Paul H. Cale and the Desegregation of Albemarle County Public Schools

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Paul H. Cale. Photo courtesy Paul H. Cale, Jr.

By Rev. Dr. Roy S. Thomas, III

In the multiplicity of news media reports about the renaming of the Paul H. Cale Elementary School, almost all reporters and individuals quoted have said that they did not know Mr. Cale.  

I knew him intimately. I was his neighbor and friend; we shared many meals and fished together. Several times I went with him to fish in the black waters of Chowan County, North Carolina, where he was raised; and I was Paul’s pastor from 1978 until his death in 1987.

To Paul, character was everything and education was paramount. Throughout his 38 years as a teacher, coach, principal, and superintendent for Albemarle County Public Schools, he declared:  “What you say teaches some, what you do teaches more, what you are teaches most.” He believed that character was the first prerequisite for a teacher.

First and foremost, Paul was an educator. His son and daughter were also teachers; two of his grandchildren are teachers; another grandchild is a principal. He served as president of the Virginia Association of School Administrators and as a member of the Committee on Raising the Level of Public Education in Virginia (whose final report about concrete ways to reduce the growing gap between the state’s best and worst public schools was called “a milestone in the history of Virginia’s public education”).

Paul led Albemarle County’s public schools through consolidation, integration, and the implementation of expanded curricula, programs, and services. What he did for Albemarle County schools is undeniable. Under his leadership as Superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools from 1947 to 1969:

  • The 52 schools he inherited (44 had no central heat, 42 had no indoor plumbing, none had a cafeteria, only one had a library, only one had a science lab) were consolidated into 18 fully equipped modern buildings.
  • The following schools were built:  Albemarle, Burley, Brownsville, Henley, Jack Jouett, Murray, Rose Hill, Stone Robinson, Woodbrook, and Yancey.

In 1969, Paul’s plan for a joint vocational technical education center–today’s Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC)—was approved by the school board.

Paul led a segregated county school system to full integration without a single school closure or major incident.

In addition, the following programs and services were begun under Paul’s leadership:

  • Special education
  • Driver training
  • Free and reduced-price lunches
  • Guidance counselors and a school psychologist
  • Head Start
  • Libraries and librarians in every school
  • Vocational training
  • Educational television (Albemarle was the first school system in Virginia to install a television translator)
  • Foreign exchange student program
  • Sex education
  • Night classes for adults

Paul led Albemarle County schools through the emotionally charged, crucial process of desegregation. He faced tremendous pressures to resist and prevent integration from the School Board, the Board of Supervisors, prominent citizens, and parents. The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center’s publication, Pride Overcomes Prejudice, summarizes the situation: “In the county [of Albemarle] political leaders were almost unanimously behind resistance [to school integration] in any form…leadership was divided between massive resistance and local option segregationists.”  Speaking at the dedication of the new Burley High School [for Negroes] on April 8, 1952, John S. Battle (Virginia’s governor from 1950 to 1954) declared:  “Segregation is a social arrangement for the betterment of relationships between different races living under a democracy as we see it.”  

Paul worked at the pleasure of and under the authority and supervision of the Albemarle County School Board and was required to carry out their policies and decisions, many of which promoted segregation. He had to navigate the troubled waters of lawsuits, state laws, and local ordinances and policies enacted against integration. For example:

On May 19, 1954, (two days after the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision declaring school segregation illegal), the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted to continue operating a segregated school system.

On September 23, 1954, the Albemarle County School Board officially resolved that “the integration of white and colored students in the public schools … is against the best interests and contrary to the wishes of the great majority of both the white and colored races, and … the compulsory attendance law should be amended to exempt from its operation any child whose parent or legal guardian objects to integration.” Board member and University of Virginia professor Dr. E. J. Oglesby would later say, “The county will not build schools for integrated purposes. Negroes know whites will not operate integrated schools.”

On April 14, 1955, the school board received formal communications from the parent teacher associations of McIntire and Meriwether Lewis schools stating they were “unalterably opposed to the integration of white and Negro children in Virginia’s schools.”

On June 23, 1955, the Virginia Board of Education announced its decision to “continue a policy of public school segregation throughout the state of Virginia.”

In the summer of 1956, the Virginia General Assembly passed Massive Resistance legislation to prevent school integration.

In September of 1958, Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. closed Charlottesville’s Lane High School and Venable Elementary School to prevent their court-ordered desegregation. “This futile struggle split…into warring factions.”

In 1959, the General Assembly passed new legislation authorizing the payment of tuition grants—popularly called “scholarships”—to children wishing to attend private schools (thereby circumventing integration).

In 1959, with the help of the state tuition grants, segregationists opened two private segregated schools in Charlottesville—Rock Hill Academy and Robert E. Lee Elementary School—for white students.

In their 1962 budget, the Albemarle County School Board and Board of Supervisors included $125,000 for tuition grants that white children could use to attend a private school if their school was integrated.

By 1965, the Albemarle County School Board had developed a “freedom of choice” policy (a form of “passive resistance to integration”) that allowed parents to choose the school their child attended. As Leon Dure, a retired southern newspaper editor living near Charlottesville, rationalized: “[We] do not feel the need for a law forbidding blacks and whites from association, but at the same time [we do]…not think governmental authority should be used to force interracial association.”

In a 1956 article in Commentary, James Rorty wrote that integration plans for Albemarle County schools had moved forward more slowly than those in Norfolk schools. By 1955, Norfolk (where military installations were already legally integrated) had detailed plans for the admission of Negroes to white schools. Rorty reported that in his interview with Mr. Cale, Paul had explained that the practical realities of and widespread opposition to desegregation in Albemarle County had necessitated a slower pace. Rorty’s paraphrases (presented as quotations in most media since October 2018) of Paul’s remarks are now being used to suggest that Paul H. Cale was a racist opposed to integration and thereby unworthy of having his name on a school. However, quite the opposite is true. Paul was not opposed to integration. He understood that in order to keep schools open during the extended battles over desegregation, integration had to move along a continuum of building trust among the factions (while waiting for more than a decade of lawsuits to be adjudicated in the courts).     

Consider what was happening in central Virginia and throughout the Commonwealth (that is, the formidable realities Paul was facing) when Mr. Rorty interviewed Superintendent Cale:

On January 9, 1956, Virginians voted 304,154 to 146,164 in a statewide referendum to call for a constitutional convention to amend the Commonwealth’s constitution to allow tuition grants to be paid by the state to private schools on behalf of children who refused to attend an integrated school.

On March 5, 1956, a constitutional convention of 40 delegates met in Richmond and unanimously amended Section 141 of the state constitution to legalize tuition grants to pupils attending private schools.

In July 1956, a mass meeting was held at Lane High School, attended by a reported 1,200 persons, to demonstrate their opposition to desegregation. Petitions opposing desegregation, signed by 8,736 people, were presented at this rally.  

In a special session of the Virginia legislature that began August 27, 1956, the forces of Harry F. Byrd passed Massive Resistance legislation that (1) created a state School Placement Board with the authority to handle all Virginia pupils’ school assignments and requests for transfers (thus, stripping the superintendent of his power to transfer students and integrate schools); (2) required the governor to close any school facing court-ordered integration; (3) cut off all state funds from any school district with an integrated school; (4) authorized the state to provide private-school tuition grants from public funds to parents in any district where the public schools were closed to prevent  desegregation; and (5) placed legal restrictions on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and created two joint committees to investigate the NAACP, which had been filing desegregation lawsuits in Virginia.

Now ponder Paul H. Cale’s actions and decisions on racial justice and desegregation during his years of service as Superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools 1947-1969:

The Norfolk School Board offered Paul their superintendent’s job (with a 20% increase in salary), which he declined. They would not have offered him this position if he had been a racist opposed to integration. Mr. Cale’s son, Paul H. Cale Jr., believes that his father felt that it was not right for him to leave Albemarle schools at this critical time of desegregation and dissension.

From the beginning, Paul prioritized addressing the inadequate facilities and programs in the Negro schools.  In his first school board meeting as superintendent in June 1947, he presented the deplorable condition of the Free Union colored school and asked permission to close the school and transfer the students. The board granted his request on the condition that the superintendent could “secure a station wagon or some other suitable means of transporting the approximate twelve students to the White Hall School.” Two months later, the school board authorized the superintendent to have running water put in the Crozet Negro school. 

Mr. Cale’s first major school improvement project was the construction of Burley High School. In his second month as superintendent (seven years before Brown v. Board of Education), the school board authorized negotiations to purchase land for a Negro high school in the Rose Hill district. In his article, Mr. Rorty admits: “In 1950, four years before the Supreme Court decision, Albemarle County had built a comprehensive high school for Negroes which had cost more per pupil than the white high school, and the county’s future building program embodied genuine equality for white and colored.”

In the 1951-52 school year, a training program for licensed practical nurses was begun at the new Burley High School (two years before it was implemented for white high school students). It allowed scores of African American women (and some men) to become credentialed nurses and work in hospitals that had been largely segregated.

After the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Paul led the school board to establish a Citizens Advisory Committee composed of black and white members chosen by the parent teacher associations of all schools, Negro and white.  Compare this to Virginia Governor Thomas E. Stanley’s decision to appoint an all-white, all-male state commission to address desegregation.

Lydia Hailstork, an African American teacher at Burley prior to desegregation, recalls:  “The county began integrated teachers meetings early, I mean before integration came. We began to meet with the White teachers, with the staff.”

Based on recommendations from “Negro leadership in the school system [when the integration of county schools began, Mr. Cale] … got the principals at the schools to set the tone to be color blind, to treat everybody as individuals.”

When the court ruled that Albemarle schools would have to be integrated in 1963, the school board banned all dances, parties, clubs, sports, and other extracurricular activities that would involve social contacts between black and white students. The chairman declared that the ban’s “enforcement would continue to keep down the number of Negro applicants through the years to come.” Paul stood firmly opposed to this policy. The Board of Supervisors eventually fired members of the school board, and the ban on sports and clubs was never implemented.

When Burley High School closed and all the students were transferred to Albemarle High School, Paul brought Zelda Murray, the respected African American secretary at Burley, to Albemarle High’s front desk so that she would be the first person the Burley students saw when they entered their new school.

Paul hired A. L. Scott, Burley’s last principal, as his Assistant Superintendent of Instruction.  

Mr. Scott, an African American, wrote a letter to the school board in 1975 in which he stated:  “This educator [Mr. Cale]…supervised the building of ten of its twenty schools, and piloted the educational enterprise from a dual to a unitary [integrated] system serving all the children of the County.  A school named in his honor is a fitting accolade to service rendered.”

Paul supported the efforts of Crozet Baptist Church (where I was pastor 1978-2005) to build relationships with black churches and the African American community. At special integrated worship services (rare in those days) that we sponsored, a number of African Americans would come over and greet Mr. Cale. They loved and respected him for what he had done for black and white children (and adults) in Albemarle County.  

One’s descendants can reflect an individual’s real character and influence. Paul’s grandchild is married to an African American. Another grandchild is principal of a Northern Virginia school with 43 nationalities in the student body.

Paul’s teachers knew his leadership and character best. In their bicentennial book, Development of Public Schools in Albemarle County from the Late 1700’s to 1976, the integrated Retired Teachers’ Association of the County of Albemarle remembered their superintendent this way: “He transformed a scattering of single teacher schools into … larger, more modern facilities … an educational system for today. He piloted the schools through the stormy history of the period of school desegregation.”

The Paul Cale I knew was no racist. He built relationships and trust within the white and black communities and mediated between the “massive resisters” and vocal black leaders to keep Albemarle County’s schools open when other schools were closed. He did not retire until the school system was fully integrated.   

Paul’s primary commitment was to the needs, best interests, and quality education of his students.  “He worked long hours to the detriment of his health in order to better the lives of everyone in his sphere.” It was his goal each year to visit every classroom in every school and give attention to children with special needs. He believed that “we are all God’s children.”  

When he retired, The Daily Progress editor wrote: “Mr. Cale somewhere found the time to improve the instruction, to widen the curriculum, and to turn out students above the average academically and good citizens as well. In addition, he handled with skill, tact and unending patience, the trying times of desegregation and then the federally-enforced integration of Albemarle schools…the county was also fortunate to have had so dedicated and competent a leader during a period of such stern challenge to public school superintendents throughout the South.”

The battle over desegregation was a (un)holy war. Segregationists believed that the mixing of the races violated the divine design. Integrationists and the courts demanded immediate desegregation.  Superintendent Cale stood in the divide between the INTEGRATION NEVER and INTEGRATION NOW camps. He built relationships with both sides and led Albemarle County public schools to full integration without a single school closure or major incident. 

In 2016 Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools renamed Rawls Byrd Elementary School that had been named after their long-time superintendent. Rawls Byrd was a vocal segregationist.  He said that he would “shut down the school before [he] saw a Negro attend a white school in Williamsburg-James City County.” Rawls Byrd visited the all-black faculty meeting at the African American Bruton Heights School and told them that if one of their students kept trying to attend one of the WJCC white schools, he would shut down Bruton Heights and fire all the teachers. He refused to shake hands with black students graduating from Bruton Heights. He told one African American student applying to a white school that if he did not rescind his request, he would never graduate and that his father would never find work in town again.  

Paul Cale was no Rawls Byrd. He was not a segregationist. He treated all students and staff with respect, and they respected him. Rawls Byrd had said that he would retire if his schools were ever forced to integrate, and he did. Mr. Cale led Albemarle schools through the stressful battles and realities of desegregation until they were finally and fully integrated—and remained as superintendent for two additional years.

Rosa Belle Moon Lee was a beloved African American teacher in Albemarle schools for many years.  Her husband, Otis Lee, was the first principal of Murray Elementary School and later worked with Paul in the ACPS central office. The Lee family so respected Paul that in Mrs. Lee’s obituary they included the fact that it was Mr. Cale who had hired her—first to teach at the all-black Yancey Elementary School and then to teach at the integrated Stone Robinson Elementary School after Albemarle County began desegregating the public schools. Prior to being hired by Mr. Cale, Mrs. Lee held a school cafeteria job in Richmond, Virginia.  

Also in 2016, Henrico County Public Schools renamed Harry F. Byrd Middle School that had been named after the former Virginia governor and United States senator who spearheaded the Massive Resistance movement against the integration of public schools. Byrd co-authored and engineered the Southern Manifesto, signed by 110 southern United States congressmen, promising to resist school integration “by all legal means” and pledging that the South would follow a policy of “massive resistance” to Brown. Harry Flood Byrd and his forces were primarily responsible for the Massive Resistance legislation passed by the Virginia legislature to maintain segregation in Virginia.

Paul Cale was no Harry Byrd. He fought to keep schools open, not close them! Paul was not a racist.  He did not lead Massive Resistance against desegregation. He led Albemarle schools through Massive Resistance to full integration.

Paul was one of the most widely respected and beloved persons I have ever known. I believe that Paul H. Cale is a most appropriate name for one of the county’s most diversified schools. The mission of Albemarle County schools is “to establish a community of learners and learning, through relationships, relevance and rigor, one student at a time.” Mr. Cale carried out that mission as a teacher, coach, principal, and superintendent in the Albemarle school system for 38 years. The core values of Albemarle schools are excellence, young people, community, and respect. Paul Cale embodied those values until his death.  I was with him the day he died.

Judge a man by his life and legacy and the content of his character—not by paraphrases in a 1956 magazine.

Epilogue

I am a Charlottesville native and a graduate of the University of Virginia. I was a student in Charlottesville public schools from 1955 to 1967 (the desegregation era I have been describing in this treatise) and am now a resident of Albemarle County. From 1978 to 2005, I was the pastor of Crozet Baptist Church. I was Paul Cale’s minister for nine years.

My motivation to begin this research was to defend the good name of Paul H. Cale (or to discover if he was someone other than the person I knew). In February of this year, I learned that Albemarle County Public Schools’ plan to hire an historian to research the Cale/desegregation years had been abandoned. Since then, I have devoted myself tirelessly to doing this research myself and now present to you my findings and interpretations.  

Know that I support the new school naming policy and the work of the name review committee. I will also support the final decision on the renaming of Cale Elementary. I just hope it will not be based on a false narrative. Personally, I oppose all forms of racism and social injustice—interpersonal, legal, structural, and systemic. The Paul Cale I knew did too.

Albemarle County lies in the shadow of the capital of the Confederacy. We still live with the emotive, racist scars of slavery, Civil War, Jim Crow, desegregation, and August 11-12, 2017 in Charlottesville, et cetera. The year 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship’s arrival at Jamestown in August 1619. We ignore this traumatic event at our own peril. As W.E.B. Dubois wrote in his 1903 work, The Souls of Black Folk, “The nation has not yet found peace from its sins; the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land. Whatever good may have come in these years of change, the shadow of a deep disappointment rests upon the Negro people.”

Feel free to contact me personally: Roy Thomas, 639 Big Oak Road, Charlottesville, VA 22903; e-mail:  [email protected]; home phone:  (434) 979-5932; cell:  (434) 989-2816. 

The Daily Progress, April 30, 1967.
The Daily Progress, October 16, 1968.
Development of Public Schools in Albemarle County from the Late 1700’s to 1976: A Bicentennial Project of the Retired Teachers Association of the County of Albemarle, 1976.
Albemarle County School Board Minutes, January 13, 1969, and August 11, 1969.
Ibid., December 14, 1967.
Ibid., August 13, 1953.
Ibid., February 17, 1969.
Ibid., December 14, 1967, and Joint Committee for the Control of the Jackson P. Burley High School Minute Book No. 3, March 8, 1962 and May 8, 1962.
Albemarle County School Board Minutes, March 10, 1966.
Lee, Otis. A History of Public Instruction in Albemarle County, Virginia, p. 24.
Albemarle County School Board Minutes, May 13, 1952.
Ibid., December 14, 1967.
Ibid., September 16, 1963.
Albemarle County School Board Minutes, May 13, 1965, and Joint Committee for the Control of the Jackson P. Burley High School Minute Book No. 3, June 15, 1965.
Joint Committee for the Control of the Jackson P. Burley High School Minute Book No. 1, December 6, 1955.
Gaston, Paul M., “1955-1962 Public School Desegregation: Charlottesville, Virginia,” Pride Overcomes Prejudice: A History of Charlottesville’s African American School, Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, p. 96.
Joint Committee for the Control of the Jackson P. Burley High School Minute Book No. 1, April 8, 1952.
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Minutes, May 19, 1954.
Albemarle County School Board Minutes, September 22, 1954.
Crowe, Dallas R. Desegregation of Charlottesville, Virginia Public Schools, 1954-1969: A Case Study, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1971, p. 80.
Albemarle County School Board Minutes, April 14, 1955.
Bryant, Florence C. One Story About School Desegregation, p. 18.
Thorndike, Joseph J. “The Sometimes Sordid Level of Race and Segregation: James J. Kilpatrick and the Virginia Campaign against Brown,” The Moderates’ Dilemma: Massive Resistance to School Desegregation in Virginia, University of Virginia Press, 1998, p. 63.
Moore, John Hammond, Albemarle: Jefferson’s County 1727-1976, Albemarle County Historical Society, 1976,
p. 435.
Lewis, Andrew B. “Emergency Mothers: Basement Schools and the Preservation of Public Education in Charlottesville,” The Moderates’ Dilemma: Massive Resistance to School Desegregation in Virginia, University of Virginia Press, 1998, p. 98.
Moore, John Hammond. Albemarle: Jefferson’s County 1727-1976, Albemarle County Historical Society, 1976,
p. 436.
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Minutes, May 2, 1962.
Daugherity, Brian J. Keep on Keeping On: The NAACP and the Implementation of Brown v. Board of Education in Virginia, University of Virginia Press, 2016, p. 118.
Hershman, James J., Jr. “Massive Resistance Meets Its Match: The Emergence of a Pro-Public School Majority,” The Moderates’ Dilemma: Massive Resistance to School Desegregation in Virginia, University of Virginia Press, 1998, p. 133.
Rorty, James. “Virginia’s Creeping Desegregation: Force of the Inevitable,” Commentary, 1956, p. 51.
Holton, Linwood. “A Former Governor’s Reflections on Massive Resistance in Virginia,” Washington and Lee Law Review, Volume 49, Issue 1 (1992). p. 18.
Pratt, Robert A. The Color of Their Skin: Education and Race in Richmond, Virginia 1954-89, University Press of Virginia, p. 6.
Crowe, Dallas R. Desegregation of Charlottesville, Virginia Public Schools, 1954-1969: A Case Study, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1971, p. 53.
Pratt, Robert A. The Color of Their Skin: Education and Race in Richmond, Virginia 1954-89, University Press of Virginia, pp. 6-7.
Letter written by Paul H. Cale Jr., December 7, 2018.
Albemarle County School Board Minutes, June 12, 1947.
Ibid., August 14, 1947.
Ibid., July 22, 1947.
Rorty, James. “Virginia’s Creeping Desegregation: Force of the Inevitable,” Commentary, 1956, p. 51.
Albemarle County School Board Minutes, May 12, 1949 and April 10, 1952, and Joint Committee for the Control of the Jackson P. Burley High School Minute Book No. 1, May 6, 1952.
The Daily Progress, March 30, 2019.
Albemarle County School Board Minutes, March 16, 1955.
Rorty, James. “Virginia’s Creeping Desegregation: Force of the Inevitable,” Commentary, 1956, p. 53.
Jefferson School Oral History Project, September 2004, p. 61.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 8, 1969.
Albemarle County School Board Minutes, July 12, 1962.
Ibid., July 1, 1963.
Conversation with Paul H. Cale Jr., February 2019. Paul Jr. participated in the sports programs at Albemarle High School during this time and vividly remembers his conversations with his father about the ban.
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Minutes, June 20, 1963.
Letter written by Paul H. Cale Jr., February 27, 2019.
Albemarle County School Board Minutes, June 10, 1968.
Letter written by A. L. Scott, July 25, 1975 [ATTACHED].
Development of Public Schools in Albemarle County from the Late 1700’s to 1976: A Bicentennial Project of the Retired Teachers Association of the County of Albemarle, Addendum, 1976.
Letter written by Suzanne Cale Wood (Paul Cale’s daughter), February 13, 2019.
The Daily Progress, October 16, 1968.
Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, August 2, 2016.
Ibid., April 20, 2016.
The Virginia Gazette, March 29, 2016.
The Daily Progress, Obituary for Rosa Belle Moon Lee, December 6, 2013.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 1, 2016.
Pratt, Robert A. The Color of Their Skin: Education and Race in Richmond, Virginia 1954-89, University Press of Virginia, p. 7.
The Daily Progress, February 17, 2019.
Leonard, Bill J. “American Racism, 1619-2019: Exorcism of this Demon Is Needed–Now,” Christian Ethics Today, Winter 2019, p. 20.

 

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