Travis Rebel News

“What’s In A Name?”

Popular trends of school name changes rob current identity, past connections, school traditions

By Riley Woodward, Assistant Editor

Despite the enormous cost of changing a school’s name and/or a school’s mascot in a district that is scraping to balance a huge budget deficit, name changing strips the identities of these schools and robs the alumni and current students of their identities, their lineage and their traditions. Essentially, it changes the history and changes the future of these schools.

So, what’s really in a name?

Let’s take WWII concentration camps for an example.

Upon entry to concentration camps, people were forced to become known as a number and drop their names. A family name is part of one’s lineage, a part of one’s deep-rooted family history. When stripped away, a person loses not only identity but also a connection to his or her own history. In sorts, it made this group of people who were proud and rich in historical connections to their lineage, merely generic; they became disconnected from their history and maybe no longer recognize even themselves.

Let’s take Texas A&M University and The University of Texas for examples.

Texas A&M opened for classes in the fall of 1876; The University of Texas opened in 1883. By the early 1900s, both schools claimed their nicknames and became known as “Aggies” and “Longhorns.”

As the idiomatic phrase goes, “the rest his history.”

These two schools not only have rich histories of traditions within their institutions, but their traditions are ingrained in Texas history itself. Additionally, both schools affirm two of the largest alumni organizations of any college or university on the planet which pours millions of dollars into each institution yearly.

What would happen if these names were stripped from these institutions and renamed? What if “Aggies” changed to the Texas A&M “Planters” or “Longhorns” changed to UT “Calves?” The idea is both absurd and just down-right silly for them to be any other name but “Aggies” and “Longhorns!”  Would their histories be robbed? Would the history of Texas be robbed? How would the alumni connect with their own history? Would the out-pouring of money stop from the alumni whose lineage created these universities? What would happen to the traditions? Would they cease to be “Aggies” and “Longhorns?”

Enough said.

Now, let’s take our school as an example.

William B. Travis High School opened for classes in the fall of 1953; the same year McCallum High opened. Travis was located south of the Colorado River, McCallum north of the of the river. Prior to this year, the only high school in Austin was Stephen F. Austin High School. That is 66 years of history and tradition for former and current students of Travis High.

Travis High is rich in traditions. Traditions play a unique role in the culture of any school. They have the potential to teach students about the history of their institution, provide a means of building community, instill common values that span generations of students and generate pride and enthusiasm among current and former students. Names are traditions; traditions connect.

So what is a Travis Rebel?

Ask that question to any current or former student of Travis High. They respond with words like family, community, pride, intertwined pinkies, Rebels True, Victory or Death, The Tower burning red after a victory, never give up, determination, and “Friendship does not end in death; it continues strong and true. For once a Rebel always a Rebel; Rebels true, Rebels true.” These are to just name a few.

We Rebels know the meanings of the aforementioned because we current students live it daily, and the former students not only have special memories of it, but they can live it with us now…because we share a common connection, wrapped up the name, Rebels.

That’s the beauty of traditions; they live in the hearts of all who have experienced them.

Rebels…that is who we are.

It is our identity.


How would current and/or former students of 66 years past who call themselves Rebels identify with any other name?

See, the facts is…there is pride in a name just because of its history and tradition. This is true for Rebels, Aggies and Longhorns, for example. I want to be an Aggie not because of the institution itself but because of the historical lineage and experience. My Mom is an Aggie; my Great-Great Grandfather is an Aggie; my Uncle is an Aggie. Notice please, I did not say “was an Aggie” because “Once An Aggie, Always An Aggie.” I have grown up learning of what it means to be an Aggie. Since I was an child, I have wanted to be a part of this long, lineage of history. If Texas A&M changed to “Planters” or any other name, not only would it disconnect me from my family of Aggies, but it would change my future.

Are you wondering why I bring this subject to light?

According to Austin ISD Board of Trustees documents, the discussion to rename schools and/or change mascots due to Confederate ties has been a topic since November 2015 at which time the names of: Eastside Memorial High School at the Johnston Campus (formerly Albert Sidney Johnston High School), Sidney Lanier High School, John H. Reagan High School, Zachary Taylor Fulmore Middle School, The Allan Facility (formerly Allan Elementary) and William B. Travis High, Rebels, was first mentioned.

Specifically, the Rebels mascot was also discussed by the Board of Trustees again at a board work session in January 2018 and again during a board meeting in February 2018.

A reporter for the local radio station, KUT 90.5, Claire McInerny, has been covering this topic for several years.

As we know, the names of Lanier and Eastside Memorial High Schools have been approved but not yet renamed. Reagan High School, Fulmore Middle School and the Allan Center have already been renamed effective 2020 school year.

Although, the Rebels mascot was not directly addressed at the recent February 25 Board of Trustees meeting, Trustee Dr. Jayme Mathias suggested changing the names of Lamar Middle School, Austin, and Bowie High Schools because, he said, these men were either proponents of slavery or they were slaveowners themselves.

Our mascot, the Rebels, was named in memory of Commander William B. Travis’ courage to rebel against Mexico and fight for Texas’ freedom at The Battle of the Alamo against an elite Mexican army that outnumbered the Texans by several thousands. He wrote a letter requesting reinforcement soldiers, “I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country–Victory or Death.” He refused to surrender even though he knew reinforcements would not have time to arrive before the end. He was killed along with all of his men.

Today, that encompasses what being a William B. Travis High School Rebel is all about; the courage to stand together as a united community and family where everyone is included, celebrated, cared for and encouraged to be everything we can be.

It has nothing to do with Confederate ties.

I feel it is unfortunate that the Board of Trustees or anyone else who looks in from the outside does not understand the experience of what it means to be a Rebel.

So, I ask again, what’s really in a name? I would say, Everything.

To my fellow Rebels, what do you say?

How will you be affected if this change is made?



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About the Writer
Riley Woodward, Assistant Editor

Grade: 10th
Birthday: November 30, 2002
What do I do in my free-time? I read, dance, play with my dog, and hangout with my friends.
Post-high School Plans: Go to Texas A&M, and work as a physical therapist when I graduate.
Extra curricular: Rebelettes, Student Council, Green Teens, Tennis, ECHS and Newspaper Staff.
Where will I be in 10 years? I want a lot of dogs and live somewhere outside of Texas as a physical therapist.

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"Friendship does not end in death; it continues strong and true. For once a Rebel always a Rebel; Rebels true, Rebels true."
“What’s In A Name?”