WHAT’S IN A NAME? W.O. Lance Elementary School

Published 12:30 pm Saturday, February 25, 2023

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Most Americans are taught that when they see someone in uniform, they should tell them, “Thank you for your service.” Many veterans nowadays don’t get to hear it. Luckily, Ret. Vet and Superintendent W. O. Lance, of Lanett, got the chance to receive a huge “thank you” from the city of Lanett after many years of service.  

On March 10, 2009, Lance himself attended the dedication renaming of W. O. Lance Elementary School.

From 1944 to 1946, Lance served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He reached the rank of Tech 3 Sergeant during an 18-month service in the 70th Infantry Division in Europe.

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Lance graduated from Alabama Polytechnic Institute with a BS degree in agricultural education in 1949. He began his career at Dadeville High School in 1950. Four years later, he received his master’s degree.

He had three children, Susan Lance Prophitt, Patricia Lance and Joseph Edward Lance. 

He became the principal of Dadeville High School in 1956. He moved on to become the principal of Lanett High School from 1963 to 1970 before acting as the assistant superintendent of Lanett City Schools. Only a year later, though, Lance became the superintendent and held the position until 1984.

“He was a fair superintendent,” said Mayor Jamie Heard. 

It was during this time that Central Elementary in Lanett, which dated back to the 1920s, was rebuilt. Many in the community opposed it because of the historic significance of the old structure. However, in 1980, the new building was completed. 

The Lanett City Schools also became accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools while he was superintendent.

After four years, Lance decided to retire. However, he continued to visit the schools to volunteer his time and read to the children. 

Twenty-nine years after the school was built, it was renamed and dedicated to Lance for his longtime commitment to the school system. Lance was well-known in the community. 

He was a member of the Dadeville and Lanett Kiwanis Clubs for over 50 years. A natural leader, he served as president of the clubs as well as Lt. Governor and Secretary Treasurer of the Alabama District Kiwanis International.

“He was very active in the community,” Heard said.

A devout Christian, Lance attended Lanett First United Methodist Church for 52 years. He served the church in many ways throughout the years, from one of the trustees to being the chairman of the administrative board. 

He served as the treasurer of the Lanett United Methodist Men’s Club for 10 years. In 2002, he was awarded Man of the Year by the organization. He was also active in the Young at Heart club for which he served as treasurer.

The year he died, Lance received an award for accumulating 2,000 hours of volunteer service at Lanier Health Services. 

In July 2016, Lance passed away at the age of 90 years old. He left behind a large family from his own three children, two grandchildren and two great-children as well as his many step-children and grandchildren.