Campaign launched to chart life of 'first black headmaster'

A campaign has been launched to chart the life of a teacher believed to be Britain's first black headmaster - 50 years after his historic appointment.

Tony O'Connor became the head of Bearwood Primary School in Smethwick, West Midlands, in 1967 and said he did not care if he was the "first, second, third or 250th West Indian headmaster".

Then aged 45, Mr O'Connor told The Times: "I am only interested in carrying out the instructions of the Education Committee which appointed me - to take care of the school and the education of the children."

Newspaper reports from 1967 described how racist graffiti and swastikas were daubed on the walls of the school after the ex-RAF serviceman was chosen to take charge.

Former Smethwick councillor and local historian David Hallam is now appealing for help to chronicle Mr O'Connor's achievements and arrange for a plaque to be put up marking the groundbreaking appointment.

Appealing for relatives and former pupils of Mr O'Connor to get in touch, Mr Hallam said: "Tony O'Connor proved to be a very popular head teacher and stayed for 16 years.

"His story should be told. He overcame bigotry and did much to improve race relations in the area. Sadly his name has almost been lost."

Mr Hallam added: "There's now a commemorative page on Facebook and I hope that we can write the story of his life.

"It would be particularly poignant if the walls which were once daubed with racist slogans were adorned by a blue plaque in his honour.

"We would particularly like to make contact with Tony's family, colleagues and former pupils. Siting a blue plaque takes time and is a complicated process so we will need a lot of support for the project."

Details of the campaign can be found at https://www.facebook.com/TonyOConnorCommemorativ

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