Middle School in Lawrence, Kansas Named for Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills

Picture is courtesy of Elyse Towey: Jennifer Attocknie, Native American Student Services coordinator address the Lawrence school board on why the name should be changed to Billy Mills Middle School.

Published February 28, 2018

LAWRENCE, KANSAS  – A Kansas school board has voted in favor of changing a school name to honor the gift of the land given by Haskell.

“Every Passion has Its Destiny,” Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota), left, winning the gold medal in the 10,000-meter race in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Photo courtesy of Billy Mills

The Lawrence, Kansas school district voted unanimously to change the name of South Middle school to Billy Mills Middle School to honor the past and present contributions of Native Americans to Lawrence history.

The land the school currently sits on was previously Haskell land given to the city. Billy Mills is an alumni of Haskell and the University of Kansas. Mills won a gold medal setting a world record in the 10,000 meter race in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan and still remains the only American male to win this race. 

“We need to be mindful that this is more than just changing a sign on the building. It has to be more than that for this to be successful,” Board President Shannon Kimball stated in reference to the efforts to educate the community about the gift of Haskell and Mr. Mills.

Jennifer Attocknie, the Lawrence Native American Student services coordinator talked about her feelings when the vote was being taken. “When I realized that the vote looked like it would go in favor of Billy Mills Middle School as the name, I was surprised and breathless, but very gratified that the hard work of Carole Cadue-Blackwood and others paid off,” said Attocknie.

Carole Cadue-Blackwood initially started the campaign to change the name over a year ago with a letter to the school board explaining her reasons why.  Some push back from the community was voiced in naming the school after a living person, others felt that the process for changing the name was not adequately done. 

Billy Mills has been an inspiration to many for decades.

The school board President Kimball responded, “this has been far less than a shining example of a good process. We don’t have a policy on re-naming a building. Our primary job besides hiring a superintendent is to adopt policy. We will be going through that exercise as a Policy Committee. We have to do that work, and I’m sorry we didn’t do it before we got to this point this evening.”

The “South” middle school name will be phased out according to the school board press release. 

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