Annie Bizzell Jordan Willis


Annie Bizzell Jordan Willis
May 30, 1893 – February 1, 1977
Universalist Mission Church

  • Daughter of one of the first Black Universalist ministers, Rev. Joseph S. Jordan
  • She and her mother, Mary Jordan, worked their whole lives to build and sustain the Suffolk Normal Training School in Virginia, of which Rev. Jordan assumed the pastorate in 1904, when it was called St. Paul’s Universalist Church and Mission School
  • Upon her father’s death in 1929, Jordan Willis became superintendent of the school and with her mother Mary’s help, continued her father’s legacy, passing on the tradition to her own daughter Dorothy, who was also a teacher there; some referred to the school as “Miss Annie’s”
  • The family sustained the school on a shoestring budget through the Depression, until public school opportunities became more available for Black children in the 1940s; by this time the church had folded, and “Annie’s House” became more focused on social services as the Jordan Neighborhood House
  • Jordan Neighborhood House continued to provide daily meals to youths, educational services at the kindergarten level, prenatal and well-baby services, and a day care center and nursery school that were crucial to community members who mainly worked long shifts in the town’s peanut processing plant
  • Segregation still prevented Black and white children from attending school together, thus Annie’s vision of a headstart was born long before the term pre-school was in vogue; she helped oversee the first Head Start program in Suffolk for preschoolers in the 1960s
  • Jordan Willis retired in 1974 and remained deeply involved in the institution to which she had dedicated her life, living there until her death in 1977; the organization continued into the 1980s
  • Her final words were uttered the day before her death to her successor: “Watch out for my children.”