Honestly, I have nothing against George Rogers Clark. The Revolutionary War general occupies a distinguished place in the history of the American frontier — though not in the history of Clark County.
Except, of course, for the fact that the county is named for him. And that’s all right. Other counties, such as Fayette, Pulaski and Shelby, are named for heroes of the revolution who didn’t call those counties home.
George Rogers Clark’s home was Louisville, the town he established at the Falls of the Ohio. It’s likely he walked through what is now Clark County on the way to or from Fort Boonesborough a few times, but he wasn’t from here and never lived here. I don’t hold that against him.
No, my problem with keeping the general’s name for the new high school is that it is inconsistent. Nothing about the school’s colors or mascot has any connection to George Rogers Clark.
And most of us don’t call the school by its name anyway. Most call it “Clark County” or “GRC,” or even “George Rogers.” The athletic uniforms all say “Clark County,” and that’s what everyone else in the state knows it by.
Poor old George. I’ll wager that few of those who are fighting mad over the idea of changing the school’s name have the vaguest idea of who Clark was or why he was famous. Just say the words “Kaskaskia and Vincennes,” and watch them go blank.
When the current high school was created in 1963 from the merger of the old Clark County and Winchester high schools, it was renamed for George Rogers Clark. But if they were going to change the name of the school, the board members should have also changed the school colors to royal blue and white with a dash of red or buff, the colors of the Continental Army, and made the school’s athletic teams the Patriots or Generals, or something that had some connection to Clark. Instead, they kept the former Clark County High School’s colors — red, white and (later) black — and its old mascot, the Cardinal.
What’s even stranger is that the school’s newspaper, Smoke Signals, kept the name that came from the former Winchester High School, whose mascot was the Shawnee.
About the only name that has any appropriate connection to George Rogers Clark is that of the school’s Junior ROTC program, the Long Knives — the word the Indians used to describe the soldiers’ swords.
So, in naming the high school currently under construction on Boonesboro Road, we have an opportunity to correct some past mistakes.
If we want to keep the name George Rogers Clark, then we need to change the colors and the mascot to something connected to the Revolutionary War period. But if we want to keep the Cardinals and the colors we have now — and I think most grads have a greater emotional attachment to those things than to the name of the general — then let’s restore the original name of Clark County High School, and change the names of school organizations to be consistent with that.
Or here’s another idea: If we want to name the school Clark County High School, but also retain something of the heritage of Winchester High School, we could adopt the Shawnee as our mascot and keep the colors red and black, the colors of Shawnee war paint.
It would be fitting, because our county was the site of a large Shawnee town, Eskippakithiki. There are already too many schools with redbirds as their mascots anyway.
Not long ago, I suggested that the high school be named for another Clark, who actually did live most of his life in Clark County and was the father of Kentucky’s system of public schools: Gov. James Clark. But that idea never caught on.
Wouldn’t that be a great name, though, for the new sixth, seventh and eighth-grade program at the old GRC campus?
Gov. James Clark Middle School sounds much more distinguished than Clark Middle, doesn’t it? Yet you could still shorten it to Clark Middle in everyday conversation.
Those are my ideas, but the school board wants yours.
Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.