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Friday, August 17, 2012

David Scull, of Annandale, took civil rights advocacy to Supreme Court

David Scull, from the Scull Studios website
David H. Scull (1914-1983), a civil rights advocate who lived in Annandale and stood up in support of integrating Virginia’s schools, has largely been forgotten. But that could change if the new Mason Crest Elementary School in Annandale could somehow find a way to honor Scull’s legacy.

Craig Meiser, the historian for the Broyhill Crest Community Association, would like either the school’s library or cafeteria to be named for Scull. Meiser’s children will attend Mason Crest, and he plans to bring up the idea at an upcoming PTA meeting.

Scull, a Quaker, was vice president of the Fairfax County Council of Human Relations in the 1950s. He was also a partner in Turnpike Press, a calendar-publishing company based in Annandale.

Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which deemed separate schools for black and white students unconstitutional, the Virginia General Assembly enacted the “Stanley Plan,” which used the doctrine of “massive resistance” to block the integration of public schools in Virginia.

The Stanley Plan also established the “Thomson Committee,” after Del. James M. Thomson, ostensibly to investigate race relations and integration, but with the real purpose of destroying the livelihood of anyone advocating school desegregation.

According to news archives, Scull was found guilty of contempt for refusing to answer questions at a hearing called by Thompson to investigate alleged illegal law practices by the NAACP. Witnesses accused Thompson of using Gestapo-like tactics to persecute anyone in favor of desegregation.

A biography of Scull published in 1985, A Man Who Made a Difference: The Life of David H. Scull, by Charles E. Fager, quotes an editorial in the Washington Post (Oct. 25, 1957) that lauded Scull’s stance before the Thomson Committee. The editorial states: “There seems to be strong moral grounds for David H. Scull’s defiance. . . . We congratulate Mr. Scull on his scruples and his courage. Such pangs of conscience are the guardians of human liberty.”

Scull sued Thomspon, charging his free speech rights were violated. The Virginia Supreme Court upheld the conviction, but it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Scull v. Virginia (May 4, 1959) the High Court threw out Scull’s conviction, but did so on procedural, rather than substantive, grounds.
According Fager’s book, Scull had purchased “a wooded, two-plus-acre-lot in Annandale, Virginia,” in 1940. “Now a heavily developed suburb, in those days, Annandale was unmistakably in the country: The road was unpaved, the address was a rural route box number, and there was no sewage, water, or gas.”

David Scull and his wife, Lauren, paid $300 for the lot and got a $7,500 FHA loan to build a house. They later expanded the house and purchased an adjoining lot and lived in that house for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t provide an address.

During the 1960s, Scull was increasingly active in promoting Quaker-supported projects to encourage economic development in third-world countries.

The calendar business Scull founded, renamed Scull Studios, is currently operated by Scull’s daughter, Priscilla Scull Chappell, and her husband, Lou Chappell, in Marquette, Mich.


  1. Craig Meiser8/17/12, 11:58 PM

    Mr. Scull needs to be honored in an appropriate way. The Turnpike Press building housed the George Mason Library before the library was relocated to its present location; In addition to Scull v. Virginia case that was decided 9-0 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Mr. Scull's favor (, Mr. Scull was also was a part of the District of Columbia v. John R. Thompson Co., Inc. case (a.k.a., the Thompson's Restaurant Case) in 1953 that led, by an 8-0 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, to the desegregation of restaurants in Washington D.C.;

    The above information is where I got the idea of dedicating the Library or the Cafeteria in Mr. Scull's honor.

    However, the Broyhill Crest Community Association (Mr. Scull's Turnpike Press printed the BCCA's community directories the first several years), the Mason Crest Elementary School PTO, the Mason Crest Elementary School staff, the Mason District Supervisor, and the School Board are, rightly, more concerned about helping with the the orderly opening of the long awaited school and the safety of pedestrians and motorists commuting in the area around the school.

    The traffic has gotten alot worse in the area around the school since the Masonville Elementary School (i.e., the school that used to occupy the same lot at Mason Crest Elementary School) closed over 30 years ago. After Masonville Elementary School closed, the building was renamed the Donald Lacey Instructional Center and housed various FCPS administrative functions before it was vacated and demolished to get the site ready for construction of the new school.

    More important business (e.g., Safety) precedes any motion to name any part of the school after anybody.

  2. I recently learned that David Scull lived near Poe Middle School. He owned the property on the corner of Little River Turnpike and Hillbrook Drive and donated it to the county to build the library. Before that, he let the county use space in his printing business in Annandale for a library.