On 13 June 1999, the Berkley Branch was renamed the Horace C. Downing Branch, in honor of the late Berkley civic leader, Horace Cornelius Downing, who died in April 1999 at the age of 82. A computer lab, funded with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was dedicated at the time of the branch re-dedication.
Horace C. Downing was a Norfolk native whose civic leadership and devotion to his community earned him the nickname “Mayor of Berkley.” He was a co-founder of Berkley’s Beacon Light Civic League, a lifelong champion of voter education and registration, and a mentor to scores of other civic leaders. Downing knew that the future of a community is in the hands of its children, and he took strong leadership roles in such organizations as the PTA, Boy Scouts, recreation leagues and the Berkley Branch of Norfolk Public Library, where he was said to have monitored the number of children using the library and checking out books.
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