Mayor Justin Wilson, right, gives an elbow bump greeting to Julian “Butch” Haley Jr, chairman of the Alexandria African American Hall of Fame, following the presentation of a proclamation commemorating the 100th anniversary of Parker-Gray School Oct. 24 at Charles Houston Recreation Center.
Photo by Janet Barnett/Gazette Packet
The 100th anniversary of the founding of Parker-Gray School, for decades the lone place of education for Alexandria’s African American community, was celebrated Oct. 24 with the dedication of a brick Memorial Walkway on the grounds of its original site at the Charles Houston Recreation Center.
“This project is so much more than just the number of bricks laid on the walkway,” said Julian “Butch” Haley Jr., chairman of the Alexandria African American Hall of Fame and sponsor of the walkway project. “It is a strong historical legacy that will benefit visitors, community and future generations to come.”
In addition to Haley, speakers at the dedication included Mayor Justin Wilson, Parker-Gray High School graduate and student body president Eugene Thompson, ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings Jr. and Bonnie Bracey Sutton, whose father taught woodworking, electrical shop and bricklaying at Parker-Gray.
“Today feels wonderful and exciting,” said Sutton. “People say you can’t be a hero in your own area but the legacy of Parker-Gray and this walkway proves otherwise.”
The original Parker-Gray School opened in September of 1920 for grades one through eight. The school was named for John Parker, principal of the Snowden School for Boys, and Sarah Gray, principal of the Hallowell School for Girls. The Snowden and Hallowell schools were among the early schools established in the 1870s for African Americans after the Civil War.
Parker-Gray’s first four-year high school class graduated in 1936. The increased enrollment created a need for a larger school and in 1950 Parker-Gray High School moved to a new building at 1207 Madison St. The old school on Wythe Street was then re-named Charles Houston Elementary School in honor of the famed NAACP lawyer.
With the integration of Alexandria’s high schools in 1964, Parker-Gray High School was phased out with its last class graduating in 1965. Parker-Gray became a middle school and operated as such from 1965 until 1979 when it was torn down and replaced with the Charles Houston Recreation Center.
“I remember the strong, positive atmosphere in the school,” said Dr. Mary Alice Hatwood Futrell, a former business education teacher at Parker-Gray. “Academically, culturally and socially with teachers dedicated and well prepared to ensure that students received a quality education.”
Phase II of the Parker-Gray Memorial Brick Walkway is underway with completion scheduled for spring of 2021. Bricks can be purchased online at http://www.alexandriaafricanamericanhalloffame.org/ or by calling Butch Haley at 571-217-9951.
“This is a special day, one that is long overdue,” Haley said. “This represents 100 years of history in the making for the African American community in Alexandria.”