Schools’ Names Provide History
By Timothy Cox
The names are familiar throughout the community: Davidson, A.R. Johnson, Tutt, T.W. Josey, Lucy C. Laney.
But few, including the pupils who attend these Richmond County schools, know much about those people and others whose names grace their buildings, signs and letterheads.
Since the origin of Georgia’s Act to Establish a System of Public Instruction in 1870, it was a usual practice to name schools after educational figures.
Over time, the practice has gone by the wayside somewhat, with many schools, including all those in Columbia County, now being named for locations or street names.
What follows are details about the men and women for whom these schools are named and why they are named for them.
Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A.R. JOHNSON HEALTH SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING MAGNET SCHOOL: Named for Augustus Roberson Johnson. Born Feb. 29, 1853. Johnson was revered in the community and was affectionately known by his nickname, “Fessa,” as in Professor Johnson. He taught for 39 years in Richmond County schools. He died in October 1908.
C.T. WALKER TRADITIONAL MAGNET SCHOOL: Named for the Rev. Charles T. Walker, who founded Tabernacle Baptist Church in 1885. He was a passionate orator and earned respect in all racial circles. He introduced President-elect William Howard Taft when he visited Augusta in 1909.
GEORGE P. BUTLER HIGH SCHOOL: Named for George Phineas Butler, an owner of Alert Valley Cleaners and a teacher at the Academy of Richmond County.
JOHN S. DAVIDSON FINE ARTS MAGNET: Named for John Sheldon Davidson, an Augusta native, esteemed journalist and attorney. He was a charter member of the Richmond County Board of Education and known as Richmond County’s “Father of Education.” He was born in 1846 and died in 1894 at age 48. The original Davidson School, built in 1886, was the second-oldest public school in Richmond County, behind the Academy of Richmond County.
T.W. JOSEY HIGH SCHOOL: Named for Dr. Thomas Walter Josey, a physician in his native Augusta who was born in September 1881. He received his early training at Haines Normal Institute and later earned a bachelor’s degree from Atlanta University and a medical degree from Howard University. Before his unexpected death in August 1956, Josey was medical director of Augusta’s Pilgrim Health & Life Insurance Co.
LUCY C. LANEY HIGH SCHOOL: Lucy Craft Laney was an 1873 graduate of Atlanta University who taught in Savannah before moving to Augusta. In 1883, she founded Augusta’s Haines Normal Institute, later renamed in her honor as Lucy C. Laney High School. In 1887, she helped found the Lamar Nursing School.
LANGFORD MIDDLE SCHOOL: Named for Rupert Langford, the chairman of the Richmond County Board of Education in the 1940s who died at age 41 in September 1950. Langford was Augusta’s first junior high school.
MURPHEY MIDDLE SCHOOL: Named for Eugene E. Murphey, a physician who lived in the Old Government House on Telfair Street.
SEGO MIDDLE SCHOOL: Named for Clifford T. Sego, an educator who was a member of the Richmond County Board of Education.
TUBMAN MIDDLE SCHOOL: Named for Emily Harvie Thomas Tubman, a philanthropist and Kentucky native. She married Richard Tubman, who told his wife that upon his death he wanted her to set all of their slaves free. Half continued to live with her in freedom; the others were sent to Liberia in west Africa, where the Tubman influence continues.
TUTT MIDDLE SCHOOL: Named for John M. Tutt, a math professor at the Haines Normal Institute who established himself as a successful coach both at Haines and Lucy C. Laney High School in the 1950s. He was also on the faculty of Boggs Academy, an all-black private school in Burke County.
COPELAND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Named for Starrett D. Copeland, superintendent of schools in the 1930s.
COLLINS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Named for Ursula Collins, a black woman who was born Sept. 16, 1863, and was principal of A.R. Johnson and Silas X Floyd elementary schools. She was such an outstanding principal at Steed Elementary School that the school was renamed for her in 1951.
CRAIG HOUGHTON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Named for Peter Henry Craig and John Wilkerson Houghton. Houghton was a wealthy Augusta merchant who upon his death provided money for children during the pre-Civil War era. He is buried in the lobby of old Houghton School on Greene Street. Craig was a black man who began teaching in 1879 and retired in 1938 after 60 years of teaching. The school burned down in the great Augusta fire of 1916 and was rebuilt on the same property.
T. HARRY GARRETT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Named for T. Harry Garrett, a former principal of Tubman High. In 1953, the Knox Brothers renamed the new school in the Lakemont area after Garrett, who died in 1946.
A. DOROTHY HAINS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Named for Dorothy Hains, who taught at Tubman High School.
W.S. HORNSBY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Named for Walter Spurgeon Hornsby Sr. He owned Hornsby-McCoy Realty Co. and was a president and co- founder of the Pilgrim Health & Life Insurance Co. He died in 1956 at the age of 74.
JOSEPH R. LAMAR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Named for Joseph Rucker Lamar, who became a U.S. Supreme Court justice. He was a boyhood friend of Woodrow Wilson and served on the nation’s high court from 1911 until his death in 1916.
JENKINS-WHITE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Named for Clara Jenkins and Levi White. Jenkins was a well-known and much-respected teacher in the Augusta area, and White was a leader in the Boy Scouts of America.
A. BRIAN MERRY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Merry was an Augusta architect.
JOHN MILLEDGE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Named for a former Georgia governor. Milledge died in 1818 and was an Augusta resident.
SUE REYNOLDS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Named for Sue Caroline Reynolds, the first woman to have a local school named for her. “Miss Sue” was a dedicated teacher who devoted 47 years to Richmond County students. She died in her sleep at age 87.
ROY E. ROLLINS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Named for Roy E. Rollins, a former Richmond County superintendent. A prominent administrator, Rollins was a football coach who became an effective administrator.
WILLIS FOREMAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Ralph B. Willis and Oscar Foreman were a couple of successful south Augusta dairy farmers. The school was constructed in 1988 and named after Willis Foreman Road, which honored the two south Augusta businessmen.
Sources: Augusta Chronicle archives; The Quest: A History of Public Education in Richmond County, Georgia by Edward J. Cashin; Bert Thomas; James and Mamie Dunn; W.S. Hornsby III; Lucy C. Laney Museum of Black History; and Historic Augusta.
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