Confederate hero’s name wiped from Metro school

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 9:20pm

Nashville now has a public school named after Robert Churchwell, the legendary Nashville Banner reporter who broke racial barriers in the segregated South to become the first African-American journalist to work at a major southern newspaper.

The school board unanimously voted Tuesday night to turn Wharton Elementary School into the Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary School. Churchwell, a lifelong Nashvillian who was revered by many, died in 2009.

“It’s such a kind gesture,” said Mary Churchwell, Robert’s wife of 58 years. “He would love to know about this. He would be flattered because he loved to cover the school board, and covered it for over 20 years. I think this is just a wonderful thing to happen, to be honored in this way.”

The building itself, constructed in 1959 and situated on 18th Avenue in north Nashville, is getting the finishing touches of an $8 million renovation project. Students last year attended classes at the Brookemeade Elementary building in Bellevue. In August, they will move into the newly renovated north Nashville building, which will feature a new museum-magnet academic concept and a new school name.

The previous name, Wharton, referenced Arthur Dickson Wharton, a member of the Confederate navy who served during the Civil War with distinction. Later, the Nashville native made contributions to education as principal and professor at various institutions, as well as serving on the school board.

Robert Churchwell, who would become known as the “Jackie Robinson of Journalism,” began his tenure at the Nashville Banner in 1950. Hired by Nashville’s daily newspaper that vehemently opposed racial progress, Churchell was hired largely as a publicity stunt to attract readers.

During his first five years, Churchwell wasn’t even permitted to work in the paper’s newsroom. He worked from his house, making use of a typewriter he borrowed from a former teacher who lived in the neighborhood. Eventually, he became the Nashville Banner’s education reporter.

Churchwell began his reporting career the same year as John Seigenthaler, the famed Tennessean reporter who today serves as the newspaper’s chairman emeritus. The two would become great friends.

“What so many people in this city today miss when they hear his name is a full knowledge of a life that was totally committed to journalism and journalism as a form of education,” Seigenthaler said.

During his early years, Churchwell was relegated to basic reporting assignments — covering the black community’s churches, Boy Scout groups, etc. Stories he wrote and submitted that recounted the struggles of a racially divided Nashville were never printed.

“Bob Churchwell was a journalist who could compete with me on any story in this community or in this nation and indeed beat me,” Seigenthaler said. “He was so talented. Bob Churchwell was corralled and oppressed. His talent never was given the full opportunity to bloom because newspapers simply would not let him.”

Today, Churchwell’s five children have produced distinguished careers of their own in Nashville, including Andre Churchwell, who works as an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University.

“I can only say that the school would be something he would be smiling about now,” Andre Churchwell said. “Education was such an important central theme in his life that the Churchwell family will stay committed in a resolute way to ensure the success of that school.”

76 Comments on this post:

By: richgoose on 6/8/10 at 8:32

I think the black community should have a school named after a black person of their choosing. If Churchwell is a name that they recognize this should be to their liking. In fact I think all public schools in Davidson County will ultimately be re-named after a black person. Now Glencliff may be in question. It could renamed after a hispanic and then again perhaps a Muslim.

I certainly have no quarrel with renaming any public school.

By: cambay1 on 6/8/10 at 11:30

richgoose- are you implying no white person should be regognized any longer? Why all blacks? Why hispanic or muslim for Glencliff? I am bothered by your small-mindedness. Not including whites, will not make us magically disappear. From the time they stepped off the Mayflower, the white race has been the most beneficial in bringing up this "One Nation Under God" country. Yes, we have our flaws, but so does the black race. You did not mention native-Americans or Asains, either, which both have strong positive impacts in the area communities as well as the nation. Having a school named after you is reserved for such an honor. I live in the Glencliff community, and I have not seen a hispanic or muslim doing anything to deserve to be recognized this way. You don't just rename a school because more people in a certain race live in that area. Sorry, doesn't work that way. I do agree that Robert Churchwell deserves this honor. I do not agree in Wharton's name being removed to do so. The building's name should be shared or another building constructed to make it happen.

By: MetalMan on 6/9/10 at 5:59

Let's see:

Wharton was an educator, teacher, principal, school board member, and significant contributor to Nashville's education system. But he fought for the Confederacy and he was a Caucasian.

Churchwell graduated from Fisk and was a newspaper reporter. He was a Negro; therefore the school should be renamed for him.

Considering the Metro Government, that would be logical.

By: richgoose on 6/9/10 at 6:00

CAMBAY.....Now that you mention it, it might be in order to rename Hume Fogg after an Asian. I think perhaps Julia Green will remain as a tokenism for the white race.

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed your satirical post. If the native Americans want to present their case for renaming a public school after one of their own that suits me fine as well.

When it comes to the public school system in Davidson County it may as well be a circus or a proving ground for future criminals.

The only thing I can say good about the public school system is thank goodness for MLK ,Hume-Fogg and Julia Green or whatever their future name shall be.

By: Kosh III on 6/9/10 at 6:13

Yes, let the Cherokees name a school. How about
"Christian Whites Massacred Innocent Cherokees Elementary School"

or for the whites
"The Andrew Jackson Practiced Genocide Middle School."

By: sickofstupidity on 6/9/10 at 6:28

Lets rename Pearl-Cohn to Tupac or Snoop Dog High. At least someone in the community could identify with those name and their "culture."

By: BEOWULF on 6/9/10 at 7:07

BEOWULF: Such petty banter, folks. This isn't about race, equlaity, or choice. This is about AMERICAN HERITAGE and its destruction by liberals, from Washington DC on down to our local level. "Wharton was an educator, teacher, principal, school board member, and significant contributor to Nashville's education system. But he fought for the Confederacy and he was a Caucasian." - Metalman. The key word is CONFEDERACY, part of our heritage. George Washington Carver, a great man, a brilliant mind...and black has had his name affixed many times to many things. Raleigh, Wetzel, Rio Grande, Chickamauga, Apache Junction, Cairo - names one can find all over America... how old are these names? How much heritage do they connote. A bit of history, a bit of bits and pieces, liberal know-it alls are wiping them out. SCHOOL BOARD BE SHAMED!

By: treefrogdk on 6/9/10 at 7:15

liberal.... conservative..... get over it. google rockford, il school district 205 and get a dose of a REAL pathetic school system. public education nationwide is suffering for many reasons. names are only names. it's the kids that matter.

By: Stonewall Jefferson on 6/9/10 at 7:41

Yes let's take away more from our white heritage. Our Confederate heroes fought and died for what they believed in. I am very proud of our men and women who bravely went to war to try and stop the northern aggressors. To take away the Wharton name from the school is such a tragedy. Why don't we rename Briley Parkway the Jesse Jackson Turnpike while we're at it? It's truly a sad day in Dixie.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 7:45

Nashville schools have an insanely high drop out rate and always are needing more money.

By: budlight on 6/9/10 at 7:48

I worked with a black woman who said "damn honkey or damn cracker" everytime she walked out of her boss's office (we were in a corp. legal department). One day, naive me asked: What does that mean, Loren? She explained: That's the name we call you white people, like you call us ________(I won't say what she said).

So I said: Didn't Martin Luther King want us to coexist in peace and start healing (this was early 70's) and aren't we all created equal?

She said: We won't be equal till the pendelum swings both way.

Iwalked away saying "what does a clock pendelum have to do with being equal?"

20 years later in the 90's, a light went on in my head. Can you guess what she meant.

Please remove all white heritage from your textbooks, class. Bell, Franklin and other famous inventers are next.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 7:48

Does renaming a school after a journalist help fix any real concerns?

Or does it just waste money while students are left in the same boat?

By: treefrogdk on 6/9/10 at 7:52

"dixie"? did he say "dixie"??

By: Kosh III on 6/9/10 at 7:55

Ya'll can celebrate the treason of the Confederacy if you wish. It's a free country. Go ahead: celebrate the treason committed just so some humans could enslave others.
Read the CSA Constitution: it was all about slavery--and treason.

By: localboy on 6/9/10 at 7:56

Is the Wharton name totally out of contention for consideration in future naming campaigns?

By: fdanshep on 6/9/10 at 8:00

As that distinguished citizen and orator Rodney King said, "Can't we just get along?" But..... how far does it go? Do we purge all historical references to a time where there were injustices? The Civil War was not just about the right to own slaves and anyone who thinks it was needs to study that period in our history.

By: sickofstupidity on 6/9/10 at 8:01

I am all for naming all high schools in metro to Welfare Pre-Enrollment Academies.

By: tdterry1999 on 6/9/10 at 8:12

Maybe the school board should focus on teaching the kids.Training the police officers in the schools .On how to stop the stealing from the cafeteria .Teaching the janitors how to change a light bulb ,instead of calling a outside contractor.Or maybe looking at why they have 2 to 3 or4 assistant principal's and still not control the kids.Then maybe they could worry about making the black community happy.

By: slewfoot on 6/9/10 at 8:13


Let's name a school after Kosh III. It would be a school to promote how whitey is to blame for all of society's problems. Including his own self loathing. Lets erase any Egyptian pyramid history since slaves were used to build those as well.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 8:13

It was ALL about slavery and treason?

It had half a sentence about slavery at most. Everything else was identical to the U.S. Constitution of that period in time.


By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 8:27

Kosh is probably for States Rights but can't admit it because it sounds like Treason.

By: GUARDIAN on 6/9/10 at 8:59

The Civil War was not about slavery dummy. If it were then there would be Abraham Lincoln schools in every town in the south or maybe not if "some" did the math and realized that he didn't issue the Emancipation Proclamation till 1863. Perhaps the northern armies were getting their butt handed to them from the beginning of the war and Lincoln needed more men for his army because a smaller army from the south had killed so many. Or maybe he needed to make France and England stop sending supplies and arms to a part of the country that had no industrial power. Read real history not this racist new made up stuff and look at the time line. NO changing the name of this school has to do with the same reasons two juries from Nashville within the last year all but gave a pass to 2 of the 4 murders of those two young people in Knoxville. Maybe it's because race cards have piled up 5 foot deep from one end of this country to the other. I always thought David Duke was a racist and not to be believed but with every passing day I realize he couldn't be a racist. He's the wrong color. Shame on you people. If you could see into Heaven Martin Luther King would be standing there with tears in his eyes.

By: Kosh III on 6/9/10 at 9:00

Supporting legitimate rights for a state is not treason, taking up arms against a legitimate government is treason.
You should read your sacred confederate constitution

"The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired."

The Confederate States may acquire new territory; ...., to form States to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress...."

Yet not one WORD about tariffs, overbearing federal actions or any of the other excuses that are usually given.
Slavery was the over-riding reason for the treason.

By: Kosh III on 6/9/10 at 9:02

Amy said:

"It had half a sentence about slavery at most. "

8 uses of "slave" or it's variants, in several passages. "Negro" is used twice.
That's more than half a sentence.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 9:10

They didn't take up arms against a legitimate government. That government took up arms and invaded them.

Money was the over riding reason for the Northern states to invade the Southern states.

Have you ever really contemplated the effects of the Morrill Tariff?
No, they didn't have to address the tariff in the constitution, it was left behind in the US.

Lincoln and his cronies could not allow those Southern ports to leave the union.

As for who mentions what, why did Lincoln never state slavery as a cause for the war?

Why did US General Grant keep owning slaves himself?

Can you explain why the revered Emancipation Proclaimation didn't free any slaves in areas that the Union controlled? Only in places where they couldn't enforce it.

By: popeye123 on 6/9/10 at 9:22

I think the cumberland river should be renamed the Rio Grande Grande. Nolensville road should be renamed Tijuana way. We already have Buena Vista pike so that's cool. The Titans should be renamed El Gordos. Preds should be renamed Hielo Gatos. Sounds should be renamed Sonidos. Musica Ciudad should take the place of Nashville. Antioch - Antioquía. I'm feeling the Spanish vibe here.

By: Roger Ramjet on 6/9/10 at 9:37

Try these, Kosh III --

"Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." ~ Declaration of Independence, 1776. The states of the South did not consent, obviously.

"Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people, that can, may revolutionize, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit. More than this, a majority of any portion of such people may revolutionize, putting down a minority, intermingled with, or near about them, who may oppose their movements." ~ Abraham Lincoln January 12 1848.

Treason? Not according to Lincoln.

The renaming of this school is absurd. Why not put Mr. Churchwell's name on the next new one? I grew up reading the Nashville Banner. Never heard of Churchwell. Maybe he should get a retroactive Pulitzer Prize as well? Or maybe we should re-name a few more schools? Like Overton High School, my alma mater. John Overton was a slave-owner, and dear friend of that Indian Murderer Andrew Jackson. Never mind that he was one of the founders of the City of Memphis, and that the school was built on a part of his old lands. The McGavock family were slave-owning plantation people. Hume and Fogg served in the Confederate Army. All those names gotta go!

To Popeye 123: Buena Vista was the site of an American victory in the Mexican War, during which future President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, performed heroically. He likely would have won the Medal of Honor if there had been one in those days. Rename that one too. Can't be offending our Hispanic Brethren, can we?

By: Kosh III on 6/9/10 at 9:41

"Buena Vista was the site of an American victory in the Mexican War, during which future President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, performed heroically."

You mean the war in which the US made up an excuse to attack Mexico so that the US could steal more territory from Mexico. Right. Real heroic. Real Christian.

By: Stonewall Jefferson on 6/9/10 at 9:49

Quote: "By: Kosh III on 6/9/10 at 8:55

"Ya'll can celebrate the treason of the Confederacy if you wish. It's a free country. Go ahead: celebrate the treason committed just so some humans could enslave others.
Read the CSA Constitution: it was all about slavery--and treason".

Thanks for showing your ignorance and stupidity!

"It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt". -Abraham Lincoln

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 9:56

Kosh, I don't say this to demote you but as a philosophical exercise.

What would you have us do now? Would you give back lands conquered from Mexico?

By: Stonewall Jefferson on 6/9/10 at 9:58

Quote: By: treefrogdk on 6/9/10 at 8:52

"dixie"? did he say "dixie"??

Yes, Dixie...with a capital "D". If you don't know what Dixie is then you don't belong here.

By: govskeptic on 6/9/10 at 10:02

So glad Mrs. Gentry found a cause she could vote "Yes" on since
she couldn't muster the courage to vote yes or no on the Custodian
issue! Both votes get the approval of our taxpayer supported Chamber
of Commerce.

By: Kosh III on 6/9/10 at 10:16

Well, it's a bit late don't you think. The egg has been broken, scrambled, fried and served.

However, if Texas really wishes to seceed, it can rejoin Mexico. It won't be missed. (humor alert)

By: Kosh III on 6/9/10 at 10:23

I wish this site allowed for edits, so I could just add this instead of making a separate post.

Amy, one thing that can be done is to teach accurate history about the event. Don't glorify the Mexican-American war and make it sound like a good thing. It was not. It was naked Imperialist aggression and the US was at fault. Just like the US was the aggressor in the War of 1812. Too bad we didn't learn our lesson from getting the crap kicked out of us in 1812.

So too, we cannot deny that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War. Were there other reasons? yes, there were economic reasons but they all flowed from the fact that the South was based on a slave economy.

So what if Grant was a sinful slave-owner? So was St Paul. Irrelevant.

By: oldhickorytony on 6/9/10 at 10:24

Congrats to the city of Nashville and the family of Robert Churchwell! It is in fact a new school with a new beginning and, appropriately enough, a new name.

It's my understanding, in respect for the former elementary school that used to be located there, it was renamed the Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary School on the Wharton Campus.

By: Stonewall Jefferson on 6/9/10 at 10:30

History lesson:

By: oldhickorytony on 6/9/10 at 10:45

Kosh... southerners, such as Amy and Stonewall, will always attempt to rewrite the history of the confederacy... they just can't help themselves... looking at the truth hurts way too much and has the potential of bringing about individual consciousness, change, and freedom...

By: Stonewall Jefferson on 6/9/10 at 11:09

To oldhickorytony: You and Kosh are the type of imbeciles that make us Southerners sick to our stomachs. You apparently have learned nothing about history. Maybe this will help:


A Brief Explanation of the Impact of the Morrill Tariff
By Mike Scruggs for the Tribune Papers

Most Americans believe the U. S. “Civil War” was over slavery. They have to an enormous degree been miseducated. The means and timing of handling the slavery issue were at issue, although not in the overly simplified moral sense that lives in postwar and modern propaganda. But had there been no Morrill Tariff there might never have been a war. The conflict that cost of the lives of 650,000 Union and Confederate soldiers and perhaps as many as 50,000 Southern civilians and impoverished many millions for generations might never have been.

A smoldering issue of unjust taxation that enriched Northern manufacturing states and exploited the agricultural South was fanned to a furious blaze in 1860. It was the Morrill Tariff that stirred the smoldering embers of regional mistrust and ignited the fires of Secession in the South. This precipitated a Northern reaction and call to arms that would engulf the nation in the flames of war for four years.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 11:17

Kosh, the truth is that there are MANY factors. They are almost totally economic.

What does renaming this school accomplish in regard to "teach accurate history "

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 11:21

old hickory Tony would do good to watch that video and consider it's points. It's only 3 minutes long.

Can he digest the parts between :15 and 1:00???

Or can he help himself?

By: Roger Ramjet on 6/9/10 at 11:23

So, Kosh III, you won't argue with Jefferson and Lincoln, even when they say the South had every right to try and form a new nation, and it wasn't treason? Good boy.

Now, I didn't comment on the virtues, or lack thereof, of the Mexican War. That's your own strawman. Jeff Davis performed heroic duty in the service of his country at a place called Buena Vista. That's a fact.

And to oldhickorytony -- there is no revisionism. The historic record is what it is. The coming of the war was complex, played out over decades, and can't be boiled down to merely evil southerners wanting to keep their slaves. Ever hear of the Corwin Amendment, the original 13th Amendment? If was proposed and approved by Congress in 1861, and supported by Lincoln. It would have guaranteed the preservation of slavery in every state where it currently existed. Forever. The states which had already seceded didn't want to come back, even with that guarantee. They wanted out. It was more than slavery. Look it up.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 11:25

H K Edgerton certainly has an opinion on the matter. Kosh and Tony will probably just call him stupid.

By: Loner on 6/9/10 at 12:20

Amy is a revisionist historian too? What a pity. The Confederate Constitution, contains the words "slaves", "slavery". "negro" and "African"...about eleven such references are made in this smoking cannon of Southern guilt. The war was all about white supremacy. Dirt poor, illiterate, white boys foolishly fought for their rich neighbor's god-given right to own African negro slaves. That was the sine qua non of the Confederacy.....shame on those who try to pervert the ugly facts. Amy, you disapponted me.

By: Kosh III on 6/9/10 at 12:26

Amy. Economic reasons? The South based it's economy on slavery, not on manufacturing or other factors.

By: Kosh III on 6/9/10 at 12:31

"By: Stonewall Jefferson on 6/9/10 at 12:09
To oldhickorytony: You and Kosh are the type of imbeciles that make us Southerners sick to our stomachs. You apparently have learned nothing about history"

Can;t argue merits so you use personal insults.

Yeah, my BA in History and a 2.91 gpa are just worthless aren't they? Guess I shouldn't taken that graduate course on Slavery and the Atlantic Slave Trade.

By: Loner on 6/9/10 at 12:33

"Confederate hero"? That is an oxymoron; that's like using the expression "Nazi hero"..

No, there was no glory in the Great Secession and its aftermath, just hate, death and agony.

The South took up arms against the United States of America; this was a clear case of state-sponsored terrorism. The Goal: to preserve white supremacy in the South. Not a very lofty casus belli in anyone's reasonable opinion.

The South is still largely in denial...Lincoln should have let the bigots go their own way.

By: Loner on 6/9/10 at 12:49

The headline on this article is actually a very subtle racist remark; the headline should have been about an unsung hero getting deserved public acclamation, this is not a boo-hoo sob story about the defrocking of a hero. Wharton was a terrorist, who thrived in the Jim Crow-KKK period.....good riddance to his legacy. Apparently, the Nashville City paper is still holding the torch for those much-maligned Confederate terrorists who fought and died to preserve white supremacy.

By: Stonewall Jefferson on 6/9/10 at 1:01

Kosh, Okay I'll re-word it. You have learned very little about history. What a waste your education is. Is that one of those "mail order" diplomas?. I sure wouldn't want you teaching history in our schools.

By: Kosh III on 6/9/10 at 1:08

It's from TSU. And a second degree in a different area.
Yeah, I'd teach the truth, something most folks can't tolerate.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/9/10 at 1:11

The aftermath of the confederacy was "reconstruction" and a further promotion of divisive behavior! Even Lincoln and Johnson warned of that. That has perpetuated things to where we are today, more than 150 years later, all of this is still going on.

We saw the same flaws years later with the measures put on Germany to punish them.

Tell me guys, why could the Northern states not have just left the Southern states alone.They could have done embargo and all other sorts of diplomatic things without ever firing a shot! And had the moral high ground. But no, that money was too much to give up.

Loner, if it was OK in 1861 to go invade your neighbor to the south in order to free some slaves, then why in 1991 was it not just as admirable for the US to free the people of Kuwait who asked for help when being oppressed by Iraq?

I don't believe military action was necessary in either case. In the former slavery would have gone away just as every other Euro/American country did.