New Fayette Co. elementary school named after slain firefighter


LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)-Fayette County’s newest elementary school will be named in honor of Lexington Fire Department Lt. Brenda Cowan, who was killed in the line of duty 15 years ago this month, following a unanimous vote by the Fayette County Board of Education Monday.

Brenda Cowan Elementary School, which is currently under construction on Athens Boonesboro Road, will open in August of 2019.

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Cowan, who was a firefighter on Engine 18, was Lexington’s first black female firefighter and served for 12 years prior to her death. Throughout her career, she was a role model and mentor to many young women in our community. According to Women in the Fire Service, Lieutenant Cowan is the first black female career firefighter in the nation ever to die in the line of duty.

The fifth of six children, Cowan was born in rural Sturgis, KY, and graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in psychology. She was known for her addicting smile‚ her compassion for others‚ her involvement with her church family at Consolidated Baptist Church, and her love for children.

Members of the naming committee included families whose children will attend the new school, school and district leaders, community representatives and elected officials from the area. They received 132 different name suggestions from 617 people for the new school.

The district’s naming policy says new schools, facilities, and properties may be named for a geographical area of Lexington/Fayette County or a prominent deceased person who contributed to the history and/or progress of the Lexington/Fayette County area or nation.

In addition to Brenda Cowan Elementary, the committee considered three other finalists:

  • Cross Plains: the original name of the location where the school will sit.
  • Joanna Childress: who taught music education at all the black schools in Lexington and at Ashland after schools were desegregated.
  • Jean Ritchie: American folk music singer, songwriter, and Appalachian dulcimer player.