MMHMF Honoree

2008 Community Service Award 


Brenda Friend Briggs, a native of Chesterfield County, Virginia had nearly 40 years of successful professional experience, government service in the areas of education and law, and serviced as a community volunteer. She was a professor, school administrator on the local and state level, federal regulations investigator, discipline hearing officer, and special education attorney. She investigated complaints and trained attorneys in special education law.  She also supervised school social workers and taught courses in education and law. After retiring from government service in 2001, Brenda opened a public service law office, Legal Resources for the Community, located in the Jefferson Davis corridor (business incubator in the Bellwood area) in Chesterfield County.  Services provided included legal seminars, legal research projects for children, and individualized legal services for area residents and beginning businesses at low or no costs. In 2005, as a consultant to the Virginia Department of Education, she drafted specialized manuals. In January, 2007 she became coordinator of Project 2025: Enhanced Access to Legal Assistance for Older Americans in Virginia, a special project of the Virginia Department for the Aging.

Brenda shared her passion for service in her community and preservation of history by conducting numerous free law seminars for the public, among them: Legal Tips for the Traveler, Your Annual Legal Checkup, Is Your Legal Life in Order? Oliver White Hill: A Giant with Roots in Chester; and What Did Brown Do For You?  Brenda’s legal research and writing project, “Giant with Roots in Chester”, for children ages 6 to 12, resulted in the creation of a notebook of nearly 50 original writings by young people in the Chester area.  It was presented to Mr. Hill on his 96th birthday at the Richmond Juvenile Court. She continued to conduct free legal workshops for the community. She was  an Adjunct Instructor in Administrative Law for the Legal Assisting Program at J. Sargeant Reynolds College for ten years. 

In the community, Brenda was a member of the 4-H organization for over 50 years. In 1966 she was selected as the first African-American from the state of Virginia to represent the United States in an international exchange program. She served as a youth ambassador to Japan where she lived with three families for six months in different parts of Japan. In 1998, as a part of the International 4-H programs, Brenda was chosen to escort youth from five states on a month-long trip to Japan.  In 2007, she was named a 4-H All Star at the 4-H Congress held at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA. She continued to serve as a volunteer leader with the 4-H Business Bunch, a club she had been affiliated with for nearly 30 years. In addition, she continued to help with 4-H projects at the county fair, and with other youth development programs. Brenda's daughter and grandchildren are also active in the 4-H program, representing the five generations of family involvement.

Passionate about history and genealogy, Brenda  initiated several special programs to promote and preserve the history of African-Americans in Chesterfield County. She developed and conducted a program at Bermuda Hundred called "The Blessing of the Land".  On Thanksgiving morning, Brenda, her neighbors and friends gathered to pay homage to sacred ground and watched ships sail around the Peninsula.  Brenda established the Marguerite Friend Christian Educational Fund and the J. B. Friend Sr. Masonry Scholarship Fund.

Brenda was also an author.  She wrote a script book on the history of African-Americans in Chesterfield. It was used for the two African-American Rail Trail tours Brenda initiated and co-sponsored with the Martha Mason Hill Foundation and First Baptist Centralia, in 2005. She wrote a history of the life of her late aunt, Marguerite Friend Christian, educator and the first African-American supervisor in Chesterfield County.  A school is named after Mrs. Christian in Chesterfield. She also researched and documented the history of the Timothy Friend House which was built in 1906. She co-authored a family book, “The Life of Milton Friend, a Freed Slave”, and she is the author of “Before Court”, a textbook on administrative law procedures.

Brenda was a licensed attorney and held licenses as a registered social worker, visiting teacher/school social worker, and Special Education administrator.  She was one of the first 10 African-Americans to graduate from the T. C. Williams Law School at the University of Richmond, in 1978 and has been an active member of the Virginia State Bar since 1984. She earned a Master's Degree in Urban Studies from Howard University in 1973 and a Bachelor’s Degree from Virginia State College in 1965.

She became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in 1963, and was affiliated with several other community service and professional organizations including the Petersburg Chums, the 23rd Psalm Investment Club, the Rose Garden Club, the Carver Class of 61, the Carver Reunion Group, the Jefferson Davis Association, and the Martha Mason Hill Memorial Foundation (member of the Board of Directors, Outreach Committee and a special committee appointed to review bylaws and draft a Constitution). Brenda was invited to serve on the Board of Directors for the Chesterfield Historical Society, and chaired the African-American committee.

Brenda treasured her affiliation with her church, First Baptist, Centralia, where her ancestors have been members and leaders for over a century.  She served as a trustee and usher, and in later years was instrumental in creating a Greeter program for the vestibule of church.

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