Mount Airy officials have lent their support to a movement aimed at honoring a local teacher who died as a result of a school blaze more than 60 years ago.
That campaign has been mounted by a group of residents led by James Roberts of Pilot Mountain in response to the Flat Rock School fire in February 1957. It claimed the lives of two people, student Larry Adams and Cora Beasley, a teacher who was fatally injured while trying to rescue Larry.
Roberts has been making his rounds to various elected boards in Surry County seeking their support to honor Beasley’s sacrifice by naming a school after her, or at least a building, room or facility such as a gymnasium in her memory.
That included a recent appearance before the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners, when Roberts explained his personal interest in the issue. He was a student at a campus in Mount Airy at the time of the Flat Rock fire a few miles out of town, but one of his classmates, Nancy Beasley, was the daughter of Cora Beasley.
Larry Adams, the boy who died in the fire, had a history of seizures and suffered one after the blaze broke out, which left him clinging to his desk as others escaped.
Mrs. Beasley, who had saved other students that day, tried in vain to get him out of the room and as a result suffered severe injuries that also led to her death.
“This lady gave her life trying to save those students,” Roberts told city officials, adding that Cora Beasley is believed to be the only teacher in Surry County to have made such a sacrifice.
“Why has this lady not been honored?” he said at the city council meeting.
Although the naming issue was not on the official agenda for that meeting — with Roberts raising it during a public forum — the Mount Airy commissioners responded favorably.
Commissioner Steve Yokeley made a motion to have a resolution of support prepared expressing the city government’s desire to have a school named after Cora Beasley. It was approved unanimously.
“I endorse what you are saying,” Commissioner Dean Brown told Roberts. “I remember that (fire).” Brown was in the eighth grade at the time.
Roberts said after the meeting that other endorsements have come from the Dobson and Pilot Mountain boards of commissioners.
However, a decision involving a school name would be made on the county rather than municipal level.
Roberts said he had approached the Surry County Board of Education about the honor for Beasley. At last report, it was “under consideration” by that body, he added.
He also made a similar request on Nov. 20 to the Surry Board of Commissioners. The board did not vote on it at that time due to a policy of continuing such decisions to a future meeting in order to allow adequate study and discussion.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.