Last week Theogony caught up with former ACPS Superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams, the namesake of T.C. Williams High School, who has been working around the clock to convince the School Board to remove his name from Alexandria’s only high school.
“Look, I was a racist, a segregationist, and an all-around horrible person,” Williams said. “I’m not sure what more I could have said or done to convince the School Board that I was the last person an esteemed school should be named after.”
Williams, who was the Superintendent of ACPS from the 1930s to the 1960s, reflected on his long life. “Times have changed a lot since I was Superintendent. T.C. students deserve so much better than a school named after me,” said Williams. “Lots of people have asked for this change, but I figured if THE Thomas Chambliss Williams said the name should be changed, maybe that would convince the school board to finally do it.”
When asked to explain some of the horrible actions he took as Superintendent, Williams said that he fought to keep Black students and white students in separate schools and resisted integration after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court. In 1958, 14 black students went to federal court in an effort to force Williams to let them attend the same schools as white students in Alexandria. When Williams found out that an ACPS cafeteria worker, Blois O. Hundley, was part of the lawsuit he fired her. He denied Black students the materials, textbooks, and other resources that white students had.
“I wasn’t kidding when I said I was a bad dude,” Williams said. “The fact that I exercised so much discrimination towards black students is just unforgivable.”
Other ACPS schools are also named after people, such as James Polk Elementary and George Washington Middle School. When asked about his position on the T.C. Williams name change, former President Washington replied, “No comment.”
In 1962, shortly after the school was named T.C. Williams, The Washington Post ran a story that said Williams “felt honored but wished the school had been named for someone else.” Today, Williams’ position about the school name is stronger.
“It’s really unacceptable that the school is still named after me. There are so many Alexandrians of color who suffered under my racist policies and they deserve to have a school named after them,” said Williams, “I ruined countless lives, and students and people in the community are reminded of my unforgivable actions every time they walk in or even drive by the school.”
Opponents of the name change say they don’t want to tarnish the feel-good image of the school brought about by the Disney movie, Remember the Titans. However, it’s a Disney movie, and T.C. Williams was a real live racist. In fact, an anonymous source indicates that Disney is working on a sequel entitled Remember the Titans 2: Forget T.C. Williams.
“2020 has been a bad year for everyone, but maybe one good thing can come out of it – maybe my name will finally be removed from Alexandria’s high school,” Williams said.
If the School Board decides to change the name, current T.C. students will have a leading role in choosing the new name. Top contenders among students include Schooly McSchoolface, Riverdale High, and I.M. High School.