There was a time in Falls Church when one man's stand against town-sanctioned racial segregation led to cross-burnings on his lawn and an ominous note signed simply, "KKK."

"As you're sleeping one night, you may be awakened by some men in white robes who will drag you outside and apply 40 lashes to your Ethiopian backside," read the note, sent in 1915 to Falls Church civil rights leader Edwin Bancroft Henderson.

The note continued, "A word to the wise is sufficient."

But that didn't stop Henderson, whose work to establish the first rural chapter of the NAACP in response to Falls Church's segregation ordinance will now be honored. Henderson went on to file a lawsuit -- the first of several challenging discriminatory practices -- to prevent enforcement of the Falls Church segregation ordinance.

The rule would have concentrated blacks in one small corner of the town, forcing them to give up or sell property in the "white" area. The law was never enforced and was repealed in 1917.

Yesterday, descendants of Henderson and Joseph Tinner, the first president of the local NAACP branch, along with NAACP officials and Del. Robert D. Hull (D-Fairfax), announced a state grant to build a granite monument to commemorate the group's founding.

It started in 1915 as the Colored Citizens Protective League and was chartered as the Falls Church area branch of the NAACP later that year. In 1937, it became the Fairfax County branch.

The organization's significance, said Victor Dunbar, Fairfax NAACP branch president, lies in the battle its founders fought against segregation within Virginia and in the role it played in the growth of the NAACP nationwide.

"This was the first rural branch and from {that}, the NAACP spread throughout the country," Dunbar said.

The monument, a 13-foot pink granite arch, is to be constructed in July at Tinner Hill Road and South Washington Street (Lee Highway). It will be funded in part with a $20,000 grant included in the state budget through an amendment sponsored by Hull. The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation will raise matching funds to complete the monument.

The granite to be used was quarried from land, now known as Tinner Hill, that was purchased by Charles and Mary Tinner in 1890. It was Charles Tinner's son, Joseph, who was the first president of the Falls Church NAACP.

Henderson, the founder of the organization, was the first African American man certified to teach physical education in an American public school, and he wrote the first book on African American athletes in 1939.

His wife, Mary, was an elementary school principal in the then-segregated Fairfax County school system.

Edwin B. Henderson II, Henderson's grandson, still lives in his grandfather's two-story colonial-revival bungalow, the site of the 1915 cross-burnings. The house is less than two blocks from where the monument will be built.

Edwin Henderson is also president of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, which will hold its fifth annual street festival in Falls Church on Saturday, and he is a member of the Falls Church Historical Commission.

He said the monument commemorating the founding of the NAACP chapter is important to the area.

"To me, it means that it's an expanding of history of Falls Church to include more than just Anglo-Americans," Henderson said. "I'm a member of the Historical Commission and that's my mission: to try to bring a little color to this town."