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CMSD renames East Professional Center for Cleveland political strategist Arnold Pinkney

Arnold Pinkney served as the Cleveland Board of Education president in the 1970s.
Timothy Culek
Cleveland Memory Project
Arnold Pinkney served as the Cleveland Board of Education president in the 1970s.
Updated: June 11, 2024 at 7:50 PM EDT
Cleveland’s board of education voted June 11 to rename an administrative building in honor of a longtime Cleveland activist and civil rights leader.

The building will now be known as Arnold Pinkney East Professional Center. The vote came after Cleveland City Council voted to encourage the board to do so.

Cleveland Metropolitan School District Board Vice Chair Leah Hudnall noted Pinkney was the board's president when a federal court ordered the desegregation of the school district in 1976.

"Mr. Pinkney's leadership to the district alone spans generations," she said Tuesday. "And I know the act of his leadership at the helm of school desegregation is something I think all in this room are thankful for."

Cleveland Metropolitan School District's board of education has renamed the East Professional Center on the East Side after longtime Cleveland political leader, civil rights activist and school board president Arnold Pinkney.

The move comes after the city's council passed a resolution earlier in June urging the district to rename the administration building in the Hough neighborhood the “Arnold Pinkney Professional Center.”

Pinkney was best known as the campaign manager for Rev. Jesse Jackson when he ran for president in 1984 and Louis Stokes when he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1968 and became the first Black member of Congress from Ohio.

Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin said Pinkney was more than a campaign manager.

“People forget that he was part of the school board that had to oversee one of the biggest transitions in Cleveland’s history when we had the desegregation cases," Griffin said. "He literally was the one that had to manage that whole process, which we know led to a lot of white flight and suburban flight.”

Pinkney served on the Cleveland Board of Education from 1967 to 1978 and was the board president from 1971 to 1978. In 1976,a federal court ordered the desegregation of Cleveland Public Schools.

The East Professional Center is an administrative building on East 79th St. in Cleveland.
Gabriel Kramer
Ideastream Public Media
The East Professional Center is an administrative building on East 79th St. in Cleveland.

Pinkney also worked on the campaigns of former Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes and the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter and Hubert Humphrey. He also twice ran for mayor of Cleveland. Pinkney died in 2014.

Griffin said Pinkney “really loved” education and it was fitting to rename a school district building after him.

“To honor him and to cherish his legacy, we’re far behind from where we should be and I’m just happy that he gets his due,” Griffin said. “By him being a leader, not just of one neighborhood, this is kind of a symbol of his oversight and his leadership on so many things district-wide.”

Bibb released a statement in support of the name change and credited Ward 7 Councilmember Stephanie Howse-Jones for championing the effort.

Arnold Pinkney and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Larry Nighswander
Cleveland Memory Project
Arnold Pinkney and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

“Mr. Pinkney was a dedicated public servant and advocate for education in our community, and this renaming would be a fitting tribute to his legacy,” Bibb said.

The renaming came under consideration after the district CEO Warren Morgan said it would follow its protocols for changing the names of buildings.

“This resolution reflects my prior sentiments of honoring Mr. Pinkney's significant work in Cleveland as a business owner, public servant, and education advocate for current and future generations," Morgan said. "His contributions have profoundly impacted the District, and his unwavering dedication to the welfare of our scholars remains an inspiration."

The district renamed some classroom buildings in 2022, including Stephanie Tubbs Jones School and Natividad Pagan International Newcomers Academy, which were previously named after former Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, American Founding Fathers who both owned slaves.

Griffin said naming a building after Pinkney reflects the communities the district serves.

“Children should be able to see those names and be able to equate them to Black excellence and why they should actually strive to make an impact on their community — the way that Mr. Pinkney did for so many,” Griffin said.

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.