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Ed Boley “had a way of bringing people together,” a former colleague said.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Carolyn Boley remembers the bullet holes that appeared in her husband’s office window.
It was the early 1970s, and Ed Boley was working to integrate Roanoke’s Patrick Henry High School — the city’s last holdout from desegregation. As principal of the school, he was in charge.
Violence was not uncommon then, but the gunfire scared Carolyn Boley.
“That was before cellphones,” she recalled this week. “If things got really tight, he would call me and tell me which way he was coming home. He would change his route periodically.”
Edward Boley died Monday from complications of cancer. He was 81.
Boley’s first job in Roanoke was as principal at Stonewall Jackson Junior High School in 1970, when he was 38.
He had been there only since July 1, but in August, the Roanoke City School Board transferred him to Patrick Henry after the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ordered a more balanced ratio of black and white students in the city.
Patrick Henry was the last school in the city to desegregate, more than 15 years after the landmark Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education.
In September, about 175 students were moved to the formerly all-white Patrick Henry from the all-black Lucy Addison High School. Lucy Addison transitioned to become a junior high school in the 1973-74 school year.
“He was really a people’s person,” said Doris Ennis, who worked as an English teacher under Boley and went on to serve in various roles in the city school system, including as a principal and administrator. “He right away just got in and rolled his sleeves up because he knew the task before him.”
Boley, who was white, came to Roanoke with his wife from Fredericksburg, where he went through that city’s first major integration as principal of a 900-student high school. Patrick Henry had 1,124 students when Boley was moved there.
A Sept. 2, 1970, Roanoke Times article ran under the headline “Integration Calm At Patrick Henry.”
“The mechanics of integration are easy,” Boley said then. “It’s the long pull that counts.”
“He had a way of bringing people together to sit out and start talking,” said Ennis, who is black. “What can we do, and what kind of model can we come up with as adults to let the students know that we are willing to work with them to make this work?”
To help ease racial tensions, Boley divided the school into four quadrants so the homecoming court had representation from all parts of the city.
In 1971, the Patrick Henry PTA established an “Outstanding Senior of the Year” award in recognition of Boley’s “leadership and concern for the students and faculty.”
In 1974, Boley took a job at the school system’s central office as supervisor of guidance. He said that he felt four years were enough as a principal of a municipal high school.
“The high school of today, the demands upon the principal, it’s almost a 24-hour-a-day job, six and seven days a week,” Boley told the newspaper then, saying integration was only part of it. “There is pressure now on the secondary principal; I suppose society as it is today has really produced this.”
Boley went on to serve as supervisor of guidance for the school system, but in 1982 was demoted back to a classroom position. Boley, then 50, along with several others, alleged age bias, but their complaints were dismissed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Boley went on to teach social studies at Breckinridge Junior High School. His wife said that was his passion anyway. He’d gone into administration for the money, she said, but “his love always remained for teaching.”
Carolyn Boley said her husband of 46 years had for most of the past three decades been secretly funding the award named in his honor, which provides scholarships to graduating seniors. She estimated he had provided several thousand dollars since the mid-1970s.
The Boleys had no children, but had five cherished dachshunds: Heidi 1, 2 and 3, Prince and Buster. Prince is buried with Boley.
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