Hampton University
The George P. Phenix High School Alumni Association to host 155th Anniversary Memorial, Wed. Sept. 25
09/16/2019 - #48

HAMPTON, Va. (Sept. 16, 2019) – On Wednesday, September 25th the George P. Phenix High School Alumni Association will host a Memorial Wreath Laying Program to honor Dr. George P. Phenix. The program will take place at noon at his gravesite on the campus of Hampton University. Dr. George P. Phenix was born on September 25, 1864. The memorial service will mark the 155th Anniversary of his birth and celebrate how his life and accomplishments still have a lasting impact on Hampton University and the public educational system in Hampton. The event is open to all that attended a Phenix School and the general public is welcome to attend.

Dr. George Perley Phenix was born in Maine in 1864. He graduated from Colby College with a Doctor of Science degree and became a principal of the State Normal School at Willimantic, Connecticut. He moved to present day Hampton, Virginia in 1904 to teach at today’s Hampton University. His exemplary service at the Institute earned him immediate notice and promotion. In 1908 he rose to the position of Vice-principal. He further earned the responsibility of overseeing the Institute's summer-school program. In 1928, Phenix succeeded Dr. James Gregg as principal of Hampton Institute. Dr. Phenix was the first to use the term president. During the later years of his life, he tirelessly campaigned before the Virginia State Board of Education in an attempt to encourage them to construct a modern facility for the Negro youth in the county. He was successful and in 1930 construction started on the new school on campus. Unfortunately, Dr. Phenix drowned from a swimming incident before construction was completed. After many months of construction delays, the Phenix School opened the week after Thanksgiving in 1931. The school was named in his honor as the George P. Phenix Training School.
The new school was a three story building that housed grammar and high school students. When the school opened in 1931, the students were transferred from Whittier Elementary and Union High School. The new school was intended to be a “teaching laboratory” for college students. The Hampton Institute students were required to teach as student teachers at the school to earn their degree. After the U. S. Supreme Court struck down the separate but equal segregation laws with Brown vs Board of Education in 1954, black citizens urged the city to build a new high school for black children. Hampton Institute forced the issue to the forefront when it refused to allow the Hampton School Board to renew the lease to use the Phenix School building. An agreement was structured to allow the construction of a new high school on LaSalle Avenue to be named the George P. Phenix High School. It cost $1.5 million to build the school and the first students moved in during the fall of 1962. The Phenix School building on campus was renamed Phenix Hall. Despite Brown vs the Board of Education, the new Phenix High School was still predominately black.  Finally in 1967, the Hampton School Board decided to fully integrate all public schools. A resolution was approved that no high school could be named after a person and that all high schools would be named after the district that it was located in. The name of Phenix High School would be changed to Pembroke High School. After Pembroke High School closed in 1980, the school board re-named an elementary school after George Phenix and that building was demolished in 1984.  In 2010 after a petition was submitted by the George P. Phenix High School Alumni Association, the Hampton School Board named a new Prek-8 school after George P. Phenix. The legacy of George P. Phenix lives on.     

For more information, contact:

Calvin Pearson, President
George P. Phenix High School Alumni Association


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