Nashville school may erase Confederate hero’s name, add black journalist

Monday, June 7, 2010 at 11:45pm

A Metro elementary school named for a Confederate naval hero will likely be re-named in honor of the south’s first African-American journalist.

The old Wharton school building at 18th Avenue North in north Nashville has been undergoing a $15 million renovation project. Built in 1959, the building has housed a middle school, Nashville’s Big Picture High School and served as the temporary home of West End Middle School, among other uses.

Next year, the building will open its doors to Wharton Elementary School, which is in the process of being transformed into a new museum-based magnet school. During last year’s construction, Wharton students attended class at the former Brookemeade Elementary School building in Bellevue.

School board chair David Fox hopes when students return to their revamped school in August, the sign above the front door will read “Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary School.” It may include the phrase “at the Wharton campus.”

Churchwell, a Fisk University graduate, in 1950 became the first African-American reporter at a major southern newspaper, the Nashville Banner. For the path he pioneered, contemporaries knew Churchwell as the “Jackie Robinson of Journalism.” Churchwell died in February 2009.

A committee has been reviewing the name-change, and the board is expected to vote on the matter at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“I’ve thought all along, since the school is coming back as an elementary school with a whole new plan that it would make sense to re-name it,” Fox said.

“He was the first African-American journalist in the south to work at a major southern newspaper,” Fox said of Churchwell. “He was there at a time of really undisguised racism and segregation. During his first five years, he was not even permitted to work in the newsroom. He had to work elsewhere and send his copy in.”

Toward the end of his tenure at the Nashville Banner, Churchwell was the paper’s education reporter, which Fox said makes the name-change even more appropriate. Today, many of Churchwell’s family members have distinguished careers in Nashville.

“It just seemed to me that putting a name associated with such courage and excellence was just the right name for a school like this that we expect to be so successful and so important,” Fox said.

The majority of students zoned for Wharton are African-American.

The name Wharton, meanwhile, refers to Arthur Dickson Wharton, a member of the Confederate navy who served during the Civil War with distinction. Later, the Nashville native made contributions to education as a principal of City High School and Montgomery Bell Academy, a professor at University of Nashville and a member of the school board.

Fox said his decision to advocate for the name-change had less to do with getting rid of a vestige of the old confederacy and more to do with giving the school a fresh start.

“This school is going to be rebuilt,” Fox said. “Everything about it is going to be new and different. I thought it was important to find a name associated with excellence.”

27 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 6/8/10 at 12:20

It takes money to rename a school and money is what they are whining about they don't have enough of. (not to mention tradition)

Save the new name for a new school and stop wasting money.

By: richgoose on 6/8/10 at 5:36

The underclass is growing and reaching out. Now is the time to get your kids in a private school.

By: Kosh III on 6/8/10 at 6:05

That's a chronic major problem: elitist snobs like richgoose who think they are superior to other citizens.
Are you missing the good old days of Jim Crow and Aryan supremacy?

By: MetalMan on 6/8/10 at 6:10

Why would the Metro Government waste the taxpayers money on such an rediculous effort? Leave it alone. There is ample reason to honor Mr. Wharton. "Arthur Dickson Wharton, a member of the Confederate navy who served during the Civil War with distinction. Later, the Nashville native made contributions to education as a principal of City High School and Montgomery Bell Academy, a professor at University of Nashville and a member of the school board."

Conversely, "Churchwell, a Fisk University graduate, in 1950 became the first African-American reporter at a major southern newspaper, the Nashville Banner."

So who do you think deserves the SCHOOL named after him, one who had a positive effect on EDUCATION or a newspaper reporter? Or are we proposing to change the name because Churchwell is black and Wharton was a Confederate sailor?

By: budlight on 6/8/10 at 6:34

I say, lets erase all white people from any type of place of honor and just leave their space blank. That was sarcastic.

The Confederate soldies died fighting for what they believed. It was in their day. Now in this day and time, we have all changed. We are all trying to "get along" and not be racist. It's working for some!

But does that change the fact that Wharton made very beneficial contributions to society?

Name another school afteer Mr. Churchwell. Leave Wharton alone. IT takes money to change a schools name.

Said by Metalman: "So who do you think deserves the SCHOOL named after him, one who had a positive effect on EDUCATION or a newspaper reporter? Or are we proposing to change the name because Churchwell is black and Wharton was a Confederate sailor?"
Metalman, as much as I cringe at saying this: I'm sure it's a racial issue.

By: budlight on 6/8/10 at 6:35

We can go back in history and demonize every action. That will not advance us as humans.

We cannot change the past; we cannot predicte the future, but we can live in the "now" and make it better with love and respect for our fellow man.

By: tdterry1999 on 6/8/10 at 6:59

Another stupid move by the school board.

Fox said. “Everything about it is going to be new and different. I thought it was important to find a name associated with excellence

Yes let's do that by getting this fool off the school board.

By: idgaf on 6/8/10 at 7:30

Thanks MetalMan and you are right.

One wonders why Fox didn't know this or didn't care.

Fox certainly diminished himself in my eyes.

By: idgaf on 6/8/10 at 7:55

tdterry1999, The school board hasn't worked as intended/billed so we should get rid of it.

The guy making the big bucks should be accountable/responsible not a committee with no accountability and no experience to qualify for their position.

Interesting side note that I heard on the radio this am kids that get free lunches are fatter then the kids that bring their food from home. So much for government knows best.

By: slewfoot on 6/8/10 at 8:00

Let the minorities run the US. It's been proven succesful in their motherlands (i.e. Mexico, Somalia, Darfur, Haiti, Kenya, etc). bahaahaahaahaa

slewfoot

By: AmyLiorate on 6/8/10 at 8:01

Yeah, let's just erase all history, that stuff isn't important at all.

Anyone who ever served in the Confederate service must have been a complete racist and had NO redeeming qualities whatsoever for the remainder of their life. Even if he had been the best educator in Nashville history and had never fired a shot in battle he still has that CSA on his record and should be purged.

And all those quality Northern guys were perfect angels sent to save the slaves in the South (many of whom had been sold from Northern cities).
Like Sherman who burned and looted hundreds of towns in a path 30 miles wide from Atlanta to the coast. Mind you that those towns were basically defenseless and he left behind women, children, elderly and slaves without food, crops, shelter, farm animals and other means to live.

Keep up the revision people!

By: rbull on 6/8/10 at 8:04

The next thing you know we will be naming a school after David Fox and what has he done but screwed up the School Board. I say leave the name of the school as Wharton and wait until a new school is built to name it after the newspaper reporter. Is this all the School Board has to do at the moment. Get on with some real important business like finding money to keep the janitors on the payroll.

By: Ex Civil on 6/8/10 at 8:22

This renaming issue is interesting as have been the comments. I would propose the following questions.
1) Had Wharton not served the Confederacy would the name change be suggested or even an issue?
2) Should Tennessee consider reverting to the name Franklin, the name of a sessions movement in Eastern Tennessee put down by the State of North Carolina?
Renaming streets, schools and bridges is not new. The French renamed an avenue in Paris to honor President Kennedy, which had previously been named after Benjamin Franklin.
3) Why not get rid of the naming (race, revisionist history or whatever rocks your boat) issue entirely and give the school a number, count up the number of elementary schools and give this one the next number?
Let’s not forget that as important and influential as Benjamin Franklin was he made every effort to be the father of two countries, the US and France. Today’s press would have a field day counting his mistresses in either or both countries, and do not worry the French do not care.

By: budlight on 6/8/10 at 8:24

Amy I hope you didn't think I was serious. I'm from Danville VA the last capitol of the Confederacy. I'm proud of my southern roots and would not want the history - the true history - erased.

Your comments are always so informative. I say regarding the name: Let well enough alone.

Slewfoot at 9 a.m.; your comment is highly correct and I'm not voting to use as our prototype any of those countries.

By: richgoose on 6/8/10 at 8:31

This really is an issue for the black community. The underclass whites and hispanics have no idea what a Wharton or a Churchwell really is. The people with children at Hume Fogg,MLK and the private schools have no problem renaming the school PUBLIC SCHOOL 36.

By: GUARDIAN on 6/8/10 at 9:09

OK lets try this another way. Please understand I've about had it with this politically correct BS. I've got a childhood friend who is very very high up with the NAACP and I once gave a speech to that organization being introduced by my friend as the most colorblind man he had even known. I was never called a racist till but ever since this racist socialist pig has been in the White House I've been called it in print several times BUT NOT TO MY FACE. So take care that thousands maybe millions like me that haven't turned into one don't turn into one because I for one will make David Duke look like an angel. I'm not going to try to educate anyone on the Civil War because most are not smart enough to understand and won't study the truth. Now with that out of the way forget for the moment that Wharton was a member of the Confederate navy. (Remember I said forget that.) Wharton a Nashville native made contributions to education as a principal of City High School and Montgomery Bell Academy, a professor at University of Nashville and a member of the school board who's name is already on the building. Now borrowing this from MetalMan. Conversely, "Churchwell, a Fisk University graduate, in 1950 became the first African-American reporter at a major southern newspaper, the Nashville Banner." SO do you let School board chair David Fox and the board change the name for a former member of the MEDIA the profession we have all grown to know so well. I'll use the words of Mark Twain. "In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made School Boards".

By: idgaf on 6/8/10 at 9:24

Until they named a school MLK all the schools in my hometown were numers.

PS (public school) #

By: Kosh III on 6/8/10 at 10:36

"the name of a sessions movement in Eastern Tennessee put down by the State of North Carolina?"

Sessions movement? They had sessions musicians back then?

btw, that was the third Franklin. The first was a territorial predecessor to Tennessee, it was not yet qualified for statehood.
The second was the state of Franklin in what is now north Georgia, and was predominately Cherokee. It was admitted to the Union but Pres Jackson illegally sent troops to forcibly destroy the state and murdered tens of thousands in the process.

By: stlgtr55@yahoo.com on 6/8/10 at 10:59

Why is it that when white people practice it, it's called "racism," and when black people practice it, it's called "racial pride?"

By: MamaG on 6/8/10 at 11:24

55, good question. Racism goes both ways and frankly, I'm sick to death of it all. We are all people, regardless. We have to breathe the same damn air. We live under the same sun, moon, stars. A white person's and a black person's DNA does not have a strand that makes them different. WHY is this still such a big deal in the 21st century? One thing are the schools, who's summer reading lists for kids include many books that have slave issues, which IMO perpetuates racial tension. Get the F over it and live life for pete's sake. Who cares what the schools are called anyway?

richgoose, you are a grade-A twit.

Guardian said:
"...because I for one will make David Duke look like an angel..."
That statement alone says quite a lot.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/8/10 at 11:27

Can we get the editor to put a better title on this article?

Nashville school board members want to replace educators name with journalists name.

Is that not accurate?

By: MamaG on 6/8/10 at 11:28

LOL Amy! Yes, that is more accurate!

By: AmyLiorate on 6/8/10 at 11:35

Kosh is right about Jackson. The democrat party started with him, at least they're using lesser degree of force these days.

By: budlight on 6/8/10 at 1:19

richgoose on 6/8/10 at 9:31
This really is an issue for the black community. The underclass whites and hispanics have no idea what a Wharton or a Churchwell really is. The people with children at Hume Fogg,MLK and the private schools have no problem renaming the school PUBLIC SCHOOL 36.

Rich, I was just riding in my car thinking, "I bet 90% of the students, regardless of race don't know who these guys were" so just call it the Wharton-Churchwell school.

By: papapapa on 6/8/10 at 5:33

No opinion on the article, but having grown up on the west side of Nashville many years ago, I know that Brookmeade or the Brookmeade building is not in Bellevue. It's not too many miles away, but no native I know ever confused the two.

By: idgaf on 6/8/10 at 5:36

Other then being black and being the first one to be hired by the banner/southern nerwspaper just what did Churchwell contribute to society?

By: waycool1 on 6/9/10 at 5:18

I have no beef at all with the naming of a school, but this town is soooooo liberal it's like doing anything in the name of a caucasian person is taboo. When you lean so far to either side; that is not helping relations at all.