The original building, Spotsylvania (Snell) Training School, was founded in 1913, by the Spotsylvania Sunday School Union under the leadership of John J. Wright, a prominent county educator. In 1941, when the building was destroyed by fire, the Spotsylvania County School Board agreed to erect a new school and to pay the teachers’ salaries. The Sunday School Union, in turn, donated to the county 20 acres of the original 158 acre tract and the fire insurance money for construction of a new school.
In 1952, the John J. Wright Consolidated School was opened to all county black youth in grades 1-11. When Spotsylvania County Schools integrated in 1968, the school became John J. Wright School, housing the county’s entire sixth-grade and seventh-grade enrollment.
In 1978, with the closing of Spotsylvania Junior High School and the opening of Battlefield Intermediate School, the eighth grade was moved to the intermediate level.
During 1981-82, while the John J. Wright building underwent extensive renovation, the school occupied the current Marshall Building across from the present day Spotsylvania Middle School. In the fall of 1982, John J. Wright School reopened with many added improvements, including central air conditioning, wall-to-wall carpet and a new kitchen and cafeteria.
With the opening of Spotsylvania Intermediate School in the fall of 1982, John J. Wright Intermediate School began serving the predominantly southern portion of Spotsylvania County, with an approximate enrollment of 700 students in grades six, seven, and eight.
On July 1, 1990, the name John J. Wright Intermediate School was officially changed to John J. Wright Middle School in keeping with the Commonwealth’s restructuring plan for middle school education. During the previous years, the school made major adjustments in organization and instruction.
During the summer of 1997, two areas of John J. Wright Middle School were dedicated to two long-term employees. The library was dedicated in honor of Dr. Sadie Coates Combs Johnson, a former teacher and librarian for thirty-one years. The athletic fields were dedicated in honor of William H. Poindexter, custodian of John J. Wright Middle School, a post he held for forty-two years. In April of the following spring, a ceremony was held to dedicate a sign, commissioned and funded by a joint P.T.O. and community endeavor, identifying the fields behind the school as the William H. Poindexter Athletic Fields.
In 2001, the school board commissioned an architectural firm to propose a plan to renovate and expand John J. Wright’s facilities. Due to the cost of the needed improvements and the inability to purchase additional land to expand the athletic fields, the school board decided to build a replacement building for John J. Wright to open in 2006, adjacent to Spotsylvania High School (Post Oak Middle School).
A committee of community members and school personnel was appointed by the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jerry Hill, to explore potential uses of the building to make the best possible use of this facility for the instructional benefit of our students while retaining its historical significance. The John J. Wright Utilization Committee met extensively during 2004 and 2005 and made recommendations to the Superintendent and School Board. Priorities for the committee and community were that the building retain its name and that it remain accessible to the community while serving the needs of students.
In 2008, after extensive renovations and modernizations the school reopened as the John J. Wright Educational and Cultural Center and offers educational services to Spotsylvania students from Pre-K through 12th Grade. The Sadie Coats Combs Johnson Library has been designated as the John J. Wright Educational and Cultural Center Museum which formally opened on September 9, 2010.
Mrs. Lillian D. Brooks, secretary/bookkeeper for JJW for thirty-eight years, retired in the fall of 2003. Mrs. Brooks was an alumnus of the school, attending it for grades 1-11 and graduating as class valedictorian. After attending Virginia State University, she returned to Spotsylvania County and was hired shortly thereafter to serve as the secretary/bookkeeper. On December 15, 2004, the auditorium at John J. Wright Middle School was dedicated by the Spotsylvania County School Board in honor of Mrs. Lillian D. Brooks.
John J. Wright Museum
More than 100 years of history about African American education in Spotsylvania County is on permanent display. The museum is the result of the desire of the Dr. Jerry Hill, to see the former John J. Wright Middle School (closed in 2006) transformed into a new place of learning.
The Spotsylvania School Board donated the original (Sadie Combs Johnson) library of the John J. Wright School, along with more than $58,000, to ensure the space was furnished and ready to serve the public far into the future.
For more information visit the museum website at http://johnjwrightmuseum.com/ or contact Roger Braxton, Interim Chairman at (540) 424-6441; Constance Braxton, Museum Board Member at (540) 582-5138; or Renee Beverly, Museum Coordinator at (540) 785-9392.