Chairman Sawyers Champions Historical Fact

36 seibel 12'tallEspecially for older African-Americans the scene had to be surreal. They must have thought to themselves, how is it that after long struggle here we are in 2016 listening to people stand up to defend the legacy of a segregationist who opposed integration of Virginia schools.  To defend naming of all things, a SCHOOL, after him.


Some people came to the School Board meeting on March 16 to complain about the lack of community input regarding the School Board’s recent unanimous vote to change the name of Mills E. Godwin, Jr. Middle School.  School board members acknowledged that issue as a valid concern and expressed their regret for having been so swept up in a solution that honored two men that they didn’t give more thought to it.  But that’s where the validity ended.  In yet another painful example of the ignorance and bigotry that has clouded this issue, speaker after speaker, almost all white, rose and attempted to rehabilitate the late Virginia Governor Mills E. Godwin’s legacy on school segregation.  Some probably only had a cursory knowledge of the history, but many really should have known better.


If they just wanted to maintain an existing school name for the sake of tradition or convenience it would have been one thing, but instead they tried to rationalize honoring Godwin.  In response, an African-American man spoke about the real harm caused by Godwin’s actions, and denying any animosity toward the late governor, urged others to simply be “real” about the facts.  It was to no avail as more speakers rose to peddle a sanitized version of history designed to soothe the conscience of those upset about the name change.


When the night was almost over, and after other school board members had had their say, which included an impassioned statement by Neabsco School Board representative Diane Raulston, Chairman Ryan Sawyers spoke forcefully on behalf of historical fact.


In response to those who had tried to rationalize their views by referring to Godwin’s later “change of heart,” about segregation, Sawyers emphasized what really happened.


The 24th amendment to the constitution eliminating the poll tax for federal elections, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, all occurred in the years Godwin was preparing to run for governor. African-Americans finally, truly, had the power to vote, and they registered in record numbers.  Godwin saw the need for African-American votes if he was to become governor and courted them out of necessity.  Yet, once elected, and not knowing he would be running later for a non-consecutive term that might require African-American votes, Godwin allowed massive resistance to continue in Virginia.  As Sawyers pointed out, it was effectively ended by Godwin’s successor, an opponent of massive resistance, A. Linwood Holton, Jr., the father of Virginia’s current Secretary of Education and father-in-law of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. Sawyers also pointed out that at the time the school was named it was an example of yet another way for southern conservatives to poke their finger in the eye of the federal government that had forced the states to accept civil rights reforms.


With more time, Sawyers could no doubt have gone on.  Godwin’s “change of heart” never included an apology.  But the hour was late and maybe Sawyers knew that historical facts just don’t matter to some people.


But rest assured that they matter to us, Chairman Sawyers, and we’re thankful for the courage of you and the other speakers who came down on the side of historical fact.


17 comments on “Chairman Sawyers Champions Historical Fact

  1. -

    I was shocked out how good Raulston’s remarks were. Normally she doesn’t make any sense but this time she was almost eloquent.

  2. -

    I feel sorry for the Godwin people that were caught by surprise in all this. But Sawyers is right about Godwin. The school was named after him in 1970 partly as part of the backlash against civil rights in Virginia. If you want to honor his real accomplishments then name a community college or a road that he helped fund. Naming a middle school after him should never have happened. It’s segregationist revenge.

  3. -

    “Anonymous” Raulston’s remarks might make more sense if you paid attention to them!

  4. -

    Mills E. Godwin won the governorship and then DID NOT end Virginia’s massive resistance to desegregation. His successor Linwood Holton did, saying “The era of defiance is behind us.” Godwin and the rest of the segregationists then bolted the Democratic Party and joined the Republican Party, who ostracized Holton for opposing bringing them in.

    Thank you Chairman Sawyers for recognizing the true historical heroes.

  5. -

    Godwin deserves to have a school named after him because “Governor Godwin was a man who navigated a dark period in our history,” and then became a governor as both a Democrat and a Republican that people could rally around. — Delegate Rich Anderson (R-51), March 16, 2016


    “Navigated a dark period in our history”!!!!

    Godwin “navigated” it by being one of the strongest supporters of “massive resistance” when it was politically advantageous to do so, harming the lives of thousands of black kids irrevocably. Then when federal laws enfranchised blacks he needed their votes to become governor and “navigated” by “moderating” his position, only to allow massive resistance to continue while he was governor. Then when the inevitable backlash to civil rights came he “navigated” it by bolting with other segregationists to join the Republican Party and one the governorship as a Republican.

    Delegate Rich Anderson should be ashamed of himself.

  6. -

    Anderson is the leader of the new massive resistance: he leads the republican effort in the state to suppress the vote, his targets are african americans whom he does not want to allow to vote. If Anderson was in the general assembly in the mid 1960s he would be the leader of massive resistance.

  7. -

    At a gathering of Republicans Rich Anderson supported the idea that only people who’ve been in the military should be allowed to vote. He tried to weasel out of it later of course.

  8. -

    You need to do a full separate post on Rich Anderson and the bull he tries to pull with black people. There’s tons of examples and no one ever calls him out on it.

  9. -

    Delegate Rich Anderson is the latest in a long line of white conservatives who try to paper over, downplay and rationalize the racism and bigotry of the past so they can keep winning the votes of today’s closet racists and bigots.

    [Editor’s Note: This was the most logical and polite of the comments along these lines that we have received and thus have been willing to post.]

  10. -

    You need to put up the video of Rich Anderson for people to see. He said that George Hampton was being unfairly criticized online. What he didn’t say is that he has close ties to the two bloggers that are doing it and could get them to stop and take down the offensive stuff any time. They’ve shot video for him and helped him and his wife Ruth Anderson on their campaigns.

  11. -

    I have never read so many wrong “factoids” in my life.

    Many of you don’t know when massive resistance was even over.

    Equal rights didn’t just happen. They evolved. There should be no schools named Roosevelt according to the logic seen here. Roosevelt imprisoned innocent American citizens in interment camps. He also kept a segregated military.

    Stripping a school of its name is just wrong.

  12. -

    Ya’ll are pathetic. Rich Anderson doesn’t have one racist bone in his body. It was Rich Anderson that presented a General Assembly resolution honoring the NAACP during its PWC Freedom Fund Banquet in 2014. He co-patroned the resolution with Del. Luke Torrian and Torrian didn’t even show up!!! And guess what… Harry Wiggins wasn’t there either!!!! Democrats, we gotta stop playin the race card so fast. Whenever you start losing an argument, you throw out the race card to see if it fits. SMH

  13. -

    @ anonymous “I have never read so many wrong . . . .”

    Your comments are a perfect example of the desperate, illogical and factually incorrect statements that make people think your objection to the name change is really about bigotry. Of course equal rights “evolved” but while many brave people were fighting for them, Godwin didn’t just stand on the sidelines, he became a leader of those fighting against civil rights for blacks. As for Roosevelt, yes as president he interned Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor, but he also led the country through the depression and through most of WWII, and if you knew anything about history you would know about Eleanor Roosevelt’s civil rights activism on behalf of blacks and the animosity it caused against the Roosevelt’s in the South. President Roosevelt died before WWII ended and Japanese-Americans ultimately got an apology and even some compensation. Mills Godwin lived for almost 30 years after his first term as governor and he not only never apologized for his role in massive resistance but even tried to rationalize it by saying it provided a cooling off period. The people and their descendants who he harmed were never compensated or apologized to.

  14. -

    @Strong Black Woman
    You’re the perfect Rich Anderson supporter! You think he must be okay because he showed up at an NAACP banquet with a boilerplate General Assembly resolution. Never mind that he’s been a supporter and leader of legislation that opposes the NAACP’s key voting right initiatives, that calls for a convention of the states which could roll back civil rights protections, that expands the right to discriminate, that opposes expanding Medicaid coverage for the poor, or that he’s used black people in his campaign literature without their permission. Never mind that Luke Torian and Harry Wiggins have fought hard on the correct side of these issues for years. No, no, Rich Anderson is better than them because he showed up one time to an NAACP banquet that they couldn’t make. Well I go to those too, and to NAACP meetings and to a bunch of similar events, and I’ve seen Luke Torian and Harry Wiggins a lot more than I’ve seen Rich Anderson, although I always know I’ll see Rich in an election year. Yes, yes, yes. You’re the perfect voter for Rich Anderson! He must love you!

  15. -

    Strong Black Woman’s comment might be both the funniest and saddest comment I’ve seen yet on this blog. Here’s a woman (assuming it really is a woman) who actually thinks that showing up at an NAACP banquet with a General Assembly resolution is more important than a representative’s opposition to almost all of the NAACP’s legislative priorities.

  16. -

    Rich Anderson is the Republicans go to delegate when they are looking to further suppress the vote he is a bigot who constantly tries to suppress the black vote. This past session Delegate Torian took him to school when Anderson tried further voter suppression. [Last sentence omitted.]

  17. -

    The really ugly thing about this is how two faced Rich Anderson. He says the attacks on George Hampton were unfair but helps fund the blogger who started it. He’s used him on his campaigns and hires him for video services. He keeps the guy in business.

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