We have a bulletin from the August 28, 1952 Toccoa Record:
“John F. Carey, Demorest engineer, making a survey of Toccoa Falls Wednesday in connection with the proposed amphitheatre, says that he finds the height of the falls to be only 167 feet.
“Carey climbed to the top of the falls and dropped a steel tape to the bottom. The height has always been thought to be 186 feet.”
(Apparently Carey’s measurement didn’t stick. Both Wikipedia and the city of Toccoa continue to list the falls at 186 feet. No word if this actually ran deeper, say a feud between Habersham and Stephens counties.)
No, not the giant two-story building in the background. The one with the chimney. The one that resembles a small office.
This was Wilson High School, one of the smallest black high schools in Georgia.
Wilson opened in the building in September 1955. The history of black education in the preceding years was not well-publicized in the Catoosa County News.
From 1949-52, it was a two-teacher school. Teacher counts were not included again until 1956-57, when it had expanded up to three.
Wilson was not only quite small, it was the only school for African-Americans in the county. If any others had existed, they closed prior to the 1949-50 school year.
What sufficed as a school building prior to Wilson’s construction was not described in Catoosa County’s state survey, which was published in the newspaper January 3, 1952. It can be assumed that it was a frame building. A new building was in the works as soon as Catoosa revealed its improvement plans in 1953.
The Georgia Department of Education’s first attempt as a reasonably thorough list of black schools did not come until the 1956-57 school year. In that edition, Wilson was a 10-grade school. It was also listed as Ringgold Colored.
When exactly the Wilson name was applied to the school was unknown.
The Georgia Department of Education did not pick up the name in its directory until the 1959-60 school year and the first reference found in the Catoosa County News as Wilson was in October 1956.
The Educational Directory upgraded Wilson to 12 grades in 1957-58. It was listed as having four teachers in 1965-66, which may have been its final year as a school; Wilson is not in the 1966-67 directory.
Georgia Interscholastic Association records (housed by the Georgia High School Association) list Wilson’s average daily attendance at the high school level as 17 in 1959-60. If it still existed in 1966-67, Wilson’s ADA had increased to 22.
(Oddly, the Georgia Department of Education does not list Catoosa County as having a black high school in its 1961-62 publication, Public High School Data.)
Wilson’s existence as a high school was perhaps an odd one. Its ADA was one of the smallest of any public high school on either GIA region list.
It was not uncommon for counties with minuscule black populations in Georgia to bus school children to a neighboring district. Nearby Murray County was sending its high schoolers to Emery Street in Dalton – a county that also abutted Catoosa.
Eventually, Ringgold High grew around old Wilson. That school is the one in the background of the top photo. Perhaps surprisingly in the era of segregation, they were virtually neighbors after new schools opened in 1955.
Luckily, RHS had a use for the building.
Wilson is now the JROTC headquarters for Ringgold High. It’s a bit frightening that one department of a school is located in what was an entire grades 1-12 school.
Though a tornado came through in 2011 that damaged both Ringgold High and neighbor Ringgold Middle, Wilson still stands.
School Stories is a series of current-to fairly current photos of school buildings. Some are long abandoned, some are still in use. Most will be rural or small town schools. Information is provided by newspaper archives and editions of the Georgia Educational Directory.
May 24 marked the anniversary of an important milestone in Georgia High School Association history.
It was on that day in 1966 that the organization voted to admit all-black schools.
A May 26, 1966 Associated Press article from the Palm Beach Post (Fla.) and one the same date from the Rome News-Tribune provided details of the change.
Ten Atlanta schools and four from Savannah had applied for membership in the GHSA when the league held its annual meeting in Thomaston.
The 14 had been members of the Georgia Interscholastic Association. The schools admitted to the GHSA in 1966 were Savannah’s Beach, Johnson, St. Pius X and Tompkins. From the Atlanta area were Archer, Carver, Drexel, Hamilton, Harper, Howard, Price, South Fulton, Turner and Washington. Drexel and St. Pius X were both private Catholic schools (Drexel, oddly enough, was swallowed up by DeKalb County’s St. Pius X in 1967).
These were the first all-black schools in the GHSA, but some integration had taken place earlier. Barely a year after Atlanta’s high schools opened their doors to African-American students, January 1963’s Southern School News had a report on the integration of sports teams.
Whether by agreement or a GHSA ruling, no athletes were playing varsity level sports during the 1962-63 school year. Southern School News said that two athletes, John Henry Carter and Grady Davis were playing B-team basketball at Grady. Clemsey Wood was playing B-team hoops at Brown.
Integration was met with mixed results.
Decatur High, it said, cancelled a B-team game against Grady rather than face black athletes. Druid Hills and St. Pius X (DeKalb) had no issues and played on, as did Smith and West Fulton.
Wood told Southern School News that he believed his teammates had accepted him.
Bert Johnston, who coached Brown’s B-team admitted there was hostility during games.
“[A]s far as I can determine the boys on the team have accepted him. Of course, there has been some reaction from the spectators at other schools, but that’s to be expected.”
An African-American athlete also initially joined the Marist swim team, but found the travel to early morning practice too trying, according to athletic director Rev. William Seli.
Several other schools were gradually integrating and some systems with a small black population, such as Murray County, had completely integrated by the time of the applications.
Though powerful on a local level, the admittance of the 14 in May 1966 was a much bigger step. Now schools were playing not just one or two athletes that had changed schools, but entire teams rooted in identities.
In 1966, GHSA leader Sam Burke was apparently puzzled by what to do with the schools. Reclassification had taken place the previous fall. Regions were settled, schedules were settled.
Burke proposed a new region, 7-AAA, entirely filled with the applicants.
Though brutal for travel, it was not that much of a stretch for the 14 schools. Even at its largest, the GIA had only a single region for its largest schools, though it was subdivided.
The GHSA executive committee overruled Burke’s decision about a single region. The choice was left up to the schools.
All 14 schools were placed in a region for the 1966-67 season.
Region 2-AAA became the home of Beach, Johnson and Tompkins.
Region 3-AAA took on Archer, Harper, Howard, Price, South Fulton, Turner and Washington.
Carver went to Region 3-AA, while St. Pius X went to 2-A and Hamilton went to 4-A. For its one year in the GHSA, Drexel was in Region 8-C.
The ex-GIA members ultimately played a lot of each other in 1966 as figuring out a solution to region standings was not an easy fix. Basketball proved much better, with both Carver and Beach taking state boys titles. Beach walloped South Fulton in the AAA championship game and South Fulton and Turner also made the state tournament field.
A year later, the list grew even more.
Josey and Lucy Laney joined the league at the beginning of the school year. Carver (Columbus) and Spencer came over that December, after the GIA football season ended. The GHSA was even getting smaller public schools, such as Blakeney of Waynesboro.
Others filtered in in 1968. Had total integration not been pushed for 1970 by the Supreme Court, some deep southern Georgia smaller schools were also considering the jump.
Excelsior, based in Rochelle, had gotten the OK from Burke to join in 1970, according to principal Eddie Daniels.
Wilcox County High received all of Excelsior’s students in 1970. Had Excelsior continued, the November 6, 1969 Wilcox County Chronicle said they had at least temporarily been placed in Region 1-C, with Unadilla, Wheeler County, Vienna, Randolph County, Terrell County and Albany private school Deerfield.
The mass of schools leaving had a detrimental effect on the GIA.
Thirty-one high schools jumped to the GHSA or closed between 1966 and 1968, based on differences in the GIA region lists archived at the GHSA office.
At its peak, the GIA had four basketball classifications – AA, A, B and C. In its final year of operation, it was down to AA and A.
On November 12, 1969, The Atlanta Constitution reported that the league would disband in 1970. Burke said the GHSA was receiving applications, which would have included Excelsior’s.
The Constitution said the GIA was encouraging its schools to go to the GHSA if they thought they would have athletics in 1970-71.
Seville is slightly off the beaten path of US 280 in the western half of Wilcox County.
Pronounced See’vil, it was a town once right in the thick of things, on the highway and in population.
A 1950 United States census enumeration map estimated the town’s population at 250, just 100 less than the nearby town of Pitts. The map also showed 280 going right through the heart of town.
Seville was already beginning to languish in 1950.
The school building above had already been shuttered. Fifteen years ago, the situation had been different.
The Georgia Educational Directory first began listing the amount of teachers per school in the 1937-38 edition. That year, Seville had five of them and was considered a “standard” elementary school.
While not explained in any of the old directories, state-issued educational surveys from the 1910s-20s considered “standard schools” to have a good, clean building with well-trained teachers using at least some modern supplies and equipment. Standards had likely been raised by the 1930s, but probably not by much.
The standard label was gone in 1940-41. The number of teachers was down, too, to four. That number dwindled even further in the 1941-42 Georgia Educational Directory to three.
World War II was peaking for the United States in 1943-44 as Seville dropped yet another teacher. That might have been it for the school. The 1944-45 directory is not online and the school did not appear in 1945-46 edition.
Not long after, the remainder of Wilcox’s rural schools began closing. By 1951, white schools were only in Abbeville, Rochelle, Pitts and Pineview.
School Stories is a series of current-to fairly current photos of schools buildings. Some are long abandoned, some are still in use. Most will be rural or small town schools. Information is provided by newspaper archives and editions of the Georgia Educational Directory.
Forfeit stories from the olden days can be pretty amusing.
Unlike now when in-game forfeits occur seemingly mostly for fights or they’re determined afterwards for ineligible players, older forfeits are more fun and usually revolve around a hair-trigger decision by a coach.
On December 7, 1954, Butler head coach Mack Marchman pulled his boys team off the floor during a game in Pinehurst. The score was 14-9 at the time.
The Butler Herald from December 9 described the situation as, “Marchman apparently was dissatisfied with the referee’s decisions. Pinehurst scored all 14 of their points via the free foul shot route according to an observer.”
Arguably the toughest part for one Butler booster came minutes later.
“Mr. Alfred Robinson of Butler won the cake given as a door prize but returned it to the referee with a few kind words.”
The Minimum Foundation Program and State School Building Authority was a dual-purpose organization for Georgians: it enabled school systems to upgrade education and for Governor Herman Talmadge, it enabled school systems to upgrade education, hopefully enough to stave off integration.
When integration began sweeping the state, it meant that systems generally now had a bunch of buildings without a purpose. Most attempted to incorporate their formerly all-black schools in some way, but for buildings in rural communities, those attempts were generally short-lived.
Talmadge’s grand scheme of warding off integration was already beginning to wear slightly thin by the time the new Good Hope-Peters school opened in the town of Good Hope in Walton County in 1958. A year earlier, Little Rock, Ark.’s, Central High had been the first blow to the deep south’s chances.
Good Hope-Peters had already existed in name, combining the black Good Hope and Peters schools at the start of the 1951-52 school term. The new school came via State School Building Authority funds, built for $164,000 and containing 12 classrooms, a library and a principal’s office.
An estimated 239 students were enrolled, according to the Sept. 3, 1958 Walton Tribune. It was an increase over the 150 from a year ago, due in part to students consolidating from the small Mount Enon and Bethany schools.
For the first year, the school held grades 1-10. Tenth grade was shipped to Carver High in Monroe in 1959-60. Ninth was dropped by 1963-64. Georgia Educational directories list the school as holding eight grades for the remainder of its days as Good Hope-Peters, but it appears that Walton County received a grant in 1966 for preschool; Good-Hope Peters was one of the sites listed to get a class.
Life at Good Hope-Peters came to an abrupt halt at the end of the 1967-68 school year. Walton planned a massive desegregation program. The initial plans, announced May 27, 1968, were to house K-5 at Good Hope-Peters and 6-8 at Good Hope (a white elementary) and operate them as one school.
However, Walton was told by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) the overall county plan was not completely acceptable. In the redraft, both Good Hope-Peters and Good Hope were eliminated as schools. Under its original purpose, Good Hope-Peters served 10 years.
The school then received a strange savior.
George Walton Academy, one of quite many private schools to open in Georgia in the late 1960s under the guise of a sudden need for quality education, took over both campuses in the fall of 1969. It is unknown if Good Hope-Peters was included from the start or not, but by the time George Walton opened a new building in late 1974, both Good Hope sites were operating.
After George Walton’s departure, Good Hope-Peters was used to educate special education students, in combination with Morgan County as the Walton-Morgan Training Center. The school is not listed in any Georgia Educational Directory and is unknown how many years the site was operational.
(Walton Tribune – Sept. 3, 1958; Sept. 9, 1959; April 13, 1966; May 29, 1968; July 3, 1968; Aug. 21, 1969; Nov. 14, 1974; July 6, 1976.)
School Stories is a series of current-to fairly current photos of schools buildings. Some are long abandoned, some are still in use. Most will be rural or small town schools. Information is provided by newspaper archives and editions of the Georgia Educational Directory.
The 1950s were a momentous time in Georgia. Thanks to the Minimum Foundation
Program and the offers of state money to build desperately needed schools in Georgia, school systems were changing.
The state, wanting to upgrade white and black education, was trying to rid the small, rural high schools scattered throughout its borders and go with something more streamlined and cost effective.
Early days of this program were wild ones. The state had its beliefs about what should happen with the schools. School systems had others. Sometimes plans didn’t quite work out.
GORDON CENTRAL … 30 YEARS EARLIER
A pair of ideas were floated around Gordon County in the early 1950s. One was a total consolidation of Calhoun and the mostly small county high schools of Gordon into one building. The county and city both gave a stamp of approval to the idea in 1950.
However, in December 1951, Calhoun rejected the idea of straight consolidation. To do so would be for the city and county to merge school systems and Calhoun did not want to give up its independence. A contract, though, to bring the smallest of the schools to Calhoun, that was something they could get behind.
Calhoun city specifically mentioned Resaca, Sugar Valley, Oostanaula, Liberty, Belwood and Plainville. Yes, all of those were high schools in 1950s Gordon County. The county also boasted white high schools at Red Bud, Fairmount and Sonoraville. Those three were large enough to stand on their own. The state was OK with that plan, though the Minimum Foundation Program really would have liked to see the school boards merge.
In April 1952, though, the county voted to build a consolidated high school for Resaca, Sugar Valley, Oostanaula, Liberty, Belwood and Plainville. Fairmount, Red Bud and Sonoraville were still left alone. That plan might have come to fruition, if disaster had not struck in December of that year.
On December 15, 1952, Sonoraville’s school burned down. Suddenly, the county needed the money that might have gone to a county high school for a total school plant at Sonoraville. After that, the central high school dream began to fall apart.
Just as the 1952-53 school year was ending, Plainville asked to consolidate its high school with Calhoun. In July, Liberty practically begged to do the same. Despite space being scarce, Calhoun agreed to take on both.
When Calhoun’s needed space came through in 1956 via a new school, the remainder of the small county schools followed: Resaca, Sugar Valley, Oostanaula, Belwood and Sonoraville.
A real Gordon Central finally opened in 1985 for the county students. Red Bud and Fairmount lost their own high schools in 1991. Sonoraville, the school whose building loss perhaps ended the county high attempt of the 1950s, returned as a high school in 2005.
(The Gordon County News – Aug. 3, 1950; Oct. 9, 1950; Dec. 13, 1951; Apr. 22, 1952; Dec. 16, 1952; June 2, 1953; July 14, 1953; Nov. 22, 1956)
NORTH GWINNETT IN BUFORD, DACULA PART OF CENTRAL GWINNETT
There were three situations that would seem impossible now that came out of Gwinnett County’s school building and high school consolidation plans. Two didn’t happen. One did, albeit briefly.
West Gwinnett, a school that existed under that name from 1957-62 initially combined Norcross and Duluth. For a single school year, the two were together, until Duluth talked its way out of the situation. Norcross hung on to the West Gwinnett name for a few years more.
The other two major consolidations officially considered were: (1) Dacula to close its high school and join up with the bustling Central Gwinnett composed of Bethesda (by then a non-high school), Lilburn and Lawrenceville. And (2), North Gwinnett to be located at Buford, composed of Buford, Sugar Hill and Suwanee.
In December 1954, Gwinnett still had not chosen a site for North Gwinnett. Seven months later, it was announced that a contract that had been agreed upon between the county and Buford’s city system was null and void. The original plans were to alter and add on to Buford High.
No explanation was given by Lawrenceville’s News-Herald, but Buford balking on giving up its independence likely figured in, if it wasn’t the main reason.
Likewise, an exact explanation on when and how Dacula and Lilburn were dropped from Central Gwinnett has not yet been found. Both cities (and Duluth) were objecting to consolidation in 1952.
Lilburn lasted until 1966, when its students became part of Berkmar. Dacula remained small before booming into a very large school of its own.
(The News-Herald – Dec. 18, 1952; Dec. 17, 1954; July 7, 1955)
BARROW COUNTY HIGH
The state thought it was best for the county of Barrow to have a single white high school but with separate city and county boards of education, an agreement had to be made between them. The state heavily requested that these agreements be for 20 years. Full high schools existed at Statham (county) and Winder (city), with several ninth grade-level schools dotting the county.
At an impasse with the city in 1952 because of the length of the agreement, Barrow County made its own plans to maintain a high school. As late as August, the Barrow board decided to consolidate its county students into two sites.
Statham would get Holsenbeck students. Auburn would receive Bethlehem, County Line, Matthews and Victron. A full high school would exist at both sites, but under the single name of Barrow County High School.
The dual-town school would only be temporary, until Barrow County received state funds to build a new high school.
Registration was set for Aug. 28 with school to start Sept. 1. One the very eve of registration, the city and county came to a 20-year agreement. All county high school students (but not elementary) were welcome to attend Winder tuition-free, even those at Statham.
Statham maintained its high school and the county schools stayed the same.
The city and county eventually received funds at different times from the State School Building Authority. Anticipating full high school consolidation, Winder became Winder-Barrow in 1955. Statham closed as a high school in 1957.
(The Winder News – Aug. 21, 1952; Aug. 28, 1952)
BROOKS COUNTY HIGH AND QUITMAN HIGH AS SEPARATE ENTITIES
Brooks County and Quitman city, like many others, existed as separate school districts in the 1950s. Quitman had its own white elementary and high school, Brooks County had three white high schools at Morven, Dixie and Barwick.
Brooks County planned for a consolidated high school, buying land in January 1954 to house the building just outside Quitman on the Morven highway (GA 76). Initial reports indicated that the city was willing to join in and perhaps find some land near the present Quitman High for a new high school building.
By March 1954, the plans stalled, apparently at least partially over school location. The city wanted the school in another location because of traffic concerns. Between this and the next major squabble in late 1956, the city had built the African-American Washington Street High to replace Brooks High.
Some hope towards board consolidation took place before the November 1956 struggle over board representation. Quitman thought that having just two reps from the city were too few. Any deals were now off.
The county went ahead with plans for a consolidated high school for Barwick, Morven and Dixie, calling for bids in January 1958. A year later, the new high school was finished, but was not to be occupied until the 1959-60 school year.
Another attempt was made to combine boards through a Quitman city referendum. It was defeated soundly, 385-144. Not so fast, though. The vote wasn’t what Quitman wanted. The referendum called for a merger of the systems.
A straw vote taken the next week, which came out 288-135 in favor, provided for a temporary merger until a constitutional amendment made it permanent. The merger was made official in March 1959. Quitman would be going to the new Brooks County High. School started in the new building Aug. 31.
The merger did not just affect the white schools. Brooks County had planned for its own black high school, coincidentally located right next to the Washington Street plant. The new building also in 1959. It and the 1955 Washington building served as an elementary and high school, though rural elementaries continued to exist in Brooks.
CONSOLIDATION OF CARROLLTON, TEMPLE AND MOUNT ZION
When Carroll County and Carrollton city asked for a survey of their school systems in 1951, the results would set off seven years of fireworks.
The survey recommended three high schools: Villa Rica, which would include students from Temple; Bowdon and a consolidated high school of Carrollton, Whitesburg, Roopville and Mount Zion.
The protests against such a plan started immediately. Meanwhile, Carrollton started on its Minimum Foundation Foundation plans to expand Carrollton High.
In March 1953, the county board unanimously agreed to go along with beliefs of the people, that all of its rural high schools be maintained. There was some bending and flexing at a school board meeting three months later. Board representatives from Whitesburg and Mount Zion both said they understood consolidation if it meant their schools were not accredited. Georgia had recently introduced a plan that in the future, any schools with an average daily attendance under 100 would lose accreditation. Temple, Whitesburg, Roopville and Mount Zion were all under that number.
Despite the seeming progress, the county school board presented a plan to the State Board of Education in August 1953 to allow them to keep all the rural high schools. The state rejected it.
Soon, it seemed that the county was resigned to an agreement to make the three high schools plan work. Sites were examined for a new school site. But State Representative C.C. Perkins got involved with the school situation and began pushing the county to resist consolidation.
The situation grew dramatically worse in March 1955.
At a meeting with the State Board of Education in Atlanta, Perkins got into a fistfight with Dorsey Duffey, a Carroll County resident who supported consolidation.
Perkins began focusing on saving Mount Zion and building up the school. He was even able to get funds to start a football program in late 1955.
The county continued to fight against consolidation, resolving to keep all high schools in March 1957. Then in July 1957, Temple’s school burned.
How exactly the county came around to support the dissolution of the Roopville and Whitesburg schools is unknown at this time. Temple had gotten a bit of industry in the town, helping push its attendance. The football efforts at Mount Zion possibly saved it.
Central High School was finished in the fall of 1958, but with equipment not scheduled to arrive until the end of the calendar year, the county decided to wait until the 1959-60 school year to move in.
(Carroll County Georgian – March 22, 1951; Sept. 6, 1951; May 8, 1952; March 5, 1953; June 18, 1953; Aug. 20, 1953; Nov. 5, 1953; Feb. 11, 1954; March 17, 1955; Dec. 15, 1955; March 7, 1957. Carroll Times-Free Press – July 30, 1957; Sept. 16, 1958)
ELBERT COUNTY AND ELBERTON
Separate county and city school boards were not uncommon in the early 1950s. Many that did have separate boards also had rural towns with their own high schools. When trying to modernize education in the state and cut some waste, Georgia asked many of these separate systems to combine.
Some were fine with this idea, realizing that it really was for the best. Some were stubborn, hating that they would have to give up their independence. Some were Elberton and Elbert County.
Georgia wanted Elberton and Elbert to become one with their schools, but neither side was willing to agree.
In October 1952, the county announced plans for county-wide white and black high schools. Sites had already been purchased. Unlike in the cases of most other systems, Georgia refused to listen to the Elbert County requests until Elberton submitted theirs. The problem was, the city had no immediate needs and had no plans to file anytime soon.
Elbert County started negotiating with the city for a merger. After a year of talks, it seemed like they had hammered out their differences on picking board members and a superintendent. Elberton also apparently found some needs and submitted plans to the state. More than $1 million was approved for both systems. High schools were still separate.
No work had started on either system in 1954 when there was perhaps an omen of things to come.
Elberton High, formal name Central High, was severely damaged in a fire Oct. 2. Because of airtight doors, classrooms held, but repairs were extensive: plaster on all three floors had to be replaced, a new stairwell had to be constructed, there was damage to the roof, all windows (save for one) and doorways had to be replaced and the building needed to be rewired. Work was completed in a week.
Would the fire convince the systems to combine? It was a put to a vote in the general election a month later. City voters favored consolidation, but the county did not. Approval by both was needed, though the overall tally favored consolidation.
In October 1955, construction was on the immediate horizon, with bids for projects up. Then on November 7, Elberton High burned again, this time completely.
A high school had not been planned by the Elberton city system. Now one was desperately needed as students were being taught in several churches. On January 4, 1956, city citizens voted to abolish Elberton’s city school system. Elbert County and Elberton became one in July 1956.
The county high school was now a reality, but not as originally planned. Instead of being built in the county, a new school would go up on the site of the old Elberton High. Both systems had preferred that location. Similarly, the black high school site was moved to the city in June 1956, near Blackwell Memorial.
Bids were soon taken for construction and Elbert County High opened in 1957.