Opinion: Letter to the Editor: ‘Let it Be’: In Support of T.C. Williams

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: ‘Let it Be’: In Support of T.C. Williams

I am writing to comment on this misguided effort to change the name of T.C. Williams High School. There seems to be a lot of ignorance about who T.C. Williams really was and what his accomplishments were.

There is a good reason that Alexandria’s only public high school is named after T.C. Williams. T.C. Williams graduated from the Virginia Military Institute, “the West Point of the south,” in Lexington, Va. He was superintendent of the City of Alexandria’s public school system from the early 1930s through the early 1960s. During his lengthy tenure, the Alexandria public school system flourished because of his strong leadership.

Mr. Williams was successful in obtaining resources at a time when the mindset was decidedly against appropriating large sums of money for public education. More than a dozen new schools were built during his tenure. On his watch, what were then state-of-the-art facilities such as George Washington High School and Francis C. Hammond High School were built. The massive football stadium at George Washington High was the largest in the Washington area and believed to be the first such facility to have lights. George Washington High had such a prestigious reputation that some Fairfax County residents paid tuition to attend school in Alexandria.

T.C. Williams was a dominating figure during his era and for that reason in 1965 the city’s new high school was named in his honor. Today’s odious forces of political correctness need to remember what era we are talking about – it is important to place things in proper historical context. At the time that Mr. Williams took over as superintendent in the 1930s, integration in schools was contrary to long established and fixed policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It took a long time for desegregation to evolve. Prince William County, for example, closed its public schools for several years in 1959 rather than integrate.

College football teams in the state of Virginia were not integrated until the turbulent late ‘60s and early ‘70s period. Virginia Military Institute first enrolled black cadets in 1968, while the University of Virginia did not enroll its first black freshman football recruits until 1970. But when T.C. Williams High School opened in 1965, it was fully integrated, as were George Washington and Hammond high schools at that time.

In recent years we have seen a revolving door of ACPS superintendents. We could use the leadership and management skills of a T.C. Williams today. He got things done.

Where are we headed with all this? Are we going to change the name of every school and street in Alexandria? This is political correctness run amok. With all the problems we are facing right now we don’t need to waste time, energy and money arguing over the names of schools and streets. There are many old school alumni and longtime residents that do not want to see the name of the school changed. It is a renowned institution that has existed for 55 years. To quote the 1970 hit record and movie by the Beatles, “Let it Be.”

Greg Paspatis

T.C. Williams class of 1978.