Program Honors High School’s First Black Graduate

By Dorothy Davis

In the annals of Clarke County history is the name of a young African American female whose name is recognized by only a few individuals — Mary Patricia “Pat” Reynolds. In 1965 Pat was the first Black graduate of Clarke County High School, thus ending the long saga of segregation in local public schools.

The United States Supreme Court mandated in a 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education, that public schools in this country should desegregate at a deliberate speed. However, the state of Virginia chose not to follow the law, but instead established “Massive Resistance,” which prohibited integration in public schools. Massive Resistance was mandated by the governor of Virginia and local politicians, which meant the obstruction of the federal law. Today, students hear this and say, “What?”

Meanwhile, students such as Patricia who desired a better education than that received at Johnson-Williams High School applied to enroll in CCHS. She realized supplies, equipment, and curricula were superior at CCHS. It was normal for used books to be passed on to JWHS after five years of use at CCHS. Having knowledge of such inequities and desiring a better education, Pat spoke with her mother, Mrs. Thomasine Maxwell, about transferring to Clarke County High School. After long, in depth discussions, Mrs. Reynolds acquiesced and, with mixed feelings, agreed to support her daughter in this new endeavor.

Patricia was strong, mature, and focused. She received few negative interactions at her new school. However, there was much pushback toward her mother from various aspects in the community for allowing her daughter to enroll at CCHS. Patricia graduated successfully with her class in 1965!

The Clarke County Public School System was officially integrated in 1967 — thirteen years after the 1954 federal order.A commemoration in honor of Mary Patricia Reynolds, who 50 years ago was the first Black graduate of CCHS, is scheduled for Friday, April 19 at 2pm at Johnson Williams Middle School Auditorium. The program is coordinated by the Reynolds family, the Clarke County Board of Education, the Clarke County Education Foundation and JWMS eighth grade class.

Anyone interested in donating to the Mary P. Reynolds Memorial Scholarship may do so by mailing a check payable to the Clarke County Education Foundation to PO Box 1252, Berryville, VA 22611. Or, donate online