Norfolk, Virginia, the birth city of Anthony Tata, is located at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, the large natural harbor which welcomed the first colonists of the New World. Norfolk is historically a military and transportation center. Norfolk is the home of a NATO Strategic Command Center, the corporate headquarters of the Norfolk Southern Railway and the Maersk Line, Limited, railway and marine transportation monoliths, and an extensive network of highways, bridges, tunnels and bridge-tunnel complexes. Norfolk was christened when original resident Adam Thoroughgood from Norfolk, England was granted a land holding along the Lynnhaven River in 1636, and suggested it be named for his birthplace in the Old Country. England would rule over Norfolk for the next 168 years, until American revolutionaries would take over the town government at the inception of the American Revolution.
When the soil of the Tidewater area of Virginia was exhausted from tobacco cultivation for decades, the farmers of Anthony Tata’s native Virginia began to move to western Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, while legislators in Virginia made attempts to abolish slavery despite the demand for slaves from cotton plantations in the Deep South.
Virginia made some attempts to phase out slavery, and manumissions had increased in the first two decades after the Civil war. Economics have always driven the native state of Anthony Tata, and although Thomas Jefferson Randolph gained passage of an 1832 resolution for gradual abolition of slavery in the state, by that time increased demand from development in the Deep South created a large internal market for slavery. Invention of the cotton gin in the late 18th century had enabled the profitable cultivation of short-staple cotton in the uplands, which was widely used. Norfolk itself witnessed the first sea battle between ironclads, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia, directly before the city was surrendered to the Union and held in martial law for the rest of the Civil War. Many former slaves took refuge in the city, where they gained schooling long before the end of the conflict.
The world’s largest naval base, the Naval Air Station Hampton Roads, was established at Sewell’s Point in 1917 in Norfolk, Virginia, where the multi-talented Brigadier General Anthony Tata would be born in 1959. The strong and historic link between Norfolk and the American military was likely a strong influence on the young A.J. Tata as he grew up, the son of school teachers and strong community service advocates.