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Newport News School Board considers renaming schools with Confederate ties; public hearing Tuesday

Dozier Middle School.jpeg
Posted at 6:26 PM, Sep 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-08 20:32:10-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Andrew Shannon is on a mission.

“In 2016, we initiated the removal and renaming of Magruder Elementary School,” says Shannon, the state vice-president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The school that was named after Confederate Gen. John Magruder is now Discovery Stem Academy, but there are additional schools in the city with Confederate ties that Shannon would like to see be renamed.

“We still have individuals named in Newport News who represent hatred and bigotry,” he adds.

School leaders will hear from the public on the possible name change of four schools: J.M. Dozier Middle, Horace Epes Elementary, Lee Hall Elementary and R.O. Nelson Elementary Schools.

“Nelson tried to block African Americans from being integrated in schools,” Shannon adds.

In a school presentation, school leaders confirm that R.O. Nelson was a superintendent in Newport News for more than 20 years and supported segregation.

J.M. Dozier was also school superintendent for almost 30 years.

“He served as the chairman of the Warwick and Newport News School Board when separate but equal was state law,” said a school leader.

Shannon says, “If you represent the Confederacy or represent segregation or hatred of African Americans, they do not need to go on public buildings.”

Lee Hall Elementary was named after a mansion owned by a slave owner. It was also the headquarters for Confederate generals.

Related: Petition seeks to rename Maury High after 'Norfolk 17' student as board suggests removal of Confederacy ties

The last school on the list named after a Confederate solider is Horace Epes. He was also the first principal of Newport News High School.

Shannon says he spoke with a member of Epes's family.

“He said, 'Mr. Shannon, I want to let you know that we support you in the renaming of Epes Elementary School,'” Shannon adds.

News 3 reached out to Epes’s great-great-great grandson, Cary Epes, and he tells us he supports the name change.

Tuesday's public hearing on the matter started at 6:30 p.m. School leaders decided the next board meeting will be on Tuesday, September 15 at 6:30 p.m., and that is when they will take this particular item of renaming the schools up for action.

The board will be considering comments over the next week.

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