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‘He wouldn’t want me’ argued student pushing to rename Byrd Middle School

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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Harry F. Byrd Middle School opened in 1971 and on the day of the opening ceremony that year, Byrd's son, Harry, Jr.  voiced his displeasure with the school being integrated. Fast forward 45 years, and now  some at the school -- where half the student body is made up of  non-white students - are voicing displeasure with the school's name.

The fight to rename Harry F. Byrd Middle School continued Thursday night at a Henrico County School Board meeting. Those who spoke to the board didn't mince their words.

"We ask you to rename Harry F. Bryd Middle school now. It's past, past due," said Patricia Tucker Dodson.

Henrico School Board meeting

"We just think it's ridiculous he got an educational facility named after him when he sought to deny education to thousands and thousands of black children," student Emily Voorhis, a junior at Hermitage High School, said.

"I support changing the name of Harry Flood Byrd. To reject what he stood for and reflect what we now stand for," added Kathy Jackson, a former Byrd student.

One by one community members approached the lectern.

Joseph Chambers, a sixth grader at Bryd Middle, said the former governor and senator wouldn't want him at his school since Byrd was opposed to integration.

“In fact, he wouldn't want me to have any opportunities at all because he wouldn't want my parents to have the opportunity to get married and have me," said Chambers.

Joseph Chambers

Joseph Chambers

Those on hand requesting the name change are hoping to move into the next phase of the process; getting the board to start a formal public input period.

"If a public input period were to be established by the school board now we are opening it up to the entire Byrd Middle School community, maybe to folks to who never did actually consider a school board meeting, to try and get as much input as we can before making an informed decision," Henrico County Public Schools spokesperson Andy Jenks said.

The Henrico School Board is also awaiting a financial impact analysis on the potential name change which could be presented at board meeting next month.