Henrietta Bonaparte Ridley

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Memories & Candles

“Yolanda, remember me - Jeanne Johns - my mother, Altona Trent Johns, kept a letter that you wrote her until she died. Mama moved to Baton Rouge...Read More »
1 of 10 | Posted by: Jeanne Johns Adkins - Petersburg, VA

“Would have liked to have known more about her and her family.Condolence to the family.A very distant relative. ”
2 of 10 | Posted by: A.Heileman - Houston, TX

“Thank you, Yolanda, for sharing your wonderful parents. I met them as a freshman at Elizabeth City State College in 1961. As a first-generation...Read More »
3 of 10 | Posted by: Ulysses Bell, JD - Cary, NC

“We are very grateful to Robert Newton Davenport for calling us to let us know of the passing of Mother Ridley. Mother Ridley was a second mother and...Read More »
4 of 10 | Posted by: James O. and Arthur Mae Rice - NC

“Mrs. Ridley is cherished in my memories as a gracious lady and wonderful instructor who helped me connect to my inner self during my developmental...Read More »
5 of 10 | Posted by: Ella M. Ivory - Secane, PA

“God Bless The Life of Mrs. Henrietta B. Ridley - Thank You for Your Guidance and Teachings while I was an undergraduate student at Elizabeth...Read More »
6 of 10 | Posted by: Roosevelt - Syracuse, N.Y. 13244, NY

“I am an employee at ECSU and graduated in 1987. ECSUs history has allowed me to know the Ridley's. God bless you the family. Shelia Hughes...Read More »
7 of 10 | Posted by: Shelia H. Williams - NC

“She taught me many things that I will remember for the rest of my life. I thank God for sending her into my life. ”
8 of 10 | Posted by: Robert Newton-Davenport - PA

“Soror Ridley...You have traded in your Pretty Pearls for a crown of righteousness and a seat at the Master's Table... Welcome to the Ivy's On the...Read More »
9 of 10 | Posted by: Min. Patton - West Chester, PA

“Your mother will be missed and her memory will be cherished in my heart. She was the backbone of Dr. Walter Ridley who as quietly as its kept was...Read More »
10 of 10 | Posted by: Richard Rodney Robinson - NC


Henrietta Ridley (nee Bonaparte) died peacefully in Chicago on Christmas Eve. She would have celebrated her 99th birthday on January 7th. She was the widow of noted educator Walter N. Ridley, the first African American to earn the doctorate from a traditional southern university,

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, she was a graduate of Macalester College where she was the only black student. She began her career working in the YWCA in Dallas, Texas. She subsequently held positions with the Y in Winston Salem, Cincinnati and Denver where she directed a girls' camp in the Rocky Mountains.

After marrying Walter Ridley she moved to Petersburg, Virginia where her husband was professor of psychology at Virginia State College. The couple had two children and she spent several years at home. Her family and friends knew her to be a devoted wife and mother, an outstanding homemaker, a gourmet cook and an expert gardener. During these years she earned a Master's degree in counseling and guidance. She returned to her career at Virginia State College where she was Director of Student Activities at the Foster Hall Student Union.

The family moved to Elizabeth City, North Carolina in 1959 when her husband became President of Elizabeth City State College. She distinguished herself as a gracious hostess and first lady. She founded and developed the student union program at the college and she taught counseling and guidance. About two years ago the College completed construction of a large new student center. It is named The Walter and Henrietta Ridley Student Center.

In 1968 the Ridleys moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania. At this point she retired from professional activities. Walter Ridley joined the faculty of West Chester State College. Though retired, she remained an active member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and a singer in the choir at the Church of the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. During this period she gave devoted and loving care to her mother and her husband until each of them passed away.


She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Yolanda and Henry Scheunemann of Chicago, a granddaughter Alyssa Marie Scheunemann of New York, two grandsons, Mark and Carl Scheunemann of Chicago and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband Walter N. Ridley, her son Don LeRoy Ridley and her grandson David Everett Scheunemann.

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