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A Woman Who Made a Difference

Edie Reynolds

Lt. Edie Reynolds was among the WWII code breakers profiled in the 2017 novel Code Girls.

After graduating from Vassar College as a theater major on a work-study scholarship, Edie Reynolds, a New Jersey native, received a Navy commission at age 20. The young lieutenant soon became a shift commander of a secret WAVES unit that earned commendations for twice breaking Japanese codes that led to American victories in the Pacific. She is among the WWII code breakers profiled in the 2017 bestseller Code Girls.

In 1946, Edie married Norfolk native and fellow lieutenant Dr. Forrest P. White, a medical intern. They settled in Norfolk in 1950, where Forrest practiced pediatrics for 45 years.

After Forrest showed his wife around his native city, they took their two young children to Lafayette Park. While the children played, Edie turned to her husband, pointed to a “Whites Only” sign and said, “This has to end. If Norfolk is going to be my city, you have to help me push for quality schools, libraries, parks and playgrounds that all its citizens can use.”

During the next few years, Edie became a board member of the Women’s Council for Interracial Cooperation, worked on founding local chapters of the United Nations Association and the League of Women Voters, and helped open the local American Association of University Women (AAUW) chapter to all races.

She and her husband were founding members and leaders of the Norfolk Committee for Public Schools, which opposed Virginia’s “Massive Resistance” to court-ordered school integration.

Edie Reynolds and Forrest White

Edie Reynolds with her husband, Dr. Forrest P. White.

The committee filed a lawsuit that in 1959 helped force the reopening and desegregation of six Norfolk schools. Edie served as the librarian for Norfolk Academy for 19 years; a volunteer publicist for the Norfolk Little Theatre; and president of the Norfolk Human Relations Council, Friends of Women’s Studies at ODU, Norfolk Story League, ODU Town-N-Gown and local chapters of AAUW and the Torch Club.

Edie enhanced the cultural life of her adopted city in myriad ways, serving as the first woman board member of the Norfolk Symphony Orchestra (and its successor, the Virginia Symphony), writing numerous book reviews for The Virginian Pilot, and winning awards as a painter, poet and storyteller. She and her husband were also major benefactors of the ODU Literary Festival, which they supported through their charitable trust.

Like Edie, you, too, can make an impact at ODU and on our students. Contact Barbara M. Henley, CFRE at 757-683-6563 or bhenley@odu.edu or Brett A. Smiley, CFRE at 757-683-4735 or bsmiley@odu.edu to explore the giving options available to you.

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