June 22, 2011 — The Danville community twice this year has honored Howard "Hank" Allen, associate professor emeritus of the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, for his legacy at Langston High School and for his lifetime achievements.
Before being recruited by U.Va. in 1969 to join the staff of its Consultative Resource Center for School Desegregation, Allen was a teacher and coach at Langston, an all-black high school.
He taught and coached basketball for the 17 years he was at Langston and organized the school's baseball team in 1956. His basketball team racked up more than 300 wins, three district titles and a state championship. His baseball team won seven district and two state titles.
But Allen excelled at more than teaching his players the finer points of the game. He emphasized the importance of an education and helped his players get through the adversity they faced off the court every day in the segregated South, according to an article on the dedication by the Danville Register-Bee.
During his tenure at Langston, all but one of his student-athletes graduated, and one of his most famous players, Claudius "C.B." Claiborne, went on to become the first African-American to play for Duke University.
Earlier this year, more than 200 former players and friends honored Allen for his accomplishments and lifetime achievements. They also submitted a proposal to the Danville Public School Board to have the gymnasium of the school, now called the Langston Focus Center, named in his honor.
The board approved the request, and on June 11 a dedication ceremony was held on the front lawn of the school to officially name the Howard "Hank" Allen Gymnasium. Allen, who is now 91 and resides in Charlottesville, attended the dedication, along with more than 100 supporters.
Allen left Langston in 1969 to work at U.Va.'s desegration center, which ran on a federal grant from 1967 to 1980. He led the center from 1973 to 1980 as its first African-American director. Based in the Curry School, the center provided desegregation seminars for teachers and school administrators. A report by Allen in 1980 showed it provided workshops in 90 school districts that year for 950 individuals, some in Maryland and West Virginia. The Curry School plans to create an exhibit or display in Bavaro Hall to highlight the center and its contributions to Virginia's educational history.