Fire destroys home of member of ‘Richmond 34’

Fire destroys home of member of ‘Richmond 34’

HANOVER, Va. (WWBT) - A Richmond Civil Rights leader and his wife are grateful to have made it out of a devastating fire, but now they are beginning the process of rebuilding with the help of the community.

Rev. Dr. Leroy and Cynthia Bray's home was destroyed in a fire on Nov. 3rd.
Rev. Dr. Leroy and Cynthia Bray's home was destroyed in a fire on Nov. 3rd. (Source: Scott Bray)

“The house just went up in flames, and as far as we know, it is a total loss and all we had in it," said Rev. Dr. Leroy Bray.

Rev. Dr. Leroy Bray Jr. and his wife Cynthia had gone to bed on Nov. 3 when their smoke alarm went off around 10 p.m. at their home on Georgetown Road in Hanover.

“When I opened the door to my garage, a wall of fire met me and we only had time to get out of the house with nothing on, but what we had on," said Rev. Bray. “I was just so thankful and grateful that we got out safe and sound.”

60 years of memories were inside of the home, including Bray’s numerous awards. Rev. Bray played a pivotal role in Richmond’s history as a member of the Richmond 34, a group of Virginia Union students who held a sit-in at the Thalhimer’s Department Store lunch counter in 1960. In 2019, Bray’s trespassing charge from the sit-in was finally been expunged.

“A lot his awards, a lot of our childhood memories and photos, just to see it flame up like that, it was hard for us to not run in there and get what we could," said Scott Bray, Rev. Bray’s son.

Scott Bray says the home was full of memories, and even with it destroyed, the family is grateful and feels all is not lost.

“God blessed them and woke them up,” Scott Bray explained.

Through an online fundraiser, family and friends are trying to help them rebuild. Scott Bray has been amazed by the kindness of the Hanover community.

“[Neighbors] have stopped and reached out to us and showed their love and concern for my father, and I want to thank them all,” said Scott Bray.

The Bray’s say they are particularly thankful for the Hanover first responders who came to the home the night of the fire, as well as the Red Cross, who helped them with a place to stay for the first few days after the fire.

“It is going to be a very long road to getting back to any sort of normalcy,” said Rev. Bray.

Right now, the couple is staying in a hotel and in the process of looking for a new home. Rev. Bray says the Hanover fire marshal believes it was an electrical fire, but the investigation continues.

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