F r a n c e s  B e a t r i c e  B i b b i n s  L a t i m e r

Publisher and historian Latimer fondly remembered

Lauded for her wealth of local knowledge

EASTVILLE -- Frances Bibbins Latimer, who turned a dogged interest in area history and an uncanny knowledge of local court records into a second career as the Eastern Shore's only book publisher, died on Nov. 25 in Atlanta, Ga., where she had been receiving medical treatment after a long illness. She was 69.

Latimer had been staying in Georgia with her husband, George, receiving medical treatments. Funeral information was not available at presstime.
After a long career as an educator and a tenure as director of the local Project Head Start, Latimer took an interest in studying county records and published two transcriptions through a Maryland firm. But after her third work was turned down, she decided to open her own publishing house.
The business, called Hickory House, produced dozens of works, most recently a well-received book of poetry by the late decoy carver Bobby Swain, a free guide that interprets Eastville's court records and a volume that cataloged African-American historical sites on the Eastern Shore.
"We really don't have a publisher on the Shore anymore," said Miles Barnes, librarian at the Eastern Shore Public Library, who also had a volume published by Hickory House. "If she thought something had merit and should be out there, she'd do it."
Born and raised in Northampton County, Latimer was a 1960 graduate of segregated Northampton County High School, earned bachelor's and master's degrees and developed her interest in history as an adult while talking to her parents about her family's history.
She joked that, as a student at Hampton Institute, the only class she ever failed was history. But knowing her family's background gave her something to relate it to.
"It's all about us," she said in a 1997 interview. "It's not them. It's us. History is so personal."
Said Barnes, "Frances had an intuition. She had a real way of figuring historical problems out."
One of Latimer's close friends was Traci Johnson, circuit court clerk for Northampton County, who marveled at how Latimer intricately knew the family histories of people she never met.
"She knew people just upon meeting them," she said. "She was just so easy to know and cared about everybody."
Sometimes the court staff would refer difficult genealogy questions to Latimer. "She was such a wealth of resources," she said.
Johnson worked with Latimer, the late area historian Jean Mihalyka and Barbara Cox on a guide, "Exploring the Oldest Continuous Court Records of America," published by Hickory House. It gives interesting information on the Northampton records, which date to 1628 and are uninterrupted from 1632.
Latimer had more projects under way, and Barnes said that's a loss for readers.
"The thing that's really sad about Frances is how much she had left to go," he said. "There were several projects she was working on."

S e r v i c e  o f  T r i u m p h  

F r a n c e s  B e a t r i c e  B i b b i n s  L a t i m e r

October 4, 1941           November 24, 2010


Francer Latimer

Saturday, December 4, 2010
Twelve O’clock Noon

John O. Morris Funeral Chapel
6328 Lankford Highway
Nassawadox, Virginia   23413

In lieu of flowers memorial donations can be made in two ways. The family would like to be able to provide financial assistance to others in need of liver transplant surgery and is working with the Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia to identify the appropriate organization to receive contributions.  Please call Mr. Latimer if you would like to give in this way. Memorial contributions may also be made to the Eastern Shore Community College Foundation in memory of Frances Bibbins Latimer. 
These should be made payable to:
The Eastern Shore Community College Foundation,
C/O Ms. Eve Belote, Executive Director, Eastern Shore Community College Foundation, 29300 Lankford Hwy.,Melfa, VA 23410

Sorrowfully and gratefully submitted,
George A. Latimer and the Family