Buckner Elementary School opened in 1956. The building was expanded in 1958 and again in 1976 and 2004. The 2004 upgrade was done by architect Charles F. McAfee, who helped redesign the McAdams Park pool in 1969. The city upgraded that same pool in 2020-21 and renamed it in McAfee’s honor.
Back to the school which is named after Mary Wadsworth Buckner who was born in Morrow County, Ohio on October 4, 1851.
Not much is known about her early years. She met the Honorable William T. Buckner and they married in June of 1883 in Cleveland, Ohio. The following year, the couple moved to Wichita. Where Buckner practiced law and was elected probate judge of Sedgwick county. He served two terms from 1889 to 1893.
Mary stayed pretty busy, she was a member of the Wichita Board of Education and was the state president of the Woman’s Relief Corps of Kansas. She was well known for fighting against child abuse and for the rights of women. She was one of nine women who formed the Hypatia Club, named after Hypatia, a fifth-century Greek female philosopher and educator who was persecuted and killed for her belief in open thought and discussion.
Mary and William were outgoing members of St. John’s Episcopal Church. She is credited for raising a large portion of the funds to build the current church building in the late 1880s.
Interesting Note: One of the founding members of the church was John P. Hilton. He was the great grandfather of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The church reached out to the Justice, and she visited the church during Lent in 1988.
Buckner was also the first woman elected to the Board of Education serving until 1916.
Mary died on August 5, 1920 at the age of 68. Mary and William are interred at Maple Grove Cemetery. I went to take pictures of the gravesite. The couple has no headstones. Wouldn’t it be great if the young artists at Buckner created a marker for them?
During the 1992-93 school year, Buckner became a magnet school emphasizing the performing arts with an emphasis on dance, drama and music.
Check out Wichita’s other schools.