Mary Mackey, Shirley Billups, Edith Turner, Raymond Willis, Carroll Jackson and Gaylen Davis, from left, all of Mathews, look over a collection of old photographs and newspaper clippings of Thomas Hunter School on display at Monday’s Founder’s Day program. Photo by Charlie Koenig
It started out as little more than idle curiosity.
It culminated on Monday evening in a community celebration, as residents young and old, black and white, filled Thomas Hunter Middle School’s multi-purpose room to learn something about Thomas Hunter, the man, as well as the story of the school that bears his name.
“Founder’s Day: A Celebration of Thomas Hunter and Thomas Hunter School” examined the life of Hunter, a Mathews County man born into slavery in the early 1800s. Although forbidden to read or write himself, Hunter’s name has become synonymous with a legacy of academic excellence that continues to this day.
When Laurel Byrd interviewed for the position of assistant principal, even though she is from Gloucester and had taught in Mathews schools for years, she realized that she was totally unfamiliar with the person for whom the middle school was named.
“If they ask who Thomas Hunter is, I’m up a creek,” she thought. Fortunately for her, they didn’t ask. A couple years later, when Byrd became principal upon the retirement of Mike Comer, the new assistant principal, Amy Hauser, had the same question.