Frances Arneize Fries Knox


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Mrs. Frances Knox (née Frances Arneize Fries) was a proud 1949 graduate of Virginia State College and she loved her association with the institution. She majored in home economics, was a sister of Zeta Phi Beta and was honored to have been crowned Miss Virginia State College in 1949. Knox passed away on November 30, 2020.

Knox led an absolutely remarkable and accomplished life, rising from humble origins in tiny Rural Hall, North Carolina. At the time of her death, she was widely respected as a municipal, county and New Jersey State leader. She was hailed as a venerable and esteemed educator. She and her husband, retired Army Officer William Knox, formed a "power couple" that shaped the lives of generations of New Jersey children and families. The scope of their engagement encompassed not only the lives of African Americans, but extended to all. Recognition of the extent of her influence as an educator and community leader was eulogized at her funeral by a superintendent of schools, a serving mayor and a serving U.S. Congressman.

She attended Peabody High in Petersburg where she excelled scholastically and earned a partial college scholarship. Despite the scholarship, her parents could not cover the full cost of tuition. The story is well known in our family: Upon high school graduation, her step-mother directed her to take a job as a domestic working for a white family. Knox was despondent. Her older sister, Thelma, visiting from New York, declared that if Knox wanted a college education, she would help to pay for it.

During the summers, Knox lived in Harlem with her sister and worked designing and sewing doll dresses for Mrs. Beatrice Alexander of Madame Alexander Dolls. Throughout a large part of her adult years, she continued to design and sew her own fashionable clothes.