Armistead has deep family ties to area

Published 9:36 am Thursday, April 13, 2023


Howard Steel Armistead

Howard Steel Armistead was the speaker at the Farmville/Prince Edward Historical Society meeting on Tuesday, March 21. A 1974 graduate of Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC), Howard opened his talk with a recap of his local roots, which were quite impressive.

His father, also a H-SC graduate, was James Ashby Armistead, Jr. (1917-1958; H-SC 1939), his grandfather was James Ashby Armistead (1869-1950), and his great-grandfather was Drury Lacy Armistead (1839-1911). His uncle, Dr. Drury Branch Armistead (1905-1962; H-SC 1927), was also a H-SC graduate.

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His grandfather, Chairman of the Prince Edward Board of Supervisors for 32 years, made it his duty to arrange for his son, James, Jr., to be the first person drafted for WW2 service from Prince Edward. Consequently, James, Jr. was in the war from start to finish (1941- 45), serving as a member of the Signal Corps in the Pacific Campaign. Father and son are both buried in Westview Cemetery, as is Dr. Drury Armistead.

His great-grandfather served as a CSA corporal in the Civil War, and was the owner of Greenview Farm (now the Clyde Davis cattle farm) on Hwy. 15 just outside of Farmville. He is buried in the Armistead Family Cemetery there. Greenview Farm was a name unfamiliar to the local historians in attendance, who were grateful for that piece of local history.

The J.A. Armistead Grocery was founded on Main Street in Farmville by his grandfather in 1897 and continued until 1944 when it was destroyed by fire.

As further proof of his deep local roots, four of Howard’s female relatives are Longwood graduates: his mother, Jean Elizabeth Steel (1920-2012; LU 1942), his great aunt, Miss Frances Elizabeth Armistead (1912-1974; LU 1932), his aunt, Harriet Steel (b.1928; LU 1948); and his grandmother, Fannie May Hunt (1881-1973; LU 1901). Frances, a retired teacher, taught at Prince Edward Academy and is buried at Westview Cemetery, as is his grandmother. His mother, from whom Howard gets his middle name, is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, where she was from.


Although Howard is steeped in local history, the main topic he talked about is his research into Aids, Ebola, and COVID-19 during his 20 years living in Africa. He covered his two books, written after his recent return to Farmville, chapter by chapter. His research in Africa identified an “inner mask” (as opposed to a physical outer mask) that each of us can use as additional protection to help fight COVID-19 — selenium. While in Africa, he started a company that sold selenium tablets to thousands of pharmacies in five countries for the treatment of viral infections.

Howard explained that this inexpensive mineral supplement is, in his opinion, critical to the well-being of our immune system, especially for older folks, and there was no shortage of older folks at the talk. He explained that selenium will not keep you from getting COVID-19, but it will help boost your immune system, thus giving you a better chance of recovery should you test positive for COVID-19.

After his talk, he made autographed copies of his books, Understanding COVID-19 and Dear Bill Gates, available for sale to those in attendance.