Gilbert Mays, principal, dies at 94

March 13
Gilbert Mays

Gilbert Mays, a retired Alexandria principal who played a role in the desegregation of the city schools in the early 1970s, died March 5 at the Envoy nursing center in Alexandria, Va. He was 94.

The cause was cardiovascular disease and renal disease, said his daughter, Blanche Mays Maness, a former Alexandria City School Board member and school principal.

Dr. Mays worked in Richmond from 1958 to 1970 for the Virginia Department of Education as a supervisor for mathematics and science in secondary education. His job focused initially on black schools during the era of segregation, but his job came to encompass oversight of all secondary schools for math and science studies.

He was recruited to the Alexandria school system in 1970 as it was still struggling to integrate black and white students. He was briefly assistant principal at T.C. Williams High School before being named principal at Minnie Howard Middle School in 1971. He returned to Williams in the late 1970s as executive associate principal and retired in 1985.

Gilbert Mays was born in Dolphin, Va., and was a 1953 graduate of Saint Paul’s College, a historically black college in Lawrenceville, Va. He received a master’s degree in 1958 and a doctorate in 1977, both in education from the University of Virginia.

He served in the Army in Europe during World War II and participated in the truck caravan known as the Red Ball Express, which kept the military supplied with gasoline and other staples. Earlier, he was among those who tested an early prototype for the Jeep at Fort Holabird in Baltimore.

An Alexandria resident and the recipient of many community awards, Dr. Mays was a past president of NAACP’s Alexandria chapter, served on the deacon board of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria and was on the board of Hopkins House, the nonprofit Alexandria organization serving preschool children.

Survivors include his wife of 72 years, Maudy Walker Mays of Alexandria; their daughter, Blanche Mays Maness of Alexandria; a granddaughter; and a great-grandson.

— Adam Bernstein

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