Jackson Price Burley High School has had its impact on the Charlottesville-Albemarle community. What some thought was an act to thwart integration actually had a wonderful impact and effect on the two Black communities: one in the city and the other in the county.
The name “Burley” began to symbolize all that was good in the Black community. Not only did Burley become the pride of Black Charlottesville, its athletic prowess put area high schools and even the famous University of Virginia athletic programs to shame.
Teachers, administrators and students were proud of their schools' accomplishments. Black professionals provided wonderful role models for aspiring graduates and college bound students.
Burley became a symbol of Black unity and pride. If you attended Burley, your origin did not matter, that is, whether or not you were a county or city resident.
The Black high school would cease to exist after 1967. It would later be acquired by Albemarle County in 1967 and become a Middle School in the County’s School System.
I would like to give credit to Coach Bob “Spook” Smith for the school mascot, which is a bear. The Burley Bears became the envy of the Black community with their athletic gallantry on the football field and basketball court. The question remains of why the bear was selected in the first place. The simple answer is that Coach Smith was a graduate of Morgan State University In Baltimore, Maryland. The Morgan State team mascot was also a bear, so Coach Smith would use his influence to establish the team mascot.
Under Smith’s outstanding leadership and example, the Burley Bears would develop a winning tradition in all athletic areas including football, basketball and baseball. Not only did Smith and Jones build winning teams and attitudes, but they also helped young boys become outstanding young men in life.
My early exposure to the Burley sports juggernaut makes me recall such Burley High School football and basketball legends such as quarterbacks Richard Eubanks, Jimmy Douglas, and Richard “The Hawk” Monroe, running backs Lester Washington and Herbert Churchman, lineman Big Bob Ferguson, wide receivers and offensive ends Raymond Bell and Harold Billups. On the basketball court we remember Alfred Martin, Philip Bell, Scott Lowe and Pete Shackelford.
An Unbelievable Year
No alumni of Burley High School will forget the year of 1956. That year marked the football teams first and last undefeated, untied and unscored on season! That same year I.C. Norcom –The Greyhounds– of Portsmouth achieved the same result. Instead of meeting in a tie-breaker for the state football championship, both teams shared the honor as co-champs.