This story has been updated to include comments from Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Lejeune High School Principal Eric Steimel.
A California congresswoman has filed an amendment to the national defense bill to rename Lejeune High School in honor of the late North Carolina congressman Walter B. Jones.
U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat who represents parts of San Mateo County and San Francisco, and Jones were colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee.
Speier, chairman of the House Armed Service Personnel Subcommittee, is the lone sponsor of the amendment to rename the school after the longtime Republican lawmaker from Eastern North Carolina who died in February.
“Walter [Jones] was a true gentleman and great friend,” Speier said in a statement. “It was my honor to include – in consultation with his staff, who still work for North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District – a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act to rename Lejeune High School for Walter Jones as a tribute to his work on behalf of his District, North Carolina, the country, and the United States Marine Corps.”
The amendment has the support of Jones’ congressional staffers, but the alumni of the high school don’t want to see the school’s name changed.
They have started an online petition to block a name change. The school is located aboard Camp Lejeune in Onslow County.
“We don’t want to denigrate Rep. [Walter] Jones’ memory or devalue his work, we just don’t want our school’s name changed,” said Ric Logg, who attended what was Camp Lejeune High School from 1978-81.
Logg is the administrator of a Facebook page for one of the school’s alumni groups. He started a “We the People” petition now signed by nearly 500 people. It needs 100,000 signatures to get a response from the White House.
“There are a ton of other things they can honor his memory with but renaming Lejeune High School after him shouldn’t be one of them,” Logg said.
Tanya Foreman, the secretary at Lejeune High, said students, staff and parents are opposed to changing the school’s name.
“We’re very upset about it,” Foreman said.
Meanwhile, Lejeune High Principal Eric Steimel, a 1980 graduate of the school, said he has a lot of respect for Jones who visited the high school a couple of times a year to speak to students.
But Steimel said he and the more than 6,000 graduates are opposed to a name change.
“There has to be a better way to honor Congressman [Walter] Jones,” Steimel said. “In Jones’ district, there are a lot bridges, roads entryways that could be named in his honor.”
William Morton, the district director in Jones’ Greenville office, said he and the staff there would “look favorably” upon having the school renamed in honor of Jones.
A staffer for Speier said Jones and Speier worked together on numerous issues related to national defense, and also worked to improve the lives of the men and women serving in the armed forces.
The staffer said the congresswoman attended Jones’ funeral in February and filed the amendment to rename the school in consultation with Jones’ former staffers.
Jones represented the state’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes Onslow County.
The high school of roughly 500 high school military dependents is operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity.
It was founded in 1944 as Camp Lejeune High School but was renamed Lejeune High School in 1990.
The base and the high school are named in honor of Lt. Gen. John Archer Lejeune. Lejeune is widely considered the greatest Marine to ever wear the uniform.
So, changing the name of the school isn’t something that’s likely to happen without a fight.