Newport News School Board votes to rename local schools named after Confederate leaders

Posted at 10:00 PM, Sep 15, 2020

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Four local schools named after Confederate leaders will soon have new names.

The Newport News School Board voted to rename the schools on Tier 1: Epes Elementary, Lee Hall Elementary, Nelson Elementary and Dozier Middle Schools. The board held a public hearing on the matter on September 8.

A spokesperson for the school district says the creation of a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to determine next steps including school naming criteria, developing a process to solicit suggested names and conducting public input sessions, among other agenda items, are next on the timeline.

Last week, we reported that Andrew Shannon, the state vice-president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, supported the initiative to rename the schools.

In a school presentation, school leaders confirmed 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.

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

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.

“If you represent the Confederacy or represent segregation or hatred of African Americans, they do not need to go on public buildings," Shannon told us last week.

We reached out to Epes’s great-great-great grandson, Cary Epes, and he told us he supports the name change.

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