Jacksonville High School Will Get a New Name

The high school previously known as Nathan Bedford Forrest High School will receive a new name, as yet undetermined.

The local school board voted to approve the name change after an online petition gathered over 160,000 signatures supporting the change.

In 1959, when the school first opened, the students voted to name the school Valhalla High School, but at a meeting the local United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter was somehow able to prevail and stick a middle finger into the face of the Civil Rights Movement by naming the school Nathan Bedford Forrest High School after the confederate general, prewar slave trader, and postwar grand wizard of the KKK.

It would be nice if the original name the students in 1959 wanted will now be the new name of the school.

Which name would you like to see?


  1. The arguments about General Forrest will continue, which in general I would contend is something of an indication of a positive exercise of free speech rights in a civilized nation. Of a greater issue IMHO is the question of just what was the objective/agenda of the UDC in diligently campaigning in 1958 to name the new high school. Even, was the UDC being employed as a front by group(s) with a more direct socio/political agenda?

    Is there reliable evidence to indicate that such was deliberately in response, in particular, to the Brown v. Bd of Ed, ruling in 1954? Probably, IMHO. I’d be interested in studying an account of that.

    Is there reliable evidence to indicate that such was significantly motivated by more general heritage considerations, particularly with the approach of the Civil War Centennial? Less likely, IMHO.

    What were the political leanings of the members of the Jacksonville Board of Education in 1958? What political, social, even financial pressures might have been brought to bear on them?

    Isn’t Valhalla a physical section of Jacksonville, perhaps a community that was absorbed as the city expanded? My quick internet search turned up a novel set in Jacksonville in 1868 entitled, “Road to Valhalla.” Seems to me that naming the school Valhalla HS would acknowledge a sense of traditional, historical place that includes ALL who have made their homes there in the past, who live there now, and will do so in the future.

    1. From what I’ve seen, the evidence remaining is circumstantial, but in my opinion it is compelling. The football team’s jerseys had already been ordered in orange and white, the original colors picked by the students, their nickname was to be the Vikings, and then all of a sudden it became Nathan Bedford Forrest High, with their nickname being the Rebels, and their colors being red and gray. Oh, and it was an all-white school–five years AFTER Brown v. Board of Education.

      Valhalla doesn’t appear to be a section of Jacksonville.

      1. BorderRuffian · · Reply

        “The football team’s jerseys had already been ordered in orange and white, the original colors picked by the students, their nickname was to be the Vikings, and then all of a sudden it became Nathan Bedford Forrest High.”
        -from ‘Susan Wittenberg Case’ account (whoever that is)

        This entry indicates that the school was named after Forrest before it opened – after many names were suggested (by several organizations) and many ballots taken…and was never officially named ‘Valhalla’ (this name is not mentioned in the article). Who would order jerseys while the name was still being debated?

        “Prior to the school’s opening in 1959, many Jacksonville organizations suggested names for the new school, to be voted on at a school board meeting. After many ballots, “Nathan Bedford Forrest High School,” suggested by the Daughters of the Confederacy, won.”


        1. Ms. Case was part of the student body who voted on the name in 1959. She was there when it all went down.

          The name “Valhalla” was certainly mentioned in the article I linked. The football team voted on the nickname “Vikings” and the student body voted on the name “Vahalla Junior/Senior High School.” This was apparently thought to be a done deal, and whoever was responsible for ordering the uniforms ordered them. Also, the school logo was designed and printed, and signs were made and were being installed. While the wikipedia article is generally fairly accurate, they leave out the fuller story as seen in the article and the quotes from Ms. Case and from the Superintendent of Schools.

  2. NDL High School (Name to be Determined Later)

    1. What, Ray? No “Cop-out High?” 🙂

  3. Thanks for this account. In all the news stories and discussions about the name of the school, I hadn’t read that the students themselves had already selected a name.

    As for Bryant’s question about the connection between Brown v. Board and the naming of the school, there are a number of cases where the temporal connection seems obvious. The best-known case in Texas is that of the former Simkins Hall at the University of Texas in Austin. Simkins was a long-time law school faculty member int he late 19th and early 20th centuries who frequently used his position at the university to advocate for the Ku Klux Klan, and to proudly reminisce about his time as a Klan leader in Florida during Reconstruction. Simkins was something of a legend on campus back in the day, but the school waited nearly thirty years after his death to name a building in his honor — and then suddenly did so just weeks after Brown v. Board. That might still have been coincidence, were it not for the fact that in the early 1950s UT was still seething over an earlier decision, Sweatt v. Painter (1950), in which a unanimous Supreme Court had rejected Texas’ refusal to admit an African American man, Heman Marion Sweatt, to the University of Texas School of Law on the grounds that there was no other public law school in the state of similar caliber open to African Americans. These things don’t happen in a vaccuum.

    1. Thanks, Andy. Absolutely right, these things don’t happen in a vacuum.

  4. John Lindsay · · Reply

    I’ve only spent five minutes on this so it is kind of rough, but might I propose Very Apologetic Legacies Hate Ancestral Loathsome Lynching Activities High School, or VALHALLA High for short.

    1. I saw your follow-up and took the liberty of including your correction in your original post.

      Do the facts that:
      1. The original students voted for Valhalla High after no one seems to have proposed naming it after a confederate; and
      2. The current student body is 54% African-American

      have any effect on your suggestion?

  5. Ann Kunkle-Jones · · Reply

    I like the nod to the original students decision based upon a vote!

  6. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    There is already a REL HS, a Sojourner Truth HS and a William Raines HS (named for a prominent black educator in the 1940s). MLK obviously comes to mind. Famous Jacksonsville residents include Bob Hayes, Pat Boone, Abraham Lincoln Lewis (founded the Afro-American Life Insurance Co. in Jacksonville in 1901) and Elizabeth Edwards. Any of those, however, would probably result in more bickering. I like the Valhalla Vikings. Did you know, BTW, that prior to its opening in 1958, the site of NBD HS was the site of the JEB Stuart Middle School? I think that may have had more influence on the UDC’s push to name it for another Confederate than Brown v. Board of Education.

    1. I think you mean NBF High School, and it opened in 1959. There is prep school in Jacksonville named for Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War. JEB Stuart Middle School exists today, so either they moved or it was not at that site.

  7. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    Yes, NBF. Bad typing. The first NBF on Wesconnett Blvd. opened in 1959 but moved into a new facility on Firestone Road in 1966, most likely due to overcrowding. Only 6 years old at the time, it seems likely that the first NBF was remodeled and is now the JEB Stuart Middle School. Looking at the photos on their website, it’s hard to tell how much is new construction and how much remains of the old building. I simply have to drink more coffee before going on line. LOL

  8. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    According to an article in the Jacksonville “Times-Union” today, the name will be changed to Westside High School to take effect for the 2014-2015 school year. The writer also notes that a number of area residents opposed the change based on history/tradition/whatever.

    1. More to come on the name.

  9. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    Here’s another really good piece that details the Board of Education’s decision to name the school “NBF High School” back in 1959. It’s worth a read.


    Thanks to James Taylor in Greensboro, North Carolina for find this reference.

    1. I combined your two submissions, Bob. It’s a little more efficient that way. I found this article about 30 minutes ago. It’s a good one.

  10. […] There’s been quite a discussion about the decision to change the name of a high school. Fans of Nathan Bedford Forrest found themselves on the losing end of this one. […]

  11. R. Hanson · · Reply

    My cousin was the first class at NBF and he was telling me they got to vote between the names Valhalla and Forrest. They voted for Forrest. Neither name was pushed on them.

    1. Thanks for your comment. The records indicate your cousin’s memory is off. Forrest wasn’t one of the choices, and the students voted for Valhalla. It appears that over the years your cousin’s memory confused what happened. That’s very common and why we don’t rely solely on what people remember.

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