Bel Alton, MD. (August 18, 2021) –Matthews N. Wills of Bryantown, a 1962 graduate of Bel Alton High School, was recently elected chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bel Alton High School Alumni Association CDC. Wills served as a member of the Board for five years before he replaced former Chairwoman, Joan V. Jones of La Plata, last March.
Wills said, “I want to thank the Board members for electing me as their leader during these challenging times for Bel Alton and alumni associations of former all-black segregated high schools throughout this country.
Wills is very proud of the Association’s founding members and their accomplishments. “They saved an important part of the cultural history of black people in Charles County, he said.”
The founding members were alerted in the late 1980s by the late Mrs. Salome H. Howard, a former teacher at Bel Alton and a community activist, of the County’s plans to demolish the historic Bel Alton High School building which closed after County schools were integrated in 1965.
The members convinced the Commissioners to cease their demolition plans, raised six million dollars to rehabilitate the building, and operated a community center at the building from 2008 to 2015.
In 2015, the Association was evicted from the building by the County for allegedly violating the terms of its lease. The Association disputed the charge and entered into a nearly two-year legal battle with the County which culminated in a court-ordered mediation agreement that granted the Association space in the building.
The Association’s future plans are to preserve, promote, and share the cultural history of the school and the black community it served. They hope to chronicle the lives of the school’s students, faculty, and staff during the segregation era in Charles County, expand membership, implement a scholarship program, develop community programs, and partner with community non-profits.