Ken Conklin is a freelance writer born and raised in Los Angeles, now living in southwest Virginia for the past fourteen years.
He is the author of the historical fiction book, NORVEL. His book of poems, The Zen of Ken, was published in 2021. His essays have appeared extensively in the Roanoke Times as well as other publications such as the Victoria Advocate, Easy Reader, Microwave Journal, and the Sierra Club’s HPS Lookout. Ken has received several local poetry awards. In addition, technology companies contract with him to write or polish formal program reports.
Although always a writer, Ken made his living in the technology industry as a business development and general management executive. In those roles he had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. He continues to provide consulting services to the industry.
Ken enjoys speaking engagements, especially when it involves the telling the story of the journey that resulted in NORVEL.
On a September morning in 1948, a member of the U.S. Olympic team and a Howard University student was arrested for taking a seat in the white section of a segregated train in rural Virginia. The resulting court case eventually made its way to the Virginia State Supreme Court resulting in a landmark civil rights decision.
Norvel Lee spent his childhood in a rustic, segregated black community nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. His father was a day laborer for the railroad while his mother expected her children to get an education and become involved in community affairs. In spite of obstacles such as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws, limited schooling opportunities, and a speech impediment, Norvel’s life journey led to exceptional accomplishments in the larger world.
After graduating from high school, he was selected for flight training at Tuskegee Army Airfield. He served in a segregated unit in the South Pacific during World War II. Afterward, he enrolled at Howard University to pursue engineering and took up intramural boxing. As a pugilist he excelled, becoming the national AAU heavyweight champion. In 1952 he once again was on the U.S. Olympic team, making history at the Helsinki Games.
Norvel married Leslie Jackson of Leesburg, Virginia, graduated from Howard University, and started a family. Later he received several advanced degrees and devoted himself to a career in education. He and Leslie became prominent mentors and sponsors of young people in the greater Washington, D.C., area. He also served as a senior officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.
Based on true events, NORVEL is a meticulously researched story about a remarkable man.
The Zen of Ken2021
Awards and Recognition
- Recipient of a 2022 Kegley Preservation Award from the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation
- Finalist for the 2021 Next Generation Book Awards
Press and Media Mentions
- Norvel Lee from NORVEL: An American Hero is the subject of a Roanoke Times editorial.
- The Twelve Statues we need - Cardinal News
- Inspired by the book, NORVEL: An American Hero, The Roanoke Times proposes a historical marker recognizing Norvel Lee's legacy.
- Local author, Kenneth Conklin, preserves Botetourt hero Norvel Lee's legacy - WFXR TV
- Roanoke Times article "He was born by a river"