Council supports adding Johns’ name to library

Published 2:53 pm Saturday, March 25, 2017


The Farmville Town Council has agreed to honor civil rights pioneer Barbara Rose Johns by adding her name to that of the Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library.

Barbara Rose Johns

The unanimous decision by council members came following a report from Ward C Councilman and Vice-Mayor A.D. “Chuckie” Reid during Friday’s special meeting, called by Mayor David E. Whitus.

Reid chaired a committee — created by Whitus — to discuss ways to honor Johns, who in 1951, led a student protest from the all black R.R. Moton High School, demanding better and equal facilities to those white students enjoyed. The strike would lead to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ruled public schools be integrated.

“As we went on, we talked about probably a way of adding her name (to the library) … instead of changing the whole name,” said Reid.

A.D. “Chuckie” Reid

“The thought is to add her name to the library,” Whitus said.

According to a news release from the town, the library is jointly owned by the Town of Farmville and Prince Edward County. “Farmville Town Council’s approval is only part of the process of the renaming. The issue will now be before the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors,” officials said in the release.

Members of council are set to meet with members of the county board of supervisors Thursday to discuss the potential name change of the library. Rick Ewing, director of the Central Virginia Regional Library System, of which the library on West Third Street is part, will also attend the meeting.

Ward B Councilwoman Sally Thompson, At-large Councilman Dan Dwyer and Ward D Councilman Donald Hunter also served alongside Reid on the committee.

David Whitus

Other suggestions on ways to honor Johns, Reid said during the meeting, included a statue at at the intersection of High and Oak Streets and Griffin Boulevard should a roundabout be installed, naming a new plaza by the museum after her or naming Main Street after her.

“I just don’t see that,” Reid said of the other suggesions. “We figured the best thing was the library because (of) the fact that … she worked in a library. We figured that’s the easiest way to go.”

“It’s a way to honor her. It’s a profession that she worked in,” Whitus said.

“From my standpoint … to have the library and have it in honor of Barbara Johns, I think would be just as sufficient,” Hunter said.

“I think that this is been going along too long,” Hunter added. “We probably should have done something years ago in reference to naming something in the Town of Farmville since this whole ordeal took place in Farmville. To me, it’s about time for us to do something.”

Donald Hunter

Dwyer said he had a call from a woman regarding the lack of involvement of the library boards.

“Not concern, I wouldn’t use that word,” Dwyer said of what the woman relayed to him. “I think that she felt it would have been nice to have been consulted by council before making a recommendation.”

“I too like the idea of keeping that name we’ve got and adding to it Barbara Johns’ name in some form,” Thompson said. “I want to be sure we continue with the community library. I want it to be there in honor of (Johns). It could be the Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library in honor of Barbara Johns. There are other ways to do this where it is inclusive … where it becomes part of the building where we honor her.”

“I kind of came up with Farmville-Prince Edward Barbara Johns Memorial Library,” Dwyer offered. “I like the term memorial just from the standpoint of it represents the honor that we’re bestowing, but, beyond that, I’ve had very few calls, personally.”

Sally Thompson

Ward E Councilman J.J. “Jamie” Davis said he supported the idea.

Reid’s motion to support adding Johns’ name to the library came with council encouraging “the Prince Edward Board of Supervisors to do the same.”

Before discussing adding Johns’ name to that of the library, council spent about 20 minutes in closed session discussing what a motion offered termed “probable litigation, where such consultant or briefing in open meeting would adversely affect the negotiating or litigating posture of the Town of Farmville.”

It wasn’t clear if the closed session or the library discussion were connected.