The Iconic Irving L. Peddrew III Who Blazed The Trail

The Iconic Irving L. Peddrew III Who Blazed The Trail As The First Black Student To Be Admitted Into The University Virginia Tech

A Trailblazer’s Legacy

Virginia Tech mourns the loss of Irving L. Peddrew III, a true trailblazer who etched his name in history as the first Black student admitted to the university in 1953. Peddrew’s courageous act paved the way for diversity and inclusion at Virginia Tech, a historically white institution.

“Mr. Peddrew endured unfair and oppressive treatment with dignity and strength, hoping to make a difference for those who would follow him — and he did,” said President Tim Sands.

Breaking Down Barriers

More than six months before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, Peddrew arrived in Blacksburg, becoming the sole Black student among 3,322 students.

Despite facing numerous challenges, including being forced to live and eat off-campus, his academic excellence and character left an indelible mark on the Hokie community.

“I thought I would be a part of the student body all around,” Peddrew said in 2020. “I didn’t know about all the restrictions. But since I was there, I said, ‘Well, let’s make the best of it.’”

Honoring a Legacy

In recognition of his pioneering spirit, Virginia Tech named Peddrew-Yates Residence Hall after Peddrew and Charlie L. Yates, the university’s first Black graduate in 1958. Furthermore, in 2016, Peddrew received an honorary degree and a bachelor’s degree in engineering during the commencement ceremony.

Peddrew’s impact extended beyond his time as a student. In 2023, the Virginia Tech class chose him as the class ring namesake, symbolizing his full acceptance and integration into the Hokie community.

“I wasn’t fully a student,” Peddrew said. “I wasn’t fully accepted, and now I am. I am. I really feel part of the university, and I can say, ‘That I May Serve.’”

A Life Well-Lived

Born in Hampton, Virginia, Peddrew attended George P. Phenix High School, where his talents as a saxophonist and clarinetist blossomed.

After leaving Virginia Tech, he continued his education at the University of Southern California before returning to Hampton, where he worked at the Newport News Shipyard and Hampton University until his retirement in 1994.