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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Change T.C. Williams’ Name
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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Change T.C. Williams’ Name

Twenty-two years ago, in 1998, Hopkins House asked the School Board to change the high school’s name, but the board declined. Today, we ask again.

To The Honorable Cindy M. Anderson, Chair & Members of the Alexandria City Public Schools Board, shared with the Alexandria Gazette Packet:

Hopkins House joins with the many students and alumni, parents, and community organizations calling upon the Alexandria City Public Schools Board to change the name of the City’s only publicly funded high school. This coming Friday, July 10, the School Board is scheduled to meet virtually and we ask School Board members to vote to change the name at that meeting. The City’s children will be watching, as will voters.

Twenty-two years ago, in 1998, Hopkins House asked the School Board to change the high school’s name but the board declined. Today, we ask again and we hope, this time, the board will do the right thing for the City’s children – all of them, Black, White, and Brown.

T.C. Williams High School is named in honor of a racist. Thomas Chambliss (T.C.) Williams was superintendent of the Alexandria City Public Schools from the 1930s until 1963. He was a proud and committed segregationist who, despite the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, held off integrating public schools for an additional five years until it was ordered by the courts. He fired African American school employees who dared so much as ask that their children be admitted to a whites-only school, among other hateful and racist acts.

As the City’s longest serving public school superintendent, the School Board named the newly built high school in his honor – despite his protestations. We urge that today’s School Board grant his request, albeit nearly 60 years late, and rename our public high school in memory of a more honorable public figure.

Hopkins House is not now proposing a particular name or deserving individual to be honored. Rather, we call upon School Board members to vote on July 10 simply to change the name of the City’s only public high school. This will start the renaming process.

There will be ample time in coming weeks to debate what the new name should be. This debate will be a wonderful opportunity for the entire City, and particularly our young people, to learn about the many deserving individuals that have earned the right, through their service to the community, appreciation for cultural diversity, and travel on higher moral ground, to be memorialized on a public building. The discourse will help to strengthen our sense of community.

The July 10 meeting of the School Board is a special meeting, called for the purpose of dealing with reopening of schools during this health pandemic. This issue rightly deserves the School Board’s full attention. However, voting simply to change the name of the City’s public high school from that of a racist to a more deserving and honorable public figure, is an easy lift for the School Board and should require very little time on the Board’s July 10 agenda. This issue is not at all complicated; it’s simply a matter of doing what’s right.

We urge the members of the Alexandria City Public Schools Board to vote on July 10 to change the name of the City’s public high school, and then move on to more weighty issues such as how to safely reopen our public schools this fall.

J. Glenn Hopkins, President & CEO

James L. Banks, Jr., Board Chairman