Decatur schools names headquarters after activist, former mayor

Decatur’s school board approved renaming City Schools Decatur’s central office the M. Elizabeth Wilson School Support Center, after the city’s first woman and, to date, only African-American mayor.

The board also approved naming the district’s new school the Talley Street Upper Elementary School while renaming the 4/5 Academy at Fifth Avenue the Fifth Avenue Upper Elementary School.

Next year CSD is dividing its elementary facilities into five K-2 or “lower elementary” schools and the two 3-5 upper elementary schools. Talley Street is scheduled to open in August 2019, with current Clairemont Elementary Principal Billy Heaton recently named as Talley’s first-ever principal.

The central office occupies the site where the Herring Street School stood from 1913 to the early 1950s, followed by the Beacon Elementary and Trinity High Schools. All three were black-only schools. Wilson moved to the Beacon Hill section of Decatur as an 18-year-old in 1949, and became mayor nearly a half century later. Wilson, who still lives in South Decatur, was also instrumental in desegregating Decatur’s school system. Her late son Richard Wilson was Decatur High’s first African American athlete on the 1965-66 basketball team.

Courtney Burnett, CSD’s Director of Community and Government Relations, said that a dedication ceremony is planned for sometime in early 2019 when the weather warms up.

Meantime, there were 139 community submissions for naming the new school, with suggestions ranging from East Decatur Upper Elementary to Beacon, to Barack Obama to Eddie Fowlkes (longtime Decatur baseball/cross country coach and school historian). But the overwhelming choice—62 of those submissions or 45 percent—favored some variation of Talley Street.