealogical, civic, and social activities, Virginia and Berry were world travelers and avid collectors. Peacocks were her passion. At one time she had 22 of them. Virginia belonged to the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Jamestown Daughters of the confederacy. When she died of heart failure in Memphis on 23 December 1997, Virginia was in her 93rd year. 

Some years ago in recalling TGS' beginnings, Virginia Walton Brooks said, 'Here was a meeting of minds with mutual interest, objectives, and problems to be solved. Everyone shared their findings, gave suggestions, helped one another, and welcomed newcomers into the genealogical fold.' That formula still guarantees success for any genealogical society. 

And it's the legacy Virginia leaves with us. God bless!

Source: Ansearch' News - Spring 1998
Reprinted with permission of editor, Dorothy M. Roberson


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