Ceremony planned at Parole school renamed in honor of late educator

August 19, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Students who return to classes at the newly renamed Walter S. Mills-Parole Elementary on Aug. 29 will learn about the man for whom their school was rechristened and make plans for a ceremony in his honor.

Charles D. Bowers, the school's principal, said he is already making plans for a celebration in late September or early October.

"I want to involve the children, and we'll need to rehearse," Mr. Bowers said.

School maintenance workers are figuring out how to change the sign of brushed aluminum letters now on the school and say they'll do "everything humanly possible" to get the new name up before the celebration.

Mr. Mills died in July at age 85, but the legacy he left the Parole community, and the state with his fight for equal pay for black educators, lingers.

"Walter Mills exhibited integrity, intelligence and persistency, and if those students who go through the doors of Parole learn and leave with those principles intact they'll be great citizens," said Carl O. Snowden, an Annapolis alderman from Ward 4 who lobbied in favor of the name change.

Mr. Mills' widow, Irene, attended the school board meeting Wednesday where the name change was approved.

"I saw him leave daily to work for others. He didn't work for himself," Mrs. Mills told the board.

"I'm thankful you were able to waive the policy," she said, referring to a rule that a building cannot be named for someone unless he or she has been dead for three years.

"It was noble. Remember, policies can be changed -- they're man-made. It's all in our feelings and how we feel," Mrs. Mills said.

Mr. Mills was born and reared on a farm his parents owned in St. Mary's County, and received his early education in a one-room schoolhouse. With degrees from Bowie High and Normal School and the Hampton Institute in Virginia, he began teaching in St. Mary's County in 1929.

After a brief stint in Charles County, he started at Parole, and spent 46 years there, including 20 as principal.

In 1941, he established the Parole Health Center on Drew Street in Annapolis, which is still operating.

Mr. Mills' other lasting contribution began in 1939 when he decided with to sue the county school board because white school principals received $1,800 a year, compared with $1,050 that he and other black principals earned. With Thurgood Marshall as his attorney, he won equal pay for black teachers and administrators.

"Principals come and go, but he stayed in one community for 46 years and gave over half his life to making sure that the children there got off to a good start," said Howard Hall, a former assistant superintendent and longtime friend of Mr. Mills who was the first to suggest the name change.

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