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Belton ISD to name new Elementary School after James Burrell

Burrell taught at the all-black T.B. Harris School pre and post-integration. Worked in the district for more than 50 years.

BELTON, Texas — You have to be pretty important to have something named after you.

James Burrell is just that.

The late Burrell was known in the Belton community as a lover, a giver and overall hard working man who dedicated his time to others more than himself.

Burrell was a teacher and coach at the T.B. Harris School before the school integrated in 1966 and continued working in the district well beyond then.

He taught all different groups and ages. His daughter Lawanda said he loved to teach special education classes because it was his belief that all kids should get the chance to learn no matter what.

"I started crying because it's an it's an amazing honor," Burrell's daughter Lawanda said after she learned the news that Belton ISD's next elementary school would be named after her father.

You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in the community who would disagree that Burrell deserves the honor.

"I didn't know where I fell in this in the scheme of things, but I'm glad it's coming to fruition" Longtime Friend Marvin Bell said of his suggestion to name the school after James. "This person that this school is named in honor of, they will want to be the very best because that's what Deacon Burrell was, the very best."

Belton ISD administrators and trustees were all in agreement that Burrell was the right choice to name the school after as well.

They're excited to honor Burrell's legacy and family.

"Mr. Burrell epitomized exactly what we want BISD students to be," Belton ISD Trustee Janet Leigh said.

"I grew up here. I remember Mr. Burrell when I was in sixth grade. I used to see him in the hallways," Belton ISD Board Member Manuel Alcozer said.

Burrell's daughter says the family needed this boost of joy. She says they've been grieving the loss of her father and mother for some time. Now the Belton community can learn about the kind of man he was.

"My family really needed this. You know, we've been grieving my dad for some time and now my mother and I, you know, I feel like it's just a joyous time," Lawanda said.

There might even be a James Burrell Day Celebration celebrating the namesake of the school.

"One of the best gifts that we can give to the future of Burrell Elementary school is to have the students learn about his legacy," School Leadership Executive Director Gabi Nino said. "Then determine what's the most appropriate day and celebrate that. There's got to be some day that was super special to Mr. Burrell, and maybe that's the day that selected."

His daughter says a truly caring man is being honored in the best way.

"He loved Christ. He loved family. He loved his students. And he really loved the Belton community." 

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