Catherine Lee Brinkley Memorial Lecture Series
Catherine MacDonald Lee (“Kate”) Brinkley was born in Norfolk in the Sarah Leigh Hospital on Mowbray Arch 27 September 1930. Though mostly raised in Auburn, Alabama, she graduated from the St. Catherine’s School in Richmond and from Randolph Macon Woman’s College with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Art History. She married Norfolk native Stanworth Brinkley in 1957 at Gibraltar, and the couple lived and worked in Spain for the rest of that decade. Her early work in public relations and elementary school education ended when she returned to the United States, where her first job was as an assistant librarian at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. On returning to Norfolk in 1960, Kate began work as a librarian in the Freemason Street Library, the city’s first free public library. Two years later, she began at the brand new Kirn Memorial Library where she worked in the Department of Business, Technical, and Social Sciences before becoming a reference librarian. Kate stepped down from that work from 1965 to 1983, during which time she raised her two children, was a member of the Norfolk School Board, and served on the boards of civic, charitable, and arts organizations, including WHRO-TV, Virginia Opera Association, Irene Leache Memorial Foundation, The Norfolk Forum, and United Communities Fund.
Kate Returned to the Kirn as reference librarian in 1984 and also served in that capacity at the Larchmont branch during renovations at the Kirn from 1989-1990. She was a familiar and friendly face to many at the reference desk—always happy to research any query from patrons. She retired in 1999. Kate brought her grandchildren to observe the dismantling of the Kirn in spring 2009. She lived happily to age 86, long enough to tour the new Slover Library with husband Stan and to celebrate the reinvigoration of a tradition that gave her a great sense of purpose and pleasure in her work and through which she was helpful to many Norfolk residents. Her interests throughout her life were wide-ranging, but she read extensively in history, art history, political analysis, architecture, fiction, poetry and novels. She enjoyed authors celebrated for cutting-edge work, most especially those able to convey their insights to a broad audience. Her interest in public figures doing innovative work in the humanities provides both inspiration and guidance for the Catherine Lee Brinkley Memorial Lecture Series: A Librarian’s Legacy.