Penn leaves legacy

Published 12:46 pm Thursday, September 8, 2016

“As principal, I shall do all within my power to promote quality education and to serve the people of Prince Edward County,” said Clarence “C.P.” Penn in an article written about him in the Afro-American in August 1969.

Penn passed away Sept. 2, but his legacy of promoting equal education lives on through stories shared by former students, coworkers and friends. He worked in education for more than 45 years, according to Joy Speakes, who knew Penn while he lived in the county.

The Pulaski native became principal of Prince Edward County High School in 1969, when the school was still known as R.R. Moton High School. The name change took place the following year. Penn stayed on as principal until 1977 when he became superintendent of the Surry County School System.

Email newsletter signup

“He reminded me that I was a bright student,” said Shirley Eanes, who met Penn while entering her 10th year of high school.

Eanes said administrators and the school board were still very unsteady as public schools reopened after years of being closed in response to desegregation. High school students, being older, were aware of “what wasn’t right, what wasn’t considered a reasonable and fair education,” she said.

“He came in at not such a good time … he had a lot to handle and I think he contributed to the community by building positive relationships with the students and the parents,” Eanes said.

“He was really perfect at that time,” Speakes added.

Dr. Maurice Finney remembered Penn not only as his boss at Prince Edward High but as his neighbor.

“He was very helpful. The kind of person who would encourage you. Not only did he encourage us as staff, but he encouraged his students. He cared about his staff and his students very much,” Finney said.

Eanes said the respect Penn held for students was returned. She said students felt comfortable speaking with him.

“I think he was wonderful,” said Speakes, remembering Penn as intelligent and caring. “He did a lot for the community.”

Finney said Penn pushed for equality.

“That’s something he believed in wholeheartedly,” he said.

Before coming to Prince Edward County, Penn worked at schools in Charlotte County, according to Charlotte County School Board member Larry Fannon, who remembered Penn fondly. Fannon said Penn was a teacher and coach at Randolph-Henry High School and briefly served as assistant principal at Central Junior High School in Charlotte County.

“We were friends,” he said.

Eanes called Penn “one of a kind,” adding he is “the leader the school still needs.”

Penn was a lifelong educator and coach, according to his obituary, as well as being a lifelong learner. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English and history, master’s degree in history and educational administration and doctorate of education, from Bluefield State College, Radford College and the University of Virginia, respectively.

Penn was married to Michaele Paulette Penn, and had two children and three grandchildren.