Rueben Burrell’s 93rd birthday gift: A book of his photographs

By Antoinique Abraham            

A book signing in acknowledgment of Reuben V. Burrell’s 93rd birthday will be held on Saturday, Feb. 25 in The Hampton University Museum.

Burrell was humble as he spoke this week about his passion for photography and history, which led to a successful career as a campus photographer at Hampton University.  The results of Burrell’s work can be found in “One Shot” a picture book published by The Hampton University Museum.

The book is a collection of one hundred pages of black and white photographs taken from the late 1940s to 1980s. With a great assortment to choose from, Burrell hopes to have a book of color photographs in the future.

He has documented events at Hampton since December, 1949. He shot it all, including appearances made on Hampton’s campus by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mary McLeod Bethune, images which are in the book. Burrell also covered graduations, weddings, athletics games, and campus activities.

At the 119th Hampton University Founder’s Day ceremony on Jan. 29, HU President William R. Harvey presented the President’s Citizenship award to Burrell.

“I’d rather not have to go through it” Burrell said. “I’ve been at it for so long.” 

And indeed he has, and with the release of Burrell’s book he will be honored again for his outstanding work and dedication to Hampton for over 60 years.

It’s hard to believe that this living legend will be celebrating his 93rd birthday on Feb. 27. Having such an incredible memory and the ability to paint vivid pictures of events that took place during his time spent at Hampton leaves many people in admiration. Burrell remembers the exact day he began working with photos at Hampton Institute in 1938.

Burrell has a modest and unpretentious personality when credited for his achievements: “I’d rather be standing by snapping photos.”

His passion for photography continues to thrive today. He is still hard at work. “I can be found in the darkroom in the basement,” he said. Although his relations with the university have ended, he hasn’t given up his love for working with photographs.

On Saturday, Burrell will sign copies of his historical collection. The Hampton University Museum will have copies of “One Shot” available to the public for $27. 

For more information about this event contact Vanessa Thaxton-Ward, 757-727-5508 or or Nashid Madyun, 757-727- 5313 or

The writer is a student at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications