LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Los Angeles school board has renamed David Starr Jordan High School to simply Jordan High School to remove its association with its namesake promoter of eugenics but retain an identity defined by students who include famous athletes and jazz musicians.
The vote this week followed a push by school and community leaders who told the board the school's legacy has been formed by the success of its alumni, the Los Angeles Times reported.
David Starr Jordan was the founding president of Stanford University and an advocate of the racist eugenics movement. Stanford's president and trustees this week approved removal of his name from campus spaces, among other measures.
The high school opened in LA's Watts area in 1923 and by the 1940s its student body was largely Black. It is now 82% Latino and 17% Black.
Its alumni included Olympians Hayes Sanders, Kevin Young and Florence Griffith Joyner, musicians Charles Mingus Jr., Chico Hamilton and Buddy Collette, and Nobel Prize-winning chemist Glenn Seaborg.
“Generations of community members have proudly graced our halls,” said Principal Lucia Cerda, who told the Board of Education that the name Jordan meant something to those who wanted to support “the Jordan they know and love.”
Alumni had discussed a name change for several years.
But until recently, “nobody ever really mentioned David Starr. It was always just Jordan High School,” said Michael Cummings, a 1981 graduate who is now pastor of We Care Outreach Ministry. He thought the name should “stay Jordan High for the memories, for the good times and people who went there for the education.”
Last summer, the school held a virtual town hall to take submissions for a new name and a committee agreed on five options that were voted on by students, staff and alumni.
The name Jordan High School received 58% of the 590 votes. Michelle Obama High School was second with 13%.
Jordan, a naturalist and ichthyologist, was president of Stanford from 1891 to 1913 and died in 1931.
Removal of his name from campus spaces and making efforts to more fully explain his history were recommended by a campus committee, according to Stanford News Service.
“Because of David Starr Jordan's prominence in the promotion of eugenics and significant involvement in the American eugenics movement during his tenure as the first president of Stanford University, we believe that continuing to honor him in locations where community members work or study will undermine Stanford's values,” the committee report said.