PROGRESS: ‘Stewards of God’s creation’
John Wesley Laury was born and raised on Laury Lane off of Union Hill Road in Buckingham. He left the county in October of 1963 to enter the air force, and spent several decades away from Virginia. He stayed in the Air Force for four years before being discharged in California, where he became a production control supervisor for a cement company. He made visits home several times a year to offer help when needed at his family’s farm. Laury remained in the “Golden State” until his retirement in May of 2003.
That year, Laury returned to Buckingham with his wife, Ruby, in the hopes of building a home for their retirement. They had a house built at Union Hill and became reestablished in Laury’s old community. However, as the couple settled back down into Virginia’s countryside, Laury said, they became involved in a struggle of environmental justice and equality after learning that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) wanted to build a compressor station in the historically black Union Hill community.
“This was supposed to be our retirement home,” Laury stated. “We wanted to really live out our golden years. Everything was going fine, still is going fine by the grace of God, but we were caught up in a struggle. Dominion/ACP wanted to build a compressor station in our community. That’s when we began our struggle, our opposition to this, because we did not want this proposed compressor station in our community.”
In the midst of their retirement, Laury and his wife took on a new life of activism and social justice. Laury is now a member of Friends of Buckingham and Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, environmental activism groups known for opposing the pipeline. Laury is also a member of the Buckingham branch NAACP and the American Legion Post 134.
Laury tries to split his time amongst the many groups that he is a part of, helping out wherever possible.
“In other words, it really boils down to whatever is really needed,” he commented.
Laury is also heavily involved in church, serving as a deacon at Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church. However, he can often be found at several other churches on any given Sunday, and even participates in the Zion Sunday School in which eight or more churches come together to study as a group and worship.
He also finds joy in tending to his cattle. Laury has 16 head of cattle and one donkey by his home on Union Hill, and treats them as members of the family, never hesitating to spoil them when possible.
Laury finds beauty all over Buckingham County.
“What I like about Buckingham is quite a few things; the rolling hills, the quietness, the beauty of it, and the purity – the air, the water.”
“Now, this is why we have to fight,” he adds, reflecting on his activism. “We have to get involved, because corporate America, … it appears that they don’t understand or they don’t care. The way that the earth, that our environment is being plundered and being torn and ripped, poisoned … It’s like we don’t care about tomorrow. Someone, somebody or a group of people, we all need to stand up for our creation … we are all stewards of God’s creation.”