Library named after Johns

Published 2:10 pm Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library has been renamed the Barbara Rose Johns Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library in honor of the late civil rights pioneer.

The unanimous vote came after Prince Edward supervisors agreed Tuesday the county had no authority to make a decision regarding the matter (“Bartlett questions naming authority,” A8).

Before the vote, Patty Pugh and Kay Whitfield expressed concern over changing the name of the library.

Barbara Rose Johns

The action follows a March 24 special called meeting where the council unanimously agreed to honor Johns by adding her name to that of the Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library.

“The ladies that you mentioned that worked so hard into the library doing work, maybe somewhere along the line you need to name some rooms after these ladies in the library,” said Ward C Councilman and Vice Mayor A.D. “Chuckie” Reid, who chaired a committee appointed by Mayor David Whitus to seek ways to honor Johns.

Reid, who offered the motion to change the name of the library, commended those who spoke during the public comment portion of the council’s Wednesday meeting, including Central Virginia Regional Library (CVRL) Director Rick Ewing.

A.D. “Chuckie” Reid

“Our committee met and discussed appropriate ways to honor Barbara Johns’ contribution to the town and to the county. And our committee strongly supported naming the library in her honor,” Reid said.

According to Reid and slides displayed on monitors in the council’s chambers, the granite slab in front of the library on West Third Street will have Johns’ name added to it. A plaque commemorating Johns will be placed on the exterior of the library, he said.

“The outside of the library, the heading (of) the library, we would suggest you leave it as is,” said Ward B Councilwoman Sally Thompson, who served on the committee chaired by Reid.

In 1951, the 16-year-old Johns 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.

“I think that anything to honor Barbara Rose Johns in the town of Farmville, who has (had) such an impact locally, statewide and nationally, is a good thing,” Ewing said following the council’s vote. “And the library makes a certain amount of sense. She left here and got her library degree and worked in a library in Philadelphia for a number of years.”

Rick Ewing

Ewing added “the library building was a logical choice for the town to use to honor her memory.”

“I have gotten many phone calls that are concerned about the naming of the library and the changing of the name in any way,” said Pugh, who chairs the library’s advisory board, before offering a history of the library and the regional system.

“You all are so responsible,” Pugh said of the council’s support, along with that from Town Manager Gerald J. Spates, for the library. “I know you’ll take this seriously … People are concerned. They want it to be a library for everybody in the county and everybody working together like we always have on it.”

“You have my full support for honoring her in whatever way you see fit,” Ewing said, explaining the membership of the CVRL’s governing board, before the council voted. “The library governing board, also known as the regional board, has authority over the administration of the regional board system that consists of two public libraries, one here in Farmville (and) one in Dillwyn,” he explained. “The library here is officially called the Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library. The library rents the building on West Third Street from the Town of Farmville, which owns the building. The town can simply name the building whatever it wants. It’s your building. I’m fully in support of anything that you wish … Renaming the library … is a little more complicated. The library’s governing board would be the entity to rename the library.”

“I feel that you should keep the name Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library,” said Kay Whitfield, who also offered a brief history on the library.

“Town council previously voted last month in a special meeting to approve the renaming and encouraged Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors to do the same,” town officials said in a press release following the Wednesday vote. “Although not legally required to have the approval of the board of supervisors, council asked for their approval in the spirit of collaboration and community, since the library was built by both the Town of Farmville and Prince Edward County.”

“I am happy that council has approved the naming of the library,” Spates said in the town-issued press release. “Barbara Johns’ legacy will now be honored in a way that will ensure that generations to come remember her contribution to not only the history of Farmville, but the history of our country.”

In the release, Reid said the honor was “overdue.”

“We are excited to name the library in her honor and to move forward with this process,” Reid said.

“I think that this has been going along too long,” Ward D Councilman Donald Hunter said during the March special meeting. “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.”