Samuel A. Mudd helped the assassin who murdered Abraham Lincoln.

Col. Zadok Magruder was a local leader of the American Revolution, enslaving 26 people on his plantation.

While serving as the nation’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson forced the Cherokee nation into a death march out of their homeland.

They all have high schools named for them in Maryland.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

But the late Ruth and John Schillinger, who built a five-generation family farm called Papa John’s, aren’t in the running to have their names on the western Anne Arundel County high school sprouting up where they once grew crops.

“I asked my lawyer to get a hold of somebody in the county to see about getting something done,” said Jim Schillinger, Ruth and John’s youngest grandson. “Have it named for the family or something. Never heard anything.”

Anne Arundel is in the final stages of picking a name for the school, expected to open next year off Interstate 97 in Severn. Although names connected with the long history of farming got more nominations than any other choice, a committee sorting through the suggestions didn’t advance them for consideration.

Of the 50 names submitted, the panel will choose from: Millersville High, Severn High, Severn Run High, Veterans High, and West High. Its top picks will go to schools Superintendent Marc Bedell, with a vote by the county board of education set for Jan. 3. A similar process is underway for a new elementary school.

“At the end of the discussion, the committee felt that naming the school after any person or family was not the direction to go and that we could look for other ways to pay respect to the former owners of the property and the history of the farm in the community,” Rachel Kennelly, the school’s first principal, wrote in an email.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Family history runs deep on the land. Ruth Wade’s grandfather bought the property in 1889, and when John Schillinger helped deliver coal to the farm for his brother’s company, a marriage kindled. The year before Ruth died in 1994, Papa John’s was named a Maryland Century Farm. The program recognizes farms operated by a single family for 100 years or more.

“We requested at least a road, ball field or building being named for the family,” Gina Schillinger, Jim’s wife, wrote in an email. “Especially since we raised five generations there.”

The process of naming varies by school district in Maryland. Some stick to place names, while others lean heavily into history through individuals. By my count, based on a review of all 25 public school system websites, there are more than 200 with recognizable, personal names around the state.

Dozens honor local figures and educators, such the dual name on Mary Moss at J. Albert Adams Academy in Annapolis. She was a pioneering special education teacher, he donated land for a school.

Some names are repeated around the state. Francis Scott Key, the lawyer best known for writing the lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” has four schools named for him. Robert Frost, the 20th-century poet, has two. Many schools pick the names of major and minor abolition and civil rights figures, including Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Barack Obama has a school named for him, though most are named for historical figures who have died, such as former presidents the aforementioned Jackson, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.

Sometimes, the names chosen for a school seem like a good idea at the time but raise questions today about America’s past. Nineteen honor enslavers, from Washington, Jefferson and Key to Maryland Gov. Thomas Johnson and Col. William Richardson — whose name is on one of two high schools in Caroline County.

Many schools use the name of a surrounding community, often linked to a person or family. In Anne Arundel, just 10 out of 126 are named for people — one fewer than a few years ago.

In 2020, County Councilwoman Julie Hummer was on the school board when she urged her colleagues to rename George Fox Middle in Pasadena. He was the county superintendent of schools for 30 years and the local face of early 20th-century Jim Crow education.

Black teachers sued the school system over unequal pay, a practice Fox defended in court by testifying: “The worst white teacher is better than the best black teacher.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

After a long debate, the board voted to rename the school Northeast Middle in 2021.

Montgomery County is going through that process at Col. Zadok Magruder High in Derwood. He is one of seven slaveholders honored with county school names identified by a review that started in 2019. Those schools include the county’s namesake, Richard Montgomery, a former British officer who joined the Revolutionary War, only to die leading his troops at the age of 37.

“We heard opinions on both sides of the proposal, from, ‘We should change the name because he was a slave owner and it doesn’t align with our values,’ to ‘This is our historical name, so we can’t change history. We can’t erase it,’” said Frances Frost, who is leading the process as assistant to an associate superintendent.

With 211 schools, Montgomery County is the largest system in the state and has 48 named for individuals. There has been talk about ending the tradition.

“I think it just depends on where the board sits when we open a new school,” Frost said. “In the last few years, we’ve had two new schools. One is named for a person, the other is for the area.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Baltimore has 45 named for people. In Charles County, 29 of the 39 schools are named for individuals — including Mudd, the Southern Maryland physician imprisoned for helping actor John Wilkes Booth flee after Lincoln’s assassination.

In September, the school board adopted a procedure for removing a name, a spokesperson said, but has yet to take up any requests.

No public school district in Maryland has more schools named for people than Prince George’s County. Of its 206 public schools, 60 honor individuals.

They include Andrew Jackson Academy, Eleanor Roosevelt High and Charles Herbert Flowers High, named for a Tuskegee airman who later worked for NASA. The county set up a renaming commission two years ago, and in 2022, swapped the name of the under-construction Adelphi Middle to Sonia Sotomayor Middle School.

But it still has James Ryder Randall Elementary. The Baltimore native was living in Georgia when he wrote the secessionist anthem “Maryland, My Maryland,” the now-disowned state song. Called the Confederate “poet laureate,” he later was president of Georgetown University.

View post on Facebook

If names are open to reevaluation, that doesn’t appear to be a concern with Schillinger’s or Papa John’s. There’s nothing to indicate they are less than what they seem — hardworking farmers and their descendants.

Of course, there also is the national pizza delivery chain by the same name — no connection, by the way. Can you imagine what students would do with that?

Today, Jim and Gina Schillinger and their sons operate a farm in Centreville and are at the Anne Arundel County Farmers Markets most weekends.

Selling the farm was a hard choice. Over the years, Maryland took portions for road projects.

Jim and his family were working the 50 acres left when the widespread descendants of Ruth and John decided it was time to sell.

“Jim and I owned the business and over half of the farm,” Gina wrote in an email. “There were siblings, cousins, and even family of a sister that had passed prior to settlement. It was 14 people involved with the sale.”

There was disagreement over the $13.25 million county offer. Eventually, the county threatened to take the land through eminent domain if the Schillingers didn’t sell, according to the family.

“This is all water under the bridge at this point,” Gina wrote. “Just wish they would acknowledge the family in some way.”

Kennelly, the principal, said the selection team wants that, just without naming the school for them.

“I plan to reach out to the families directly to discuss their thoughts and involve them in the process — I would love to see them remain connected to the community in some way as we build our school.”

Rick Hutzell is the Annapolis columnist for The Baltimore Banner. He writes about what's happening today, how we got here and where we're going next. The former editor of Capital Gazette, he led the newspaper to a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 2018 mass shooting in its newsroom.

More From The Banner