PE School Board Will Consider Naming Facilities

Published 12:31 pm Tuesday, November 11, 2014

PRINCE EDWARD — Those interested in commenting on naming school facilities to honor civil rights leaders will have an opportunity at the school board’s December 3 meeting.

The board, specifically, is planning a public hearing on the issue at 5:30 p.m. where they will field public comment.

Board Chairman Russell Dove proposed at the October 8 meeting that the high school’s auditorium be named after Barbara Rose Johns; the middle school cafeteria after the Rev. L. Francis Griffin; and the school board’s meeting room in honor of long-time Superintendent Dr. James M. Anderson.

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Sixteen-year-old Johns led a walkout of students at the R.R. Moton High School (located at the corner of Main Street and Griffin Boulevard) on April 23, 1951 to protest unequal school facilities. Her actions, and that of others, eventually led to the court case that became part of the Brown Supreme Court decision that ended segregation in public schools.

Rev. Griffin, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmville, picked up the mantle of the civil rights struggle. It is his daughter whose name is on the court case decided by Supreme Court (Cocheyse J. Griffin, et als, v. County School Board of Prince Edward County), which effectively declared if Prince Edward did not operate public schools there could be no public schools in Virginia because it was a denial of equal protection of the law.

Dr. Anderson served as the superintendent of the County’s public schools for 25 years, leading the school division following the reopening of the public schools. (Rather than integrate, Prince Edward closed their public schools from 1959-64.)

The school board is also expected to address the process going forward—what criteria would be used.

“If we’re going to do it, let’s set the whole criteria while we’re doing it,” Dove said.

If they’re going to name a facility or some parts of a facility, school board member Beulah Womack noted, they would have to have made a great impact on education.

“And I think that that may be the thing that we may need to bring forward is …what…impact that they actually had…on education in the community itself—their contribution, what their contribution is,” noted school board member Dr. Timothy Corbett. “That may be the thing that we may need to bring forward in order to at least give it a fair chance…”

Dr. Corbett offered that it’s “pretty significant” and “noteworthy that it occurred here in Prince Edward County.”