Albany High closes

The final Albany High School (source: Wikipedia)

The Dougherty County School System announced Tuesday that Albany High was closing, effective immediately.

Albany was the county’s oldest high school, with roots to the 1800s and was the system’s only public white high school until Dougherty opened in 1963. Monroe was the home of all of the system’s black high school children until September 1964, when 12th graders began the process of desegregation.

The closure came six weeks after the Dougherty County School System proposed reorganization for Albany High, whose numbers have been declining.

The Albany Herald said the vote was 4-3 in favor of closure.

The final AHS building was completed in 1954, costing a whopping $1.9 million at the time. By contrast, in 1952, Terrell County estimated that it would cost $1.5 million to build seven elementary schools as part of its building program.

When opened in 1954, Albany High had 1,300 students. The last numbers released by the Georgia High School Association – average daily attendance for reclassification in 2016 – Albany was down to 837.

Average daily attendance numbers are hard to come by before 1978, but AHS had to be near its peak in student population in 1962 when the number was 1,697. That made it the second largest white high school in Georgia (Savannah, 2,008) and third largest in Georgia overall (Washington of Atlanta was second at 1,777).

Upon the opening of the 1954 building, no guarantees were made about how long it would last.

The Albany Herald said, “With Albany growing at its present rate, however, no building can be made adequate for anticipated needs for any great length of time, Mr. Kalmon [E.H. Kalmon, Dougherty board chairman] indicated.”

The lengthy article described every facet of the building, from recessed water fountains to its 1,900 lockers. Naturally, the athletic facilities were quite nice for the era.

“THE GYMNASIUM is of such tremendous size as to stagger the visitor. No less than six basketball goals are erected on the interior which boasts a maple floor and pull-out bleachers recessed in the walls which will seat 1,400 persons. In addition, huge ventilating fans keep the structure pleasantly cool. Two practice and two contest courts are provided for basketball and the gym is fringed with showers and dressing rooms, as well as offices and class space for physical education and coaches. The girls’ showers are planning for individual use, whereas the boys have “gang” showers. Lockers and shower facilities are also provided for visiting athletic teams.

“The gymnasium also has a well-designed lobby containing trophy cases, a concession stand and public rest rooms. It is easily available to the enormous parking area in the plant’s rear.

“The basketball goals of the gymnasium may be pulled up and recessed into the wall when not in use and facilities are available to drop a metal screen down the center of the gym to separate boys’ and girls’ basketball squads or physical educational classes.”

Within 10 years, the city had a new high school to behold with the opening of Dougherty on the growing east side of town. Westover opened in 1968.

Albany kept its school population over 1,000 until likely the mid 1990s. GHSA numbers were based on three grades until 1998.

In 1978, the first year the league printed ADA figures in its handbooks, Albany had 922 students from 10th-12th grade. The number dipped to 852 in 1984 before falling under 700 during the next classification cycle.

Albany High recovered to 914 students in 1998, but spent 2000-14 under 800 students, including a low of 702 in 2012-14. The number jumped again to 912 for 2014-16, but dropped again.

The second Albany High School

Albany’s first dedicated high school was built in 1916, according to the Albany High Times, and located at the corner of Society and Monroe streets. It quickly outgrew the site and was replaced by a building at 1000 N. Jefferson Street. Before the high school buildings, Albany’s high school was part of an all-grades building called Albany Academy.

Albany won only one boys state basketball tournament, the Class B championship in 1935 under head basketball coach and former head football coach, Bevin Lee. The Indians dominated Perry, 34-20, at Woodruff Hall in Athens for the championship.

Albany Indians, 2006-07
Albany High basketball, 2006-07

They were runners-up in 1990 and 1993 – both times to Westover – under Archie Chatmon.

Albany’s girls won state titles in 1952 and 1953. They had not been to state since 2012.

Starting in 1955, Albany also hosted the city’s major boys basketball Christmas tournament before the Civic Center was built.

Indians was chosen as the athletic teams’ nickname in a contest c. 1924. Albany did not have a nickname prior, though the school colors of orange and green had already been established.

1961-62 Albany High Squaws

Sources: The Dawson News – Nov. 6, 1952; The Albany Herald – Aug. 17, 1954, Dec. 16, 1979; Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Education Statistics: Public High School Data; Southern School News – September 1964; multiple handbooks of the Georgia High School Association; Albany High Times

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