ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — For the remainder of 2020, the City of Alexandria’s school board will consider changing the name of T.C. Williams High School, named for Thomas Chambliss Williams. The former superintendent worked in the city from the mid-1930’s until 1963 and resisted desegregation.
The school board received a petition to change the name in June and the process officially started during the board’s meeting on Friday. ACPS will ask for public input this fall and Superintendent Gregory Hutchings plans to present his recommendations to the school board next spring. This isn’t the first time the school board has considered changing the high school’s name — in 1998 and 2004 Glen Hopkins (CEO of Hopkins House) and Howard Woodson submitted petitions of their own.
“I’m sure there were many others prior to that so I think that this particular climate that we have happening across the country makes it the right time for us to strongly consider this recommendation that’s being sent in from the community,” Hutchings said.
Hutchings is making sure the process isn’t just a bureaucratic one — he wants to spend the coming months educating the public about who Chambliss Williams was. “They will recognize that we should not have a school named after someone who was a segregationist,” said Hutchings. Racial equity is the heart of ACPS’s newly adopted strategic plan.
“I’m excited about the advocacy that our young people are doing right now in being involved in this movement,” he said. “I just think that this is a really good opportunity for our young people to recognize that their voice is power and the more we encourage and support them throughout this process, I believe that we are going to make the next generation of leaders who are going to not have this whole racist mentality. I think we are going to move into this new era of anti-racism if we just let the young people lead because they are so far ahead of many of the adults and we just need to step out of the way at this time and allow the young people’s voices to be heard.”
Hutchings will host a work session on August 27 to discuss the process.
The Alexandria school is the backdrop for “Remember the Titans,” a 2000 movie starring Denzel Washington in which he played an African American football coach at T.C. Williams High School, coaching the schools’s first season as a racially integrated team.