SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – Spartanburg County school leaders are staking a claim to a piece of history tying their school to a Civil Rights leader.
The school is known as Middle School of Pacolet, but it was originally the Benjamin E. Mays Consolidated School.
Spartanburg County District 3 leaders say they want the recognition of being the first to name a school after Dr. Mays, which is why they filed a resolution with the state asking for the formal credit.
“I had the honor of introducing him,” said Willie Whittenborg.
The year Benjamin E. Mays Consolidated School was dedicated, Whittenborg was tasked with introducing the Baptist Minister and Civil Rights leader to his class.
“It was kind of scary a little bit,” Whittenborg said. “But it was an honor to do it.”
Douglas Brackett remembers Dr. Mays visiting the school on the first day of May every year.
“And that was considered Mays Day,” Brackett told 7News. “I can still visualize him in his cutaway coat, being so eloquent. I can still see that and it gives you something to strive for in your life.”
Historians credit Mays for laying the foundation for the Civil Rights movement. He worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and several U.S. presidents, before becoming president of Morehouse College for nearly 3 decades.
At Thursday’s school board meeting, before dozens of alumni, school leaders made a historic announcement.
“The Benjamin E. Mays Consolidated school was the first public school in our nation named after Dr. Benjamin E. Mays,” said District 3 Superintendent Dr. Kenny Blackwood.
Board members presented a proclamation asking the state to recognize the historic honor. It was accepted by Reverand Roger Smith one of the first people to receive a full scholarship to Morehouse College.
Rev. Smith says it’ll be a reminder for years to come of Mays great legacy both for the country and in the halls of the school.
“Dr. Mays had that impact, not only on me but on many students. To encourage you to reach greatness,” Rev. Smith said. “To achieve greatness [and] to reach for the stars.”
The school unveiled a new section on its website that details the history of the Benjamin E. Mays Consolidated School. To learn more click here.