“Alexandria City High School” on Thursday night was unanimously chosen as the new name for T.C. Williams High School. The Alexandria School Board voted for the name change for the city’s only public high school, and the effort took more than a year in the making.
“It’s a big deal and it will mean a lot for our future use,” School Board Chair Meagan Alderton said. “Sometimes it’s good for us to think about the power in reclaiming a name, in changing the name to mean something — other than what we’ve always used it for.”
The new name will be effective at the start of the 2021-22 School Year on July 1, 2021. Additionally, the Board changed the name of Matthew Maury Elementary School to Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School.
School Board Member Ramee Gentry made the motion for “Alexandria City High School”. It was approved unanimously.
“I understand both sides of this,” Board member Jacinta Greene said. “We have over 50,000 graduates that are very endeared by the name, by the initials T.C. And we have current students that still love being a T.C. Titan…. But not in the name of Thomas Chambliss. It will not mean that anymore.”
T.C. Williams High School is the largest high school in Virginia. It is known around the world for the 2000 movie Remember the Titans, which focused on its 1971 state championship-winning varsity football team that found greatness by working through racial adversity.
T.C. is named after Thomas Chambliss Williams, the superintendent of ACPS for 30 years. He required that all Black students wanting admission to previously all-white schools to go through an application process. Only 75 Black students (about 3%) were allowed to transfer to formerly white schools by the time Williams announced his retirement in 1962, and that was three years after the city officially desegregated schools.
“I had butterflies in my stomach all day just thinking about how long and emotional this journey has been,” said Lorraine Johnson, a student representative on the board. “We can’t forget about our elementary school and middle school students who are coming up before you know it. It’s going to be your time to shine in this high school of endless possibilities, and when it happens, take advantage of every opportunity.”
Gentry did not want the T.C. in another proposal — The City of Alexandria High School.
“You will always be a T.C. Williams High School graduate, and you can wear that with pride,” Gentry said. “But this is the beginning of a new period in history.”
Principal Peter Balas said that “A.C. Titans” is not far from T.C. Titans.
“I’m a little concerned about a move to preserve the letters T and C in the name in some way, without having the engagement of our students,” Balas said.
Residents have tried in vain for decades to get the name changed, and many said that the process this time around should have been handled faster.
It's official!!! Our high school name is now ALEXANDRIA CITY HIGH SCHOOL!!!!!
— Peter Balas (@TCWPrincipal) April 8, 2021
Photo via ACPS/Facebook