A eulogy for my beloved West Charlotte High

Joshua Komer
·4 min read

Writing this is emotional. I knew the end was near, but I’m comforted by memories and tears. My beloved West Charlotte High School will be torn down next month. Decades of footsteps, laughter and sweat inhabit the buildings laid out like a college campus.

The school moved to its present location on Senior Drive in 1954. In the fall, students and staff will move to a new facility being built next door. I’m eulogizing steel and bricks — the soul of West Charlotte High, which will live in the new building too.

West Charlotte is one of the area’s oldest public schools. It was once heralded as a flagship institution. Change was inevitable and my alma mater went through phases. I graduated in 1966, on the cusp of change from segregation to integration.

As new high schools were built and attendance zones drawn, West Charlotte experienced a brain drain. Black principals transferred to other schools. Teachers were reassigned. Students moved to new attendance zones. The changes diluted the strength of our faculty and student talent pool.

My mind flickers high school highlights. Life was simpler, going to school was safer. I rode the city bus from the Biddleville-Five Points area and walked home after school with friends. There was no pressure from social media, no internet.

We were trained in the humanities and were confident that we could hold our own in college and the world. That was expected of us. The majority of the faculty held master’s degrees from northern universities. Blacks could not attend the University of North Carolina as undergraduates until 1955.

The West Charlotte sports program produced champions. Our Thespians and band were award-winning. The band performed in what was then known as the Carousel Parade, always near the end, before Santa’s float. Because when West Charlotte marched by, the crowd followed.

On April 30, 2022 the school hosted Lion Pride Day so alumni could see the school before it is demolished. My daughter Sommer lives in Washington, DC but her crew, friends since kindergarten, attended. I asked some her friends — all class of ‘99 — for their memories.

Christina said: “When people speak of West Charlotte you often hear the word “pride” — pride from the local community, as they lined Beatties Ford road to support the marching band during homecoming parades, from teachers as they provided a well-rounded view of education, from environmental science classes, to hosting Rosa Parks.... That’s what made West Charlotte great!”

Shara: “As a kid, I remember being awestruck when mom shared with me that Martin Luther King Jr. gave my Aunt Mill’s (class of 1936) commencement speech. So it was a full circle moment when Rosa Parks came to visit my sophomore year at West Charlotte. Given logistical constraints, only certain classes were invited — I wasn’t on the list. Deeply disappointed, Christina and I weighed the pros and cons of cutting class to sneak into the event. We had a substitute teacher that day and decided we’d take the risk. Best decision I ever made in my time at WC!”

Erin: “Goodness! What can I say about WC? It was legacy, family, community, everything. Learning with my friends I’d known since elementary school (and some from preschool) in a community my family had deep roots in was amazing. I learned valuable life lessons that I will never forget and attended the best football and basketball games ever!”

Ulonda: “For me, WC is special because of the pride that is felt by the generations of students that have walked through its halls. It’s the community created by being part of a legacy that started in 1938 and will continue into the future. Maybe other people feel this way about their high schools, maybe not. But I know when I’m at a football game and the crowd starts singing “We love West Charlotte, deep down in our hearts,” that love is real, because I feel it deep down in my heart.”

Graduates are rightly proud of West Charlotte. When my daughter attended law school in Durham, people knew about ‘WC.” When she moved to DC, people knew about WC. That’s Lion’s pride.

Dee Dee Murphy is a Charlotte native who attended West Charlotte High School from 1962-66 and was later active in the Charlotte arts community, including 30 years as Mint Museum docent. She now lives in C arrollton, Ga..

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