Brevard Hoover: A short yet exceptional life

70 years later, we still remember


Photo provided by the Black and Gold - 1951

Brevard Hoover was named President of NC Central District of Student Councils.

Kathleen Hale, Editor-In-Chief

If you wander to the back of the R J Reynolds high school library, it’s hard to miss the larger than life portraits that decorate the walls. The golden frames and oil-on-canvas paintings pop off the beige plaster background. Taking a closer look at the paintings themselves, the majority of the subjects are older men and women at least in their 30s or 40s wearing dark suits, except for one, also the largest portrait of them all. Hung above a bookshelf full of yearbooks, is a painting of a smiling young man, dressed in a camel hair sport coat, seated on an ivy covered stone wall. His name was Brevard Hoover. 

May 5, 1951: Hoover was just 17 years old, a senior at RJ Reynolds high school, when he died tragically. He drowned while swimming back to shore with his girlfriend after their canoe flipped over in Lake Louise in Roaring Gap, North Carolina. The entire community was devastated. Hoover had been the student body president, a National Honor Society member, and star fullback on the football team. He was a son, a brother and a friend to many. He was academically driven and was looking forward to his freshman year at Duke University. 

Brevard’s senior yearbook photo.

Hoover was the oldest of four children, with two brothers and a sister. His closest brother, Bob, was just 15 months younger.

Bob Hoover, R J Reynolds class of 1952, remembers his brother, “He was just a likable brother,” Bob said. “He was just as laid back as they come… he was outstanding in so many ways but you would never know it, he never wore it on his sleeve.” 

Brevard loved to play football and was a star running back. Bob reflected on a particularly memorable football game. 

“The state championship game between Reynolds and Durham, it was played down in Burlington in the pouring down rain…I mean really pouring…where Brevard in the first quarter broke loose on an 80 yard run straight up the middle for a touchdown and that was so exciting.”

In fact, Brevard was later offered a football scholarship to Duke but turned it down. He excelled academically and was accepting the Lindsey Duke academic scholarship instead. 

“He came home at night and he did his homework whereas his younger brother here didn’t always do things that way,” Bob said. “He was a top-notch young man and the teachers all loved him.”

Brevard (right) solicits for the March of Dimes with fellow Key Club member, Dewey Chapple (left). (Photo Provided by the Black and Gold – 1951)

As a junior, Brevard was elected student body president and won a national award. He went to Raleigh to represent Reynolds high school, where he was further selected to represent the state of North Carolina nationally in Colorado. This was a big honor as the award was voted upon but Brevard didn’t think much of it, and he certainly didn’t brag about it. 

“It was just kind of everyday to him, it was no big deal,” Bob said. “His everyday life was outstanding, it was humility I guess you’d say.”

Brevard was a stand-up guy who stayed out of trouble, as much as a high school boy could.

“Brevard never smoked a cigarette, he never drank a beer, at home his father and I would cuss and you never heard Brevard use a cuss word,” Bob said. “He was an extremely fine young man and he was admired by so many people.”

When Brevard died, it sent shock waves through the whole city. His funeral was at the First Presbyterial Church and it completely filled the church. 

“It was a big blow to Winston Salem, and it was a big blow for a long time,” Bob said.

Following his death the school took swift action to honor the memory of such an influential student in several different ways.

Brevard Hoover (left) in junior high school sits next to his younger brother Bob (right) and smiles for a portrait. (Photo provided by Catharine Hoover, Bob Hoover’s Daughter)

“After he died an English teacher [at Reynolds] gave an assignment to the class to write what it was that they remembered about Brevard,” Bob said. 

Hoover heard about this assignment and was sure that quite a few people would write about that memorable state championship football game but nobody did. Instead, the students remembered his brother’s character and big heart. The letters mentioned random acts of kindness that Brevard performed, like helping a classmate pick up her books when she dropped them and other things like that. These little things did not go unnoticed by his fellow students, in fact the letters show that they made a big impact.

“[The students wrote about] the outstanding things that he did that you would think were meaningless, that’s the sort of way he lived his life,” Bob said. “All the guys loved him, all the gals loved him, just the kind of guy he was.” 

As student body president, Brevard (front right) sits next to his girlfriend, Betty Tesh (front left) who also served on the Student Council as vice-president. Above them stands treasurer R. Chapple (left) and Secretary W. Allred (right) (Photo provided by the Black and Gold – 1951)

Additionally, the National Honors Society at Reynolds voted to name themselves the Brevard Hoover chapter. 

The year after he died the school also unveiled a portrait of Brevard that they hung in the library, where it remains today. Joe King painted the portrait and recruited Bob Hoover to pose for it.

“He pulled that cover off of that portrait that he had painted of Brevard Jr. and I tell you what that audience just fainted…which was all the students,” Bob said.

Later on in life, Bob also set up the Brevard R. Hoover Jr. Leadership Scholarship in his brother’s memory that is awarded to a student each year who demonstrates outstanding leadership.

“It’s a small scholarship that is just for leadership, not to the best student or best athlete or anything like that…for somebody that everybody looks up to,” Bob said. “I’d like to expand on his name, that’s the reason I set up the scholarship.”

As people look back on Brevard Hoover’s life, Bob hopes that they remember his brother’s character.

“You could appreciate him, at home you could appreciate the things that he did and he was nonchalant about it,”Bob said. “There was no ‘recognize me’ or ‘feel good about me’, that just wasn’t him…humble very definitely. He was just an amazing young man.”

Brevard, #29, played on the RJR basketball team his junior year. Photo provided by the Black and Gold – 1950

Here at RJR, the library stands in the heart of our school. While not only is it in the middle of the main building, the library is also the first thing visitors see when they come in the door from the landing and serves as a place for students to study, gather and mingle. This is why it is the perfect place for the Brevard Hoover portrait to be. He was a stand-up young man whose own heart shined through in everything he did. When he lost his life too soon the school hurt and was shaken by his death but his legacy lived on. To honor such an impactful student a painting of him continues to hang in the library. One might even say that Brevard Hoover is in the school’s “heart” forever.