The Williamson County School board voted Thursday night and named the county’s two newest schools. After much discussion, the new schools are Jordan Elementary, named after former-slave-turned war hero Sgt. George Jordan, in Brentwood and Thompson’s Station K-8 in Thompson’s Station.
The naming of Thompson’s Station, at 2436 Critz Lane, took no time and less discussion. But naming Jordan Elementary at 9714 Split Log Road took a while, with much discussion, and passionate pleas. To the full house of students, parents and others in attendance, and to some of the board members, the choice was always an obvious and easy choice. Sgt. Jordan is the only person from Williamson County to ever earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.
For a name to be voted on, board members had to nominate a name and one needed to receive seven votes. For Brentwood, the options were Eastwood, Pleasant Hill, Split Log and Jordan. Jordan and Split Log were nominated and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mike Looney recommended Split Log.
Jordan received much support in the public speaking portion of the meeting from students, parents, members of the African American community, veterans and some of Jordan’s descendants. After discussion, the board voted 6 for Jordan and 5 for Split Log, after one vote. State law requires 7 votes for a name. After more discussion, the second vote went 7 for Jordan and 4 for Split Log.
“I am challenging all of us to do the hard thing here, and it is embarrassing that this is hard,” Annie McGraw, 8th District, said. “I can’t remember ever feeling so upset about something sitting here in this seat for two years, because this man deserves this honor.”
Jay Galbreath, 6th District, supported the name Split Log, saying “The process we went through in the committee meeting and getting all the community feedback and assessing all the names resulted in very much of an almost unanimous consensus of Split Log as the name.”
He cited board policy, also, in his opposition to the name of Jordan:
“Our policy is that we don’t name schools after people and in this case I think it is appropriate, while the story is touching and he is obviously a great hero to this country.”
The specific policy, however, states only that “naming buildings after individuals is discouraged,” not prohibited.
Johnson Elementary, also, is named after a person, Charles Johnson.
McGraw, 8th District, spoke passionately on behalf of the name Jordan:
“Frankly, I think reasons we are talking about now is why we should name the school after Sgt. Jordan. For the better part of the history in this county, he has been largely ignored and forgotten. To be blunt, if he had been white, half of the buildings in this county would probably already be named after him. I think it would mean a lot to a lot of people to do this, and guarantee he is recognized and remembered by students for generations who will wonder why their school is named after him and learn about him. I think it is a crazy practice to deny somebody a simple honor of a school being named after him when history decided he had previously not been worth such an honor and I think we have an opportunity here to right a wrong. Most of us didn’t even know of his existence before this process. Yes it would be easy to name this after Split Log, it is not controversial, would be easy, but we are not here to always do the easy thing. and I think this man deserves a very simple honor of naming a school. I can promise you it is not easy to live in this county as a minority, and this will show them that and those students that they are recognized and seen and important.”
Sergeant George Jordan was born a slave in Williamson County in the 1840s. After being emancipated, he joined the army and rose to sergeant, eventually earning the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest possible honor a soldier can receive. He is the only person ever from Williamson County to receive the honor.
Several of Jordan’s descendants spoke in the public hearing before the actual meeting started, as well as members of the African American Heritage Society in Williamson County. Also, several student members of the Student Diversity Council spoke in support of the choice, and several parents.
“This a certified hero,” Harvey Chrisman, a veteran and former Commander of the Franklin 215 American Legion, said. “He put his life at risk, to save others, that is what it as about. Step up, be the hero just like he was, sacrifice and think about someone else, let these kids know that courage, commitment and sacrifice to your fellow human is what it is all about.”
For the vote on naming the new Thompson’s Station’s Elementary school, the name Thompson’s Station K-8 was the only name nominated.