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“His influence was everywhere,”: School alumna on legacy of William Hooper Councill

Published: Feb. 9, 2021 at 6:00 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A statue of Dr. William Hooper Councill has stood in Huntsville since December 2020.

Dr. Councill, a trailblazer for generations to come, was the first president of Alabama A&M University.

Brenda Chunn is the president of the William Hooper Councill Alumni Association. She never knew Dr. Councill, but her life has been profoundly impacted by his legacy.

“His influence was everywhere. I cannot imagine the life lived by William Hooper Councill,” said Chunn. “From slavery, from his family being separated, to his escaping behind union lines to be free, the poverty he endured, the education he availed himself of he was the sum total of all of these experiences,” she continued.

The first public school for African Americans in Huntsville was opened in 1892: William Hooper Councill High School. Chunn graduated in 1966. The school closed the same year. However, Chunn still chairs the alumni association that would go on to champion the creation of the William Hooper Councill Memorial Park located on the original school grounds.

“We launched rockets from Huntsville. I believe that William Hooper Councill launched lives as an educator. He launched a community. He helped develop that where with all,” said Chunn.

The statue stands in the middle of the park off St. Clair Avenue. The statue was created by Huntsville sculptor Dan Burch to recognize the African-American leader and the role he played in promoting education.

Another bronze statue has already been commissioned for the park. The new statue will feature four children heading to class.

“I don’t see a legacy that ends for William Hooper Councill,” Chunn added.

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