In 1953, under the leadership of then-Superintendent Gettys D. Broome, the Benjamin E. Mays Consolidated School was built. The Cowpens and Pacolet school districts had been consolidated and the district constructed two new African American schools. Ralph J. Bunche Elementary served Cowpens African American children in grades 1-6. The Benjamin E. Mays Consolidated School served African American elementary students in Pacolet, grades 1-6, and all African American students in the district in grades 7-12.
After the closing of the Benjamin E. Mays Consolidated School in 1970, it became Pacolet Middle School, serving grades 4-8. In 1976, it retained the name of Pacolet Middle School but served grades 3-6. Major renovations took place in 1983 and the school reopened its doors that fall as Pacolet Junior High School, serving grades 7-9. In 1993, the District moved to the middle school concept, serving grades 6-8.
During the transition to the middle school concept, the school was renamed Middle School of Pacolet. In 1998, the Benjamin E. Mays Renaming Committee, made up of members of the Benjamin E. Mays Alumni Association and chaired by Vivian Teamer, met with Dr. Jim Ray, Board Chairperson Larry Hodge and board member Sterling Farr, to formerly request the name of Middle School of Pacolet be returned to its original name of Benjamin E. Mays Middle School.
Mrs. Teamer noted in their request, “Our school claimed its rightful place in history through academics and sports. We have graduates who are successful in every aspect of education and other professional careers, such as physicians, nurses, lawyers, teachers, ministers, and the list goes on. As a community, we feel that the restoration of the name B. E. Mays will help to enlighten, influence and restore dignity to our young, black students who so desperately need a positive role model after which they can pattern their lives.”
After much deliberation with the Spartanburg School District Three Board of Trustees and Administration, the decision was made to maintain the name Middle School of Pacolet, but to add Original Benjamin E. Mays School to the front of the building. A portrait of Dr. Mays was commissioned and now hangs in the entryway of the school.
A former dean at Howard University and President of Morehouse College for 27 years, Dr. Mays was an internationally recognized leader, minister, humanitarian, educator, philosopher and writer. In 1984, he was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame.
Added to his many honors and recognitions were schools named to memorialize his legacy. Research shows that Benjamin E. Mays Consolidated School in Pacolet was the first public school in the nation named in his honor. It is also the first of five public schools in the United States so named. Below is a listing of those schools and the years they were founded.
- Benjamin E. Mays Consolidated School in Pacolet, South Carolina, U.S.- Founded 1953
- Benjamin E. Mays Elementary Academy, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.- Founded 1963
- Benjamin E. Mays International Magnet School, in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.- Founded 1977
- Benjamin E. Mays High School, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.- Founded 1981
- Benjamin E. Mays Preparatory School, Charter School in New Orleans, Louisiana- Founded 2009