To the editor:
I appreciate your editorial’s suggestion (“Should Alexandria’s high school bear the name T.C. Williams?”) to change the name of Alexandria’s high school because injecting this issue will likely complicate city hall’s spending spree to enlarge the high school or build a new one.
Your editorial, however, reflects the mentality motivating the millennial-driven reign of terror against the purported micro-aggressions previous generations have
placed by honoring important local and historic figures, one-by-one, to be metaphorically guillotined for being avatars of their age.
While most school superintendents last but a few years, T.C. Williams went 30 years.
In 1958, the voters approved of segregation. Consequently, so did the school board selected to represent them. Any superintendent at that time would have released any employee suing the school system over an issue bearing on the education of her child because such a suit would be perceived as implicitly insubordinate, akin to publicly criticizing the boss.
Moreover, suing a school system for which one is an employee, when the suit involved a non-employment matter such as your child’s education, is arguably a conflict of interest as well, warranting the employee take an unpaid leave of absence until the suit’s resolution.
More tellingly, though, when pressed by a relatively weak pre-Civil Rights Act of 1964 federal civil rights office, T.C. Williams relented and offered Hundley her job back.
Consider the context: in much of Virginia, a massive resistance to desegregation was underway, whereby municipalities would close their schools rather than integrate them. Superintendent T.C. Williams’ gambit, surely to discourage school closures, may have helped prevent racial and political conflict detrimental to education. His willingness to yield under federal pressure may have “moved the needle” toward a time when Alexandrians would willingly accede to integration.
History can only morally assess actions in the context of their time, not with the informed judgment inherent in hindsight.
– Dino Drudi