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Vel Phillips legacy continues through proposed James Madison High School name change

Published: Nov. 21, 2021 at 9:51 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2021 at 7:10 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Madison Metropolitan School District will vote on changing the name of James Madison Memorial High School to Vel Phillips Memorial High School tomorrow night.

Vel Phillips died about 3 years ago at the age of 95 — but she left a legacy.

Her son, Michael Phillips, reflected on his mother’s ambition for change and justice, saying, “My mom was a little stick of dynamite.”

Michael also reflected on her expansive accomplishments as a legislative and judicial leader in the 1960s through the early 80s.

“She was small but mighty.” Said Michael.

Vel Phillips was the first black woman to graduate from the UW-Madison Law School.

She went on to become the Wisconsin Secretary of State and a Wisconsin Judge.

“Something I learned from her, is you have to dig for the truth... overcoming our own prejudices to understand how we relate to what’s actually going on in the world, in the moment that we’re in.” Michael added.

In addition to her other milestones, Vel Phillips was an activist for social justice.

“She just worked tirelessly for this issue, I can remember marches starting at our front door, and I heard my mom on the bullhorn, somewhere in the middle of them.” Said Michael.

The district is scheduled to take up the name change and vote tomorrow at 6 p.m.

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