CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Josephine Wilson became emotional when students at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary filed in Tuesday morning.
"It was a very emotional experience for me to see all of the beautiful children so disciplined. I knew it was because of the hard work of the faculty at this school," said Wilson, 86.
The West Side school was recently named in honor of her sister, Mary C. Snow, who served as Kanawha County's first black principal of a desegregated school and dedicated her life to advancing education in the area.
A ceremony took place Tuesday evening to celebrate the renaming of the school, which the Kanawha County Board of Education approved in July after months of debate.
The issue had been debated over the past year. Initially, most Kanawha school board members had been reluctant to alter the school's name.
The name "West Side" had been selected by a vote of students and residents in March 2009. But members of the community said the naming process was flawed and last year began voicing their support for adding Snow's name, saying they wanted to recognize the county's first black principal to work in a desegregated school.
In July, school board members voted to add her name to the school.
Wilson said Snow was not only "a driving force who gave unselfishly" as the eldest of seven siblings growing up on the West Side, but also when it came to bettering education.
Snow was named Woman of the Year by the American Biographical Institute and received the YWCA's Woman of Achievement Award and the governor's Living the Dream Award. In addition, she led the Human Rights Commission, the Kanawha County Retired Teachers Association and other community outreach groups. She died in 2011 at the age of 98.