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Georgia Historical Society Dedicates New St. Pius X High School Historical Marker

(L-R): Barry Lollis, Aniya Middleton, Don Waters, W. Todd Groce, Charles Elmore, Monsignor Fred Nijem

SAVANNAH, GA, March 25, 2022 – The Georgia Historical Society, in conjunction with the Waters Foundation, Inc., dedicated the St. Pius X High School historical marker at the Savannah Classical Academy.

St. Pius opened in 1952 as a co-educational Diocesan School and broke barriers by becoming the first school in Savannah to provide a classical, Catholic education to African-American high school students. Notable alumni include Savannah’s first African-American mayor, Floyd Adams, Jr., and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

“We are pleased to dedicate the newest historical marker on the Georgia Civil Rights Trail,” said GHS Marker Manager Elyse Butler. “The St. Pius X High School historical marker illustrates the impact of segregation on education, and how religious institutions, like the Savannah Catholic Diocese, created more equal access to education in Black communities across the state.”

Only open for nineteen years before closing due to integration, the school was originally named the Blessed Pius X High School. The Society of African Missions donated land for the school on property purchased by Father Ignatius Lissner. The school’s name changed to St. Pius X High School in 1955 after the canonization of Pope Pius X in 1954. In 2013, the building became home to the public charter school Savannah Classical Academy.

“St. Pius X was quintessential as its teachers, staff, and students left a classical education legacy that permeates Savannah Classical Academy’s current curriculum,” said Charles Elmore, Ph.D., historian and St. Pius X High School alumnus. “Graduates had stellar careers in societal endeavors including graduating the late Floyd Adams, Jr. The Georgia Historical Society’s marker unveiling for St. Pius X is a wonderful testament and recognition of its importance to Georgia’s educational history.”

Speakers for the dedication included Barry Lollis, CEO of the Savannah Classical Academy; W. Todd Groce, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society; Don Waters of the Waters Foundation, Inc., member of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and former member of the Georgia Historical Society Board of Curators; Monsignor Fred Nijem, last administrator at St. Pius X High School; Charles Elmore, Ph.D.; and Aniya Middleton, 11th grade student at Savannah Classical Academy.

The marker stands on the corner of Anderson Street and Atlantic Avenue in Savannah. For more information about the St. Pius X High School historical marker or the Georgia Historical Society marker program, please contact Keith Strigaro, Director of Communications, at 912.651.2125, ext. 153 or by email at kstrigaro@georgiahistory.com.

The marker reads as follows:

St. Pius X High School

The Blessed Pius X High School opened as a co-educational Diocesan School in 1952 serving students from Savannah’s Black community. The Society of African Missions donated land for the school on property purchased by Father Ignatius Lissner. The school’s name changed to St. Pius X High School in 1955 after the canonization of Pope Pius X in 1954. St. Pius provided a Catholic education that had not previously been available for African-American high school students. Accredited in 1969, St. Pius was closed by the Savannah Diocese shortly afterward as part of its integration plan. The building became the public charter school Savannah Classical Academy in 2013. Notable alumni of St. Pius X include Savannah’s first African-American mayor, Floyd Adams, Jr., and U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas.

Erected by the Georgia Historical Society
and Waters Foundation, Inc.

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ABOUT THE GEORGIA HISTORICAL MARKER PROGRAM
Georgia Historical Society (GHS) administers Georgia’s historical marker program. Over the past 20 years, GHS has erected nearly 300 new historical markers across the state on a wide variety of subjects. GHS also coordinates the maintenance for more than 2,100 markers installed by the State of Georgia prior to 1998. Online mapping tools allow users to design driving routes based on historical markers, and a mobile app helps visitors locate and learn about markers nearby. Visit georgiahistory.com for more ways to use Georgia’s historical markers and experience history where it happened.


ABOUT THE GEORGIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Georgia Historical Society (GHS) is the premier independent statewide institution responsible for collecting, examining, and teaching Georgia history. GHS houses the oldest and most distinguished collection of materials related exclusively to Georgia history in the nation.
To learn more visit georgiahistory.com.