Waukegan middle school renamed for late Congressman John Lewis

With the support of five of its seven board members, Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Waukegan will be renamed John Lewis Middle School, effective July 1st.

The other major contending name under consideration at Tuesday's Waukegan School Board meeting was "Barack and Michelle Obama Middle School," which had the support of two board members. Several members of the public spoke passionately at Tuesday night's board meeting in favor of the Obamas, but their voices failed to convince the board.

"I think [Obama] was a great president and he did things to move us forward," said Waukegan School Board President Brandon Ewing on Tuesday. "But just like we're having the discussion about Thomas Jefferson, all men are flawed and nobody's legacies are perfect. I think we have a responsibility to listen to all constituents and weigh that in whatever decision we make."

In the weeks leading up to the vote, an outspoken local contingent launched a public campaign against renaming the school after the Obamas on account of the former president's track record on deportations -- the group repeatedly referred to Obama as the "deporter-in-chief."


On Tuesday night, those efforts seemed to have paid off. The five board members who voted in favor of naming the building after John Lewis pointed to the late Georgia congressman's involvement in the March on Washington and his impact on the civil rights movement.

The school board also voted to change the name of Daniel Webster Middle School to Edith Smith Middle School. Smith fought to desegregate Waukegan Schools during her lifetime. Both name changes go into effect July 1st.