Papers of Cecil County School Supt. Morris W. Rannels Available at McDaniel College

One of the Historical Society volunteers, Kyle Dixon, is an undergraduate at Washington College where he is working on one of his senior graduation requirements.  It’s a research paper that examines school integration on the Upper Chesapeake and he has discovered a valuable Cecil County collection at McDaniel College.  Other researchers may find this resource to be helpful, so we are sharing a note about it here.

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schools ehs yearbook rannells850

Source: 1954 Elkton High School Yearbook, A Rebecca Smith Yearbook Collection, the Historical Society of Cecil County

Morris W. Rannels, the Superintendent of Cecil County Schools from 1952 to 1960, oversaw the system during a time of major social change and rapid student growth.  After the superintendent passed away in 2007 at the age of 92, his collection of personal papers and documentary materials, which concentrate on Cecil County, were donated to McDaniel College. 

This collection concentrates on his management of the growing county school system and the challenges faced by the professional leadership team and the Board of Education.  The physical plant was outdated as many structures needed renovation, the era of the one or two room facility had passed, and a booming student population required additional space.  The overcrowding, school buildings in “poor condition,” and the financial demands of modernization for a system coming out of the Great Depression and World War-II were a major management problem for the Superintendent.  

Then on May 17th, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Course handed down its decision declaring that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.  When a new school year started that fall, the Board of Education refused to admit thirteen African-American students of Navy personnel to Bainbridge Elementary School, a new facility on federal property.  That initiated a complex legal challenge involving the NAACP, the Navy, the U.S. Attorney General, the Cecil County Board of Education, and the Maryland Dept. of Education.  After a federal judge refused to dismiss the civil suit charging local officials with violating the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the parties agreed to settle the matter out of court, according to the Afro-American.  When the school doors opened next year, it was an integrated school for Navy personnel. 

The large body of records consists of six containers of research materials.  “Through the collection, Rannels meticulously records the status of integration in Cecil County, the financial situation of the Cecil County Public School System, student enrollment, teacher hires/resignations, and school constructions/reconstructions.” According to the McDaniel finding aid.   In the next decade, full integration of the school system was handled by another Supt.

Click here for the McDaniel College finding aid.

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