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The St. Mary’s County Board of Education plans to build a new elementary school in Leonardtown. The name Woodbury, a former slave plantation, keeps coming up as a leading candidate for the school’s name. As a historian and a resident who grew up in Leonardtown, I care about the naming of our new elementary school and would like to point out that when the public was asked for its opinion, Joshua Barney received the highest number of nominations.

Joshua Barney was the youngest man ever to command a frigate in the Navy. At the tender age of 17, he was the also first commander to fly the newly designed American flag over the U.S. frigate, the Hornet. This all occurred during our fight from British tyranny; Barney was captured three times during the American Revolution and then escaped from prison in England twice.

During the War of 1812, Barney started the war as a privateer and captured 15 prizes on his first cruise. At age 56, he retired from a very lucrative privateer career and designed a shallow draft warship that the U.S. Navy used to protect a half-dozen other waterways in the United States. He took command of the Chesapeake Flotilla and saved the Southern Maryland “turnip patches,” as President James Madison referred to our land. He also defeated the British at the Battle of St. Leonard Creek during the Battle of the Patuxent River. In total, Barney fought 26 battles in defense of our freedom, and the only tribute to him in this country is a statue in Kentucky.

If this doesn’t satisfy you, how about the Walter Duke Elementary School? Duke’s body, having just been found, is from Leonardtown. He was shot down on June 6, 1944, in Burma. His body will soon be brought home and laid to rest one-half mile from the new school site.

He is Maryland’s highest scoring air ace ever, with 18 confirmed kills.

Perhaps the last public meeting of the school naming committee is tonight, Feb. 13, in the building behind Banneker Elementary School at 6:30 p.m. Come fight for what’s right.

Jonathan Beasley, Budds Creek