Donald Van Blake was born in 1921 in Plainfield, New Jersey. Growing up in Plainfield, Van Blake attended Bryant School, Evergreen School and Plainfield High School. He found work at a house wrecking company and continued to work there through the Great Depression. After World War II started, Van Blake heard about the Enlisted Reserve Program at Virginia State University. In 1942, he enrolled himself in the Reserves and then attended the university as a student. A semester later, he was called up to active duty. He went to basic training at Fort Clark, Texas and trained in mounted combat. In 1944, he served in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in North Africa and Italy in the U.S. Army’s 10th Cavalry Regiment. There, he and his unit were disbanded and repurposed as truck drivers and engineers. He then served in Southern France in the European Theater of Operations. After returning to the U.S. in 1945, he attended Hampton Institute (now University) on the G.I. Bill. He joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and graduated in 1952. In the ‘60s, he became involved in the civil rights movement through the NAACP. As the chairman of the Political Action Committee of the Plainfield Chapter of the NAACP, he organized buses to participate in the March on Washington in 1963 and led protests in Plainfield during the rebellions in Newark and Plainfield in 1967. During his career, he worked at a painting business and then taught shop at Hubbard Middle School and coached tennis at Plainfield High School for thirty years. He organized the Plainfield Tennis Council, a youth development program. He retired in 1986 and was inducted into the Junior Tennis Foundation's Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame in 2008. He passed away in 2018.