Danville to formally rename Bate School

Published 7:57 am Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Bate Middle School will be renamed the John W. Bate Middle School, and district officials plan to make it happen before opening day for students on Aug. 16. Superintendent Keith Look said a sign company should be able to be secured to reflect the new name in time. 

In fact, Look said, the district hopes to have the sign up in time for the Soul of Second Street Festival on Aug. 11 and 12, and have a ribbon cutting ceremony at the school as part of the festival.

Look had been in conversation with Michael Hughes, president of the Danville Boyle African-American Society, regarding the plan. Hughes, who was at Monday’s Danville Board of Education meeting, said they would definitely like to include the dedication in the festival, maybe having it Saturday morning before the events begin downtown at noon.

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Board member Troy McCowan said he had been approached by members of the alumni association who said they would be attending the ceremony.

“I think that they will all probably show up in their purple and gold. Even if they don’t come to the festival, they will probably be (at the dedication) and I just think, historical-wise, it would tie in,” Hughes said. “It’s big. It really is. It’s bigger than you realize.”

John W. Bate faced many obstacles in educating young African-American children in Danville in the late 1800s and early 1900s, according to information previously shared by McCowan. Some of Bate’s greatest opponents were other African-American leaders in the community, especially those who were in charge of private religious schools and who believed only those institutions could properly educate children.

At the age of 85, after 59 years as principal, Bate retired from Bate School. It had grown from one room to 20, from one teacher to 15 and from six students to 600. It also had a partial gymnasium and was an accredited high school. 

According to a presentation given by James H. Atkins, a John W. Bate historian, it was Bate High School from 1912 to 1964, when the schools integrated and Bate became Bate Junior High. In 1978, the new Danville Bate Middle School was constructed behind the Bate Junior High, which was torn down.

The board first voted to change the name of the school to include Bate’s full name in May.