Montgomery Academy (Alabama)

Coordinates: 32°21′07″N 86°15′36″W / 32.352°N 86.260°W / 32.352; -86.260
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The Montgomery Academy
1550 Perry Hill Road (K–5)
3240 Vaughn Road (6–12)


United States
Coordinates32°21′07″N 86°15′36″W / 32.352°N 86.260°W / 32.352; -86.260
MottoThe Pursuit of Excellence
Established1959 (64 years ago) (1959)
CEEB code011897
HeadmasterJohn McWilliams
Color(s)Cardinal and navy
AthleticsBaseball, Basketball, Cheerleading, Cross Country, Football, Golf, Soccer, Swimming, Tennis, Track and Field, and Volleyball

The Montgomery Academy is a non-sectarian independent day school located in Montgomery, Alabama. The Lower School accommodates kindergarten through fifth grade and the Upper School sixth through twelfth. The school's current total enrollment is just under 900, of which approximately 300 are in the Upper School. Montgomery Academy was founded in 1959 as a segregation academy.[2]



In December 1958 the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) sued the city of Montgomery to force an end to racial segregation in the city's public parks. Rather than accede to this demand the city closed down all of its parks, including the Montgomery Zoo, effective on January 1, 1959.[3] In response to this, Martin Luther King Jr. on behalf of the MIA, announced that the Association would attempt to end racial segregation in Montgomery public schools by having large numbers of black children apply for admission to white schools in order to provide test cases which might allow a judge to declare the Alabama Pupil Placement Act unconstitutional.[3] Governor John Patterson threatened to shut down the public schools to prevent their integration[4] and the[5] Ku Klux Klan leader Robert Shelton promised that the Klan was prepared to prevent integration by violent means if necessary.[4]


It was against this backdrop that the Montgomery Academy was founded in 1959 as a segregation academy[2][6] by Robert Schoenhof Weil,[7] Montgomery physician Hugh MacGuire, and a "group of white social leaders" for "boys and girls of white parentage."[4] It was reported that "desegregation was one of the issues discussed in" the Academy's "formation in the mid-50s", although it was not possible to determine if that was the only factor that led to its founding.[8] The first classes were held in the former governor's mansion on the corner of South Perry Street & South Street (now demolished).[9] Initially, students were in "forms" (grades) 1 through 6. The initial 1959-60 "6th Form" constituted the first graduating class in 1966.

Although most segregation academies had markedly deficient curricula, the Montgomery Academy was one of a small number with accreditation, "complete academic programs," and "competent staffs."[2] For instance, already by 1961 the Montgomery Academy's René Lévêque was chairman of the examination committee for the French I section of the National French Contest, sponsored since 1936 by the American Association of Teachers of French.[10] By 1967 Jim Leeson stated that the school had "changed its role to be that of a preparatory school."[8]

1970s and after[edit]

For the first two decades of its existence The Montgomery Academy did not admit any African American students. In 1970 the Academy adopted an explicit policy stating that race would not be considered in admissions[11] as required by Internal Revenue Service regulations.[2] According to then-headmaster James Adams, although there had previously been no written statement to that effect, the Academy had never used race as a basis for admissions.[11]

At its founding the Academy didn't have the financial resources to build its own football field or other athletic facilities.[12] However, the city of Montgomery allowed the school and three other segregation academies (the Saint James School, the Stephens-Spears School, and the Central Alabama Academy) to use athletic facilities at the city's public schools.[12] In 1972, federal Judge Frank M. Johnson, whose son John was a student at the Montgomery Academy,[13] enjoined the city from continuing this practice,[14] writing that "In allowing private academies to use city facilities, Montgomery is providing aid to private, segregated schools, thus facilitating their establishment and operation as an alternative for white students who in most instances are seeking to avoid desegregated public schools".[12] The school didn't enroll its first Black student until 1973.[15]

In 1976 the Academy, along with the Saint James School, was named in a suit filed against United States Secretary of the Treasury William Simon and Commissioner of Internal Revenue Donald C. Alexander by five women from Montgomery charging that the two men had encouraged the development of segregated schools by allowing them tax-deductible status.[16] The school was identified as a discriminatory institution by the plaintiffs in Allen v. Wright, a lawsuit by black parents that was decided in 1984 by the U.S. Supreme Court.[17]

Archie Douglas, a previous headmaster of The Montgomery Academy, said in 2004 that he believed the school was started in reaction to desegregation and "that those who resented the civil rights movement or sought to get away from it took refuge in the academy." He noted that the school, by 2004, had a philosophy of openness and did not discriminate with regard to race.[18] As of 2014, the student body of The Montgomery Academy is more than 10% percent non-white.[19] In June 2020, during the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd, headmaster John McWilliams said, "We must be willing to confront the uncomfortable fact that The Montgomery Academy, like many other independent schools founded in the South during the late 1950s, was not immune to the divisive forces of racism that shaped this city and community over the course of its history".[20][15]


The Montgomery Academy's first home was in a historic mansion, built in 1906, and serving as the official residence of Alabama's governor between 1911 and 1950 which was torn down to make way for Interstate 85.[21]

In 1963, the school relocated to a new site on Vaughn Road, now the premises of the Middle and Upper Schools. As student body size steadily grew, the initial twelve classrooms and lunchroom/auditorium were supplemented by seven classrooms and a library in 1965, four classrooms and a gymnasium in 1966, five classrooms in 1967, and three Montessori areas in 1971.

The Perry Hill Road Campus for the Lower School, which by that time included "Form K" (Kindergarten), was opened in the late 1980s. In 1996 the Vaughn Road campus added the 10,000-square-foot (930 m2) Garzon Library, designed by local architects Seay Seay and Litchfield. The library's central octagonal rotunda establishes a focal landmark for the Upper School Campus.

The firm was then later contracted to design a new building, the Mary Katherine Archibald Blount Upper School, as well as a pedestrian bridge connecting the academic campus with newly built athletic fields across the busy Vaughn Road. These fields included new baseball, softball, and soccer fields. Previously, the land which is now the athletic campus had been an immense lawn for a Masonic retirement home.

In the summer of 2007, the school began a renovation, completed in 2009, of the old Mead Hall, which includes James W. Wilson Jr. Theater, as well as facilities for the forensics and drama programs. The project also includes Sahlie Upper School Commons, an extension to the existing Upper School Building, as well as a state-of-the-art track and field facility around the Hutchinson Soccer Field. The track was built by the same company that was contracted to install the track for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.


The Montgomery Academy's curriculum is entirely college preparatory, with more than 85 different high school course choices in nine disciplines. Students must carry at least five academic courses at all times. Thirty AP and honors sections are offered in all core areas. Students from The Montgomery Academy have also been involved in projects in recent years to promote racial harmony and to document Montgomery's links to the Civil Rights Movement.[22]

The Academy is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools and the Alabama Association of Independent Schools.


The school's athletics teams and squadrons are nicknamed the Eagles and the school colors are cardinal red and navy blue. The school competes with other Alabama high schools, both public and private, in the Alabama High School Athletic Association. Montgomery Academy has 2 primary athletic rivals in the city of Montgomery: Trinity Presbyterian School and St. James School. These three schools also compete in the Capital City Conference, which is a collection of the five private schools in the city of Montgomery that compete in the AHSAA. The CCC also includes city rivals Alabama Christian Academy and Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School, and formerly included St. Jude Educational Institute.

Two thirds of the Academy's middle and high school students participate in athletics.[23] The Academy was recognized as the leader in 3A varsity sports for both boys and girls by the Birmingham News, and the Montgomery Academy is one of ten schools competing in the AHSAA to win at least 50 team state championships.[24] During the 2012-2014 school years, Montgomery Academy competed in class 2A due to a decline in school population, before moving back up to Class 3A for the 2014-2016 school years. Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, select athletic teams competed in Class 4A or Class 5A due to the AHSAA's new "competitive balance rule." These sports include football, track and field, tennis, and soccer. As of June 1, 2021, the girls' soccer team held the record for most state championships in AHSAA history. [25]


The school has won a number of state championships,[26] including:

  • Baseball (1981)
  • Girls' Basketball (1999)
  • Cheerleading (1993)
  • Boys' Cross Country (2002, 2013, 2014)
  • Girls' Cross Country (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013)
  • Football (1987)
  • Boys' Golf (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012)
  • Girls' Soccer (2001, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021)
  • Boys' Tennis (1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2021)
  • Girls' Tennis (1971, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019)
  • Girls' Track and Field (2006, 2013, 2014)
  • Volleyball (1986, 2005, 2006, 2013, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2023).

Notable students and faculty[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Private School Universe Survey". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Hafter, Jerome C.; Hoffman, Peter M. (June 1973). "Segregation Academies and State Action". The Yale Law Journal. 82 (7): 1436–1461. doi:10.2307/795573. JSTOR 795573. One may speak of three classes of segregation academy, roughly corresponding to the social and economic divisions within the white community: (a) lower-class 'rebel yell' academies; (b) white community schools; and (c) upper-class day schools. Poor white families have organized irregular 'rebel yell' academies which provide only rudimentary education ... By contrast, a small number of post-desegregation schools, located primarily in urban centers, offer complete academic programs, competent staffs recruited largely from the public school system, accreditation by state and regional authorities, modern physical plants, and amenities such as guidance counseling, language and science laboratories, and airconditioning [sic]. These 'segregation academies second generation' aspire to the same elite status as traditional upper-class day schools in the rest of the nation. Most have announced 'open enrollment' policies as required by the Internal Revenue Service...but in practice their student bodies contain neither blacks nor low-income whites...Examples include...Montgomery (Ala.) Academy...(subscription required)
  3. ^ a b Thornton, J. Mills (25 September 2002). Dividing Lines: Municipal Politics and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma. University of Alabama Press. pp. 102–3. ISBN 978-0-8173-1170-4.
  4. ^ a b c Thornton, J. Mills (25 September 2002). Dividing Lines: Municipal Politics and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma. University of Alabama Press. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-8173-1170-4. King's announcement and the response to it badly frightened a great many white Montgomerians. Incoming governor John Patterson...warn[ed]...ominiously that if 'these agitators continue at their present pace, in a short time we will have no public education at all. Our public schools, once destroyed and shut down, may not be reopened in your lifetime and mine.' The Ku Klux Klan's grand dragon, Robert Shelton of Tuscaloosa—a man of some influence in the new Patterson administration—promised that the Klan would use violence...The prospect of the total abolition of public schooling...therefore seemed very real.A group of white social leaders under the chairmanship of physician Hugh MacGuire scurried to meet the menace of school closure by establishing a private school, limited to 'boys and girls of white parentage,' the Montgomery Academy; it opened in September [1959]
  5. ^ Permaloff, Anne; Grafton, Carl (1 December 2008). Political Power in Alabama: The More Things Change ... University of Georgia Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-8203-3189-8.
  6. ^ Keierleber, Mark (August 18, 2021). "Critical Race Theory and the New Massive Resistance". the 75 Million. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  7. ^ "Robert Schoenhof Weil". Alabama academy of honor. 1998-09-02. Retrieved 2006-05-02.
  8. ^ a b Leeson, Jim (November 1967). "Report on school desegregation in the southern and border states". Southern Education Report. 3: 13–7. That is one of the difficulties in determining the impact that these all-white private schools have had on education in the South. Correspondents for Southern Education Reporting Service noted that several private schools in their respective states were organized with the desegregation threat being only one of the underlying reasons or as an unstated but understood factor. One example is Montgomery Academy, which had desegregation as one of the issues discussed in its formation in the mid-1950s. Now the school has changed its role to be that of a preparatory school...
  9. ^ "Alabama's First Governor's Mansion".
  10. ^ Lévêque, René (February 1961). "The National French Contest". The French Review. 34 (4): 386–8. JSTOR 383846.(subscription required)
  11. ^ a b Vereen, Betty (November 22, 1970). "Private Schools Are Still Tax Exempt". The Tuscaloosa News.
  12. ^ a b c Kennedy, Robert Francis (June 1978). Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr: a biography. Putnam. pp. 82–3. ISBN 9780399121234. Montgomery had always offered good private education, but these new schools were shabby affairs, drastically underfunded. They could not attract students without athletic programs, and they lacked the money to build football fields. Four of them—the St. James School, the Stephens-Spears School, the Central Alabama Academy, and the Montgomery Academy—obtained permission to use the playing fields and sports facilities of Montgomery's public high schools.
  13. ^ Bass, Jack (1 December 2002). Taming the Storm: The Life and Times of Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., and the South's Fight Over Civil Rights. University of Georgia Press. pp. 119–20. ISBN 978-0-8203-2531-6.
  14. ^ "Recreational facilities Ruling Made," The Tuscaloosa News, Jan 21, 1972.
  15. ^ a b Johnson, Krista (June 10, 2020). "An uncomfortable history: Montgomery Academy leader recognizes school's contribution to racial division". Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  16. ^ "Montgomery schools cited in suit". The Tuscaloosa News. August 4, 1976.
  17. ^ "No. 81-757, No. 81-970". Office of the solicitor general, United States department of justice. 1983. Archived from the original on 2005-05-23. Retrieved 2006-05-02. Text of the Allen v. Wright ruling, Supreme Court of the United States, which specifically mentions The Montgomery Academy (among other defending schools).
  18. ^ Connolly, Regan Loyola (2004-01-12). "Private schools diversify". The Montgomery Advertiser.
  19. ^ "Montgomery Academy Profile". Private School Review. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  20. ^ "Statement from Head of School John McWilliams". June 6, 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-11.
  21. ^ King, Carole A.; Pell, Karren I. (2010). Montgomery's Historic Neighborhoods. Arcadia Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-7385-8620-5.
  22. ^ Pippins, Erica (March 30, 2005). "Journalist recalls violence, change". The Montgomery Advertiser.
  23. ^ "Athletics". Montgomery Academy. Archived from the original on April 6, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  24. ^ Bernal, Ethan (April 24, 2013). "Montgomery Academy sweeps state tennis tournament". Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  25. ^ "AHSAA > Sports > Soccer > Soccer Records Girls".
  26. ^ "State Championships - The Montgomery Academy".
  27. ^ Baxter, Sarah (July 27, 2008). "The racist south has gone with the wind". The Sunday Times. London. p. 3.
  28. ^ "Alumni Bookshelf". Montgomery Academy. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  29. ^ "Senator Brewbaker Visits Crenshaw County". Retrieved 26 September 2018.

Further reading[edit]