Community members and county officials recently gathered to honor local desegregation hero Dr. Calvin C. Green.
Green was the leading force behind the historic Supreme Court case Green v. County School Board of New Kent, which effectively integrated county schools and called for a change across the country 14 years after the Brown v. the Board of Education Supreme Court ruling.
Despite the Brown ruling, the Supreme Court didn’t define the school desegregation process or give schools a timeline to integrate.
In New Kent County, George W. Watkins Elementary School served as the black school, while the now-historic landmark New Kent School was the white school. About 15 percent of the county’s black students used a program called “Freedom of Choice” to attend the white school.
It was 1965 when Green, a New Kent resident, president of the county NAACP and parent of three sons in public school, decided to rally the community to make a change. He collected more than 500 signatures from residents and families on a petition asking the School Board to better integrate schools.
When the board refused to accept the petition, citing the Freedom of Choice plan, Green sued.
On May 27, 1968, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled New Kent’s Freedom of Choice plan was insufficient, that it did not effectively integrate schools and made it the duty of local School Boards to eliminate segregation.
The case marked its 50th anniversary with a number of commemorative events in May and June.
A plaque honoring Green and the historic case was unveiled at New Kent High School at a small ceremony Thursday night.
Members of the Green v. New Kent commemorative committee, Superintendent David Myers, county Administrator Rodney Hathaway, supervisors Patricia Paige and Ron Stiers and Sheriff Joe McLaughlin Jr. were in attendance.
About 75 community members, Green’s wife Mary and two of his sons, Anthony and Charles, gathered to honor and remember the local leader.
A short documentary by Jody Allen and Brian Daughterity on Green and the case was shown after opening remarks.
Allen stepped up after the short film and said it is not the final documentary and they are working on finishing it to be an hour long.
“We will be back to premiere it in the county, don’t you worry,” Allen said.
Those in attendance applauded and took pictures while the plaque was unveiled by Green’s sons and wife.
Green’s youngest son, Charles, who the case was named after, stepped up to say a few words on behalf of his father, who died in 2011.
“This is not just about my father Dr. Green. As I’ve mentioned he was a very humble man,” Green said. “He never spoke about the case, he just went back to work. We need to make sure desegregation comes back; it’s starting to make its way back. Three ways to make sure this doesn’t happen is visit the schools, volunteer and vote.”
Myers said that as long as he’s superintendent, students will know about the case and how Green changed the lives of so many people.
Larry Woodson, who entered New Kent High as a Freedom of Choice student and is on the commemorative committee, came up with the idea of an honorary plaque and said it has been a year in the making.
“This is long overdue,” Woodson said. “I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for Dr. Green. This will be here for generations and will always honor this great man.”
Green’s son, Anthony, said if his dad were here he would be pleased, but very humble about it.
“He’d try to get the attention off of himself and more on the case,” Green said. “It wasn’t about him. He did it all for others, for the children in this county and across the country.”
The commemorative committee revealed they continue to plan events honoring Dr. Green and the case, including an annual golf tournament that will premiere April 13.
Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, firstname.lastname@example.org or @ashleyrluck on Twitter