New high school to be named after Madison founder

After six months of deliberation and suggestions from all across the city, the Madison School Board voted at Thursday night’s meeting to name the new high school after city founder James Clemens.

Clemens, a relative of Mark Twain, came to Huntsville from Kentucky in 1812. At the age of 76 he realized the need for a train station between Huntsville and Decatur and began buying up sections of land between the two.

“His intent was to found a town around the railroad station with the name of Clemens Depot,” read Superintendent Dee Fowler.

“However, when the Memphis and Charleston Railroads drew the town on their maps, they labeled it as Madison Station for unknown reasons, thereby denying James Clemens a memorial in the town.”

Clemens was also progressive for his time, freeing his slaves well before the Emancipation Proclamation and selling land to both women and black men.

“Considering its founder’s actions it’s no wonder that Madison has always been a progressive town, enjoying a high degree of social tranquility and acceptance of all people,” said Fowler.

Fowler also faced his annual public evaluation at Thursday night’s meeting.

“It’s hard to believe that Dr. Fowler’s only been our Superintendent for four years,” said Ray White before the board shared their comments. “It seems like he’s been here far longer than that because he’s made a significant impact in his time here.”

The board were unanimously positive regarding Fowler’s performance, and each voted that he receive the maximum $10,000 compensation for his services, an amount contingent on his evaluation each year.

“It’s a reflection on the school district and the community itself,” Fowler said afterward, “that the successes that Madison City has start with our administrators in our district…Madison City is a complete group of folks working together, so any successes we have are successes generated throughout the entire community.”

Mill Creek Elementary School also received its LEED Certification at the meeting, making it the first school in the state to be certified under the LEED for schools certification.

“Not only are you going green you are saving money and creating a healtheir environment for students,” said Frank Nola, who presented a plaque to school administrators.

Rodney Richardson, principal of Horizon Elementary, also presented the results of the Appleton Tutoring Program that was implemented at Horizon this year. The program’s goal is to identify different learning styles among students and create lesson plans tailored to their different learning needs.

“The program was highly effective,” he told the board. “It allows a truly differentiated approach to the diverse learning preferences of the students. By recognizing that everybody learns differently we implemented a program that can teach each student with unique strategies.”

The program was designed by one of Madison City Schools’ own graduates.


Below is a public letter from Madison City Schools Superintendent of Education Dr. Dee Fowler:

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Please accept my apology for interrupting your summer break.  I realize that receiving an email from me in the middle of summer may be depressing and a reminder that school will start again in the not too distant future.  I hope that you are having a good summer and enjoying all the benefits of this time of the year.  In case you haven’t heard, we have a name for our new high school.  Last night, the Board approved my recommendation to name the school James Clemens High School.  I want to thank everyone who participated in submitting names through our web page, as well as those who called or submitted names personally.  A very special thank you goes to Mr. John Rankin, the historian of Madison.  You have probably read his weekly columns in the Madison Spirit.  Mr. Rankin supplied valuable information about our city, and served as a great resource in the naming process.  There were numerous choices for the Board to consider, and James Clemens rose to the top for many reason.


Please allow me to share a portion of James Clemens biography that is found in the book entitled, The Memories of Madison A Connected Community 1857-2007, by John Patrick Rankin.


James Clemens is considered the founder of Madison.  He was born in Pennsylvania in 1778, but came to Huntsville from Kentucky in 1812.  He entered the mercantile business in Huntsville.  Later in life, when he realized that time was drawing to an end for him, at the age of 76 in 1854, he purchased ¾ of the 16th section of “school land” in Township 4 south, Range 2 West.  James knew that the railroad would need a depot in that location, halfway between Huntsville and Decatur.  His intent was to found a town around a railroad station, with the name “Clemens Depot”.  However when the Memphis & Charleston Railroad drew the town on their maps, they labeled it as “Madison Station” for unknown reasons……

….. Clemens believed in the future of his town as he bought the 4th quarter of the 16th section ……… before he died in 1860.  Clemens was also something of a social reformer, as was his son Jeremiah.  Both men freed their slaves in the 1850’s, well before the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation.  Additionally, the last lot that James himself sold, only 3 months before his death, was to a free black man, Edmund Martin from Morgan County.  That particular lot was at the corner of what today is Sullivan Street and Front Street, an eminent location in the town of the early days.  Moreover, several of his lots were sold to women, back in a time when few women were afforded property rights in their own names.  Considering its founder’s actions, it is no wonder that Madison has always been a progressive town, enjoying a high degree of social tranquility and acceptance of all people, including former Union army men and their families after the war.  Even without any monument to its founder, Madison today continues the legacy of James Clemens…….

My hope and prayer is that James Clemens High School will follow in the steps of Bob Jones High School; preparing students equipped for every challenge to make a positive impact in our community, state, nation and world.

Enjoy the rest of your summer,

Dr. Dee O. Fowler

Superintendent of Education

Madison City Schools