Behind the scenes of the article titled, “Sarah A. Gray: Principal of Hallowell School.”
Sarah A. Gray was one of two people that Parker-Gray School was named after. She was a remarkable woman who was educated as well as a talented pianist and an organist.
Due to the death of her father, William Gray and two lawsuits, Sarah started experiencing health issues. Her father, William Gray died in 1891.
Sarah filed two lawsuits against Reverend Robert H. Robinson’s son, Reverend Robert B. Robinson, for slander. The other lawsuit was against her stepmother and relative, Alfred Peters concerning her father’s estate. Due to these heavy burdens, Sarah died in 1893 – just two years after her father.
A detailed article is available in the Alexandria Times dated, September 9, 2021 on, “Sarah A. Gray: Principal of Hallowell School on pages 17 and 18 at
Over 70 years ago, Charles Hamilton Houston died from a heart attack. He was the godfather of the Civil Rights Movement. Attorney Houston knocked down one segregation case after another. He and a team of lawyers, which included his former student, Thurgood Marshall, worked on the Brown vs. Board of Education case. This case was based on segregation in the public school system.
Charles was the lead lawyer who took the case all the way to the Supreme Court; but he did not live to see the final Supreme Court decision. Charles Hamilton Houston died in 1950 and the Supreme Court decision on Brown vs. Board of Education was made in 1954 disbanding segregation in the school system.
Mr. Henry T. White was the first Principal of Parker-Gray School. His tenure as school principal was from 1920 – 1927. Then he stayed at Parker-Gray as a teacher from 1927 – 1934. The requirements had changed in Alexandria, Virginia for principals. Principals were required to have a Bachelor’s degree. Mr. White had a three-year teacher certificate from the Wayland Seminary in Washington, DC.
When Parker-Gray School first open in 1920, the school went from primary to eighth grade. Mr. White had a double role in Parker-Gray. He was the principal and he taught the seven and eight grades. His 1920-1921 students were:
Bell, Thomas age 13 – seventh grade
Bell, Margaret age 15 – eighth grade
Butler, Llewellyn age 13 – seventh grade
Byrd, Corrine age 13 – eighth grade
Carter, Ellen age 12 – seventh grade
Colbert, Ida age 15 – seventh grade
Contee, Elizabeth age 12 – seventh grade
Dixon, Rosena age 13 – seventh grade
Ellis, William age 13 – seventh grade
Gaddis, Rosier age 13 – seventh grade
Gaines, Anna age 15 – seventh grade
Gilliam, Ruth age 12 – seventh grade
Hill, Eva age 15 – seventh grade
Hopkins, Norris age 13 – seventh grade
Jones, Marie age 14 – seventh grade
Lewis, Gladys age 15 – eighth grade
Lucas, Charles age 12 – seventh grade
Lumpkins, Patrick H. Jr age 13 – eighth grade
Majors, Lucille age 15 – seventh grade
Martin, Willrowe age 15 – eighth grade
McGee, Edgar age 12 – seventh grade
Norton, Elbert age 15 – eighth grade
Parker, Nannie age 14 – seventh grade
Redd, James age 13 – seventh grade
Russell, Mildred age 14 – seventh grade
Shanklin, Samuel age 15 – seventh grade
Speaks, Esther age 12 – seventh grade
Stewart, Florence age 15 – eighth grade
Strange, Richard age 15 – seventh grade
Strange, Wallace age 12 – seventh grade
Turner, Ernest age 15 – seventh grade
Washington, Edmonia age 15 – seventh grade
White, Kathleen V age 13 – seventh grade
Whitmore, Eliza age 15 – seventh grade
Mr. James E. Henson, Sr., has been a very lucky man. His aunt Eleanor McGuire Massie left him her house at 607 South Pitt Street. James and his wife, Ardene moved in the house in 2007. This house stands on the original spot of the first colored public school, Snowden School for Boys (1870 – 1916).
James was born into a family that has made many historical achievements. His mother’s uncle was the famous Matthew Alexander Henson who was an explorer with Robert Peary to the Arctic and the North Pole. In addition, James’s great-great uncle was Josiah Henson, whose life was depicted in the famous book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
James’ paternal aunt, Alice McGuire married the famous John A. Seaton who was the first African American Alderman in Alexandria. The famous 19th Century preacher, Reverend Samuel W. Madden, married all the McGuire women, Alice, Blanche, Louisa, and Nannie. He was the pastor at Alfred Street Baptist Church.
James E. Henson, Esq., has made his own achievements. He is a retired attorney. He was the first African American lawyer to serve as assistant county solicitor of Howard County and deputy director for the Maryland Commission on Human Relations. He has taught business law at Morgan State University and at Howard Community College in Maryland. Prior to his law career, Mr. Henson served twenty years in the United States Air Force, retiring as a master sergeant.
Mr. Henson was born in Alexandria in 1936. He graduated from Parker-Gray High School in 1954. He is the former president of Alexandria’s Departmental Progressive Club. In addition, he is one of the founders and a former president of the Alumni Association of Parker-Gray School. He was a chairman of the Charles Houston Ad Hoc Naming/Narrative Committee and the Change Agents for Historic Alexandria book project. He coauthor, “African Americans of Alexandria, Virginia: Beacons of Light in the Twentieth Century.” To add on to his family’s achievements James E. Henson, Sr., became the 2019 Living Legend in Alexandria, Virginia.