How the Minimum Foundation Program transformed the state, Part I

Note: This is the start of a series about the biggest change to ever hit Georgia public school education, the Minimum Foundation Program.

With most of the action happening in the 1950s, the Minimum Foundation Program completely reshaped school systems throughout the states, building new or adding to thousands of schools. It caused widespread consolidation of white high schools and eliminated more than 75 percent of black schools over a 10-year span, from 1949-50 to 1959-60.

How did it happen and why was it so huge?

We’ll start in the years before the Minimum Foundation’s school building program began.

Georgia schools had no money in the 1940s.

There was a teacher pay crisis at the state level in 1939-40.

Upson County borrowed $5,000 to pay its educators in April 1940 when the state failed. Teachers in Bacon County in 1939 were working in March despite being owed 2.5 months of salary. The county school system had previously paid one month of it.

Wartime made funds tighter.

Despite Barney High winning its second straight state boys basketball championship in 1944, Brooks County closed the school and sent the children to Morven High.

Brooks couldn’t pay extra teacher salaries after the state dropped the allotment granted to the system because of falling attendance. At Dixie High, also in Brooks County, home economics and agriculture classes were also dropped at that time because of the lack of money available.

The end of the war resulted in a boom – particularly a baby boom – but Georgia’s schools were in bad shape.

Overcrowding was a major problem.

In 1950, Clinch County estimated the 500 students in the Homerville school were double what the building was designed to hold.

Telfair barracks (LAOSATAT)

Old military barracks were the entirety of the classroom buildings at Telfair County’s Ocmulgee School in 1949, which served grades 1-11 (later 1-12). Ocmulgee had burned, but Telfair lacked the funds to rebuild on its own, necessitating the use of the barracks. (Photo from Look At Our Schools! 1949 … as they are today)

At the complete northern end of the state, Chatsworth was having to use space at the First Baptist Church, in addition to its grammar school regular classrooms, an auditorium and “other space” because of needed classrooms in 1948.

Murray County had passed a $175,000 bond, but there was bickering in the county that $40,500 was going to Chatsworth Grammar.

The April 26, 1948 Chatsworth Times reported:

“The Board of Education is making every effort to spread and stretch the $175,000.00 bond money to take care of the greatest needs in schools over the county. The trust is at least $500,000.00 is needed to put Murray County’s schools in first class shape, Mr. [Superintendent Ray] Bagley stated. The $175,000.00 is being distributed as fairly among the schools as the board thinks it can possibly be done.”

The $40,500 going to Chatsworth Grammar wasn’t even close to filling all of its needs. The school was still going to lack a lunchroom as there wasn’t enough money to build one. The system was stretching its dime to get six classrooms, a library, an office and two restrooms in the deal.

Money was scarce in other ways, too.

Haralson County was so broke in April 1949 that it wanted to stop school bus services.

The Haralson County Tribune described how dire the situation was in its April 28, 1949 edition:

“County School Superintendent Ernest H. Goldin informed [The Haralson County Tribune] a few days ago that it would utterly be impossible to pay transportation costs of the buses in this country next term and for that reason several of the country schools would be reopened to take care of the children in their immediate vicinities. It will mean that a lot of the children who have been riding the buses will either walk to school or their parents will have to transport them.

“”We have gone just as far as we can. In fact, we have scraped the bottom of the barrel, and on top of that, the county system is in debt,” so said Supt. Goldin.”

Goldin and the county school board appealed to State School Superintendent M.D. Collins. Collins said no funds were available to help, adding that he was getting requests from other small school systems.

In June, however, Haralson and Goldin were informed they must run buses if they planned on having schools. State officials said the buses were “integral” to school operations.

With little money to fund new buildings or anything else in their systems, counties were not exactly building schools to grow with the future.

Hazlehurst High burned in 1947. When the new high school – christened Jeff Davis – opened in September 1949, 302 students were put into 15 regular classrooms. Barely two years later, a school survey finished in January 1952 was already recommending a new high school.

The 1952 committee noted about the 1949 Jeff Davis High, “The present site is not expandable appreciably and should not have any more buildings added to it.”

Ringgold Grammar added six classrooms in 1951. The building burned in 1954 and was almost immediately under reconstruction. When the plans were announced in early 1955 for Catoosa County’s building program, Ringgold Grammar already needed 10 more classrooms.

And few were stepping in for black schools.

When money was being spent, almost all tended to go to white schools.

DSC02787

Middle Hill was one of 41 black schools in Washington County when the Minimum Foundation Program began. Because of delays in the county’s building projects when white Tennille High wasn’t keen on consolidating, Middle Hill operated in this building through the 1957-58 school year. By virtue of being (at least) two teachers, Middle Hill was larger than 54 percent of black schools in the state, which had one teacher in 1950. The building was assuredly nicer than most, too. Middle Hill’s old school building is being used by the church of the same name, the box air conditioning units a later addition.

A lawsuit was hanging over Irwin County’s head in 1950 over conditions at black schools (dismissed in December 1950). In June 1950, voters approved bonds to improve schools in the county, namely the building of a new consolidated white high school.

The bonds approved issued $130,000 for the white high school, $20,000 for improvements at Irwinville, $5,000 each for white schools at Mystic and Holt and $30,000 to replace the black high school.

Even with a lawsuit that threatened to change the very fabric of the county’s being, Irwin felt compelled to only spend 16 percent of the bond on black students. And all of that percentage was going to one building. Irwin County operated 11 black schools as of June 1950, according to the Seventy-Eighth and Seventy-Ninth Annual Reports of the Department of Education.

In October 1948, Mitchell County’s Board of Education refused to even provide windows or doors for the African-American Greenough School.

A committee from Greenough asked for 22 windows and seven doors for the buildings, which they said did not have any. After discussing the matter, the board told the committee to ask around in the community and “make out somehow as there were no funds available for work on school buildings.”

(Later in the same report, the Mitchell BOE was said to sell two old school buses for $1,000. New buses had recently been purchased. The Seventy-Eighth and Seventy-Ninth Annual Reports, in giving its report on school bus transportation for each county, noted that Mitchell County’s school system provided no buses for black students.)

Clearly education in Georgia was underfunded and unequal. There had to be a remedy to fix horrible situations occurring all over the state.

Sources: The Macon Telegraph – April 28, 1940; The Alma Times – March 23, 1939; The Quitman Free Press – Aug. 31, 1944; Clinch County News – March 3, 1950; Jeff Davis County Ledger – Sept. 22, 1949, Jan. 10, 1952; The Ocilla Star – June 1, 1950, Dec. 28, 1950; The Chatsworth Times – Aug. 26, 1948; The Haralson County Tribune – Apr. 28, 1949, June 2, 1949; The Catoosa County News – Aug. 2, 1951, Jan. 20, 1955; The Camilla Enterprise – Oct. 8, 1948; Seventy-Eighth and Seventy-Ninth Annual Reports of the Department of Education; Report on Georgia Schools (1960); Look At Our Schools! 1949 … as they are today.

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Eugene Cook’s high school football segregation fit

Most basic American history books point to a handful of big cases involving the rights of African-Americans.

There’s the Dred Scott decision. Voting rights established in the Constitution and the couple of Supreme Court cases where you can actually remember both sides: Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan. (1954).

Plessy v. Ferguson is commonly attributed as being the court case that established “separate but equal.” The latter, the Brown case, is supposed to have ended segregation entirely.

Of course, history is not as plain as that or as easy to enforce. Georgia fought long and hard for school segregation, with the University of Georgia integrating in January 1961 and four Atlanta public schools doing so in late August 1961. Several school districts integrated after 1965 and only under federal pressure.

Schools were not the only thing to desegregate years after the Brown decision. Macon integrated lunch counters in October 1961. The Wilcox County library was whites-only until July 1965.

Likewise, Plessy v. Ferguson did not guarantee that separate but equal would actually be equal. Lawsuits were filed in a handful of Georgia counties after World War II, including Irwin and Camden, asking for the equalization of school systems.

But even the supposed defeat of segregation in Brown v. Board in 1954 was not enough for Georgia Attorney General Eugene Cook to deny what was supposed to be set up by Plessy in 1896.

Cook outlawed a football game in 1956 on separate but equal grounds when equal grounds did not exist.

Hill High, an African-American institution of LaFayette, had been slated to meet Summerville High (usually called Summerville Negro is newspaper articles; Summerville’s black school was later named A.C. Carter) November 29, 1956, which was to take place at Sturdivant Stadium in Summerville.

Sturdivant Stadium was the home of the white Summerville High.

This enraged Cook, who ordered the game cancelled November 28.

The Savannah Morning News reported, “Cook said he told the officials Georgia’s segregation laws provide for separate facilities in the classroom and auditoriums as well as in the gymnasiums and football stadiums.”

There was a huge problem with this ruling.

Summerville’s black high school did not have a football field. Nor did Hill, which shared fields with LaFayette High at Patton Stadium.

The Ku Klux Klan protested the game, which was enough to get Chattooga County Schools to jump. They feared the wrath of Cook and worried that it might cost them state funds if the game was held.

Chattooga Countians were not thrilled with the decision. An estimated 1,500 of them cheered at a Jaycees meeting in Summerville when Cook was criticized for the move.

State Senator-elect Bobby Lee Cook, a Summerville-based attorney, was equally mad with the attorney general and promised to let him have it for two hours once Bobby Lee Cook took his seat in the Senate in January 1957.

The two black high schools were not even getting much out of it for themselves. Proceeds of the game, said the December 1956 edition of Southern School News, would have benefited the band of the white Summerville High.

Jaycees president Charles Farrar said $500 had been spent to promote the game. The group had hoped to make $2,500. Segregated seating had been planned.

Farrar promised that if necessary, the game would be held in a cow pasture. There were no follow-ups following the Southern School News article in December. Neither Summerville nor LaFayette newspapers seemingly ever even mentioned the game. (Rome News-Tribune editions from the end of 1956 are not included with Google’s scans of the paper’s archives, limiting spur of the moment research.)

Eugene Cook’s and the Klan’s interest in the game are a bit strange.

Separate but equal facilities were routinely overlooked in the land of high school football, where most white and black football-playing schools had agreements about use of the white field.

Rome’s Main High played at Barron Stadium. Fairmont High in Griffin played at Memorial Stadium, before and after a money-losing attempt at hosting their own games. Cleveland Field was home to Dasher and later Pinevale in Valdosta. Athens High and Industrial (later known as Burney Harris) even played at least a handful of games at Sanford Stadium.

Eugene Cook had dozens of examples to choose from every week on the high school gridiron of a black school playing at a playing field used by white players at all other times. He picked on a benefit game between two very small high schools and in two areas with a small black population.

Earlier in 1956, Eugene Cook turned down another attempt at venue-sharing between a white high school and a black high school that lacked facilities.

Dallas High was considering allowing Matthews High to use the gym one night per week.

There was much hesitancy to this on the part of Dallas residents and Paulding County Superintendent J.C. Scoggins asked for Eugene Cook’s opinion.

Not surprisingly, Cook shot down the idea on the grounds that it violated Georgia’s “social customs and traditions.”

Postscript: Some idea of how Sturdivant Stadium looked can be gleaned from the backgrounds of some sporting images at Chattooga Photo History. Located on Summerville High’s land (and Chattooga High’s after consolidation), Sturdivant Stadium was used by Chattooga High through the 1965 season.

Sources: Camden County Tribune – March 9, 1951; The Daily Tifton Gazette – Nov. 30, 1956; The Lanier County News – Nov. 3, 1949; Rome News-Tribune – Nov. 1, 1961; The Savannah Morning News – Nov. 29, 1956; Southern School News – March 1956, December 1956; The Wilcox County Chronicle – June 17, 1965

A look back at the state’s largest high schools, part II

In the first part of looking back at attendance numbers of Georgia’s biggest high schools through the 1960s, it seemed like it was big cities who led the way with large student bodies.

Fast-forward a decade later and things were starting to rapidly change.

The Georgia High School began printing average daily attendance with region lists in its handbooks, starting with classification of 1978-79. Reclassification occurred every two years, which does not seem like much time for massive shifts, but in some cases, there were.

Ten years after printing the initial ADA lists, leaders were quite different. Most of the trends in 1988 are still present now.

1978-80 (Georgia High School Association handbooks)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,635)
  2. Forest Park (1,923)
  3. Warner Robins (1,679)
  4. Griffin (1,624)
  5. Jonesboro (1,578)

Note: The GHSA was likely only using 10th-12th grade data for ADA until 1998.

What a difference a decade makes.

The Bibb County reorganization of 1970 tossed together eight high schools: three all-female, three all-male and two coed and traditionally African-American. Before the reorganization, the largest high schools had been in the central part of Macon, Lanier and A.L. Miller. Southwest did not get these students in reorganization, but did receive the Willingham and McEvoy territory, combined with students from Ballard-Hudson.

Perhaps not shockingly, Southwest was a state powerhouse in boys basketball at this time. Under the legendary Don Richardson, the squad won six state titles over a 20-year span and in 1979, went 28-0.

Forest Park had been among the largest high schools in the state at the end of the 1960s. Atlanta’s sprawl contributed to its growth, as it did with Jonesboro, another Clayton County school. Warner Robins grew rapidly during the same decade.

Griffin began its run near the top of the heap for large high schools and would remain there until a second public high school, Spalding, was built.

1980-82 (GHSA)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,818)
  2. Parkview (2,101)
  3. Forest Park (1,833)
  4. Griffin (1,745)
  5. Walton (1,682)

For the first time, a Gwinnett County school appears on the list.

Parkview opened in 1976. Its growth was arrested in 1981 when Brookwood opened. This will not be the last appearance of a Gwinnett school.

Walton, from Cobb County, is the first top five school to come from there.

Atlanta was spreading out of the city and it was mostly spreading north.

1982-84 (GHSA)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,433)
  2. Griffin (1,899)
  3. Walton (1,874)
  4. Forest Park (1,662)
  5. Warner Robins (1,626)

No surprises and no one new. Brookwood opened as a fairly small school in 1981, estimated ADA of 555, but it was enough to pull at the base of Parkview students, which was now listed at 1,596. Parkview later dropped below 1,200 students on the GHSA lists in the mid-1990s. That, too, did not last.

1984-86 (GHSA)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,312)
  2. Griffin (1,842)
  3. Newton County (1,448)
  4. Warner Robins (1,425)
  5. Northside, Warner Robins (1,394)

Numbers dip for the next two classification cycles. The only metro Atlanta school on the list was Newton County, its sole appearance in the top five. Newton was the county’s lone public high school at this time, a status it entertained for another decade, until the opening of Eastside.

Northside had actually dropped from 1,600 students in the 1982-84.

1986-88 (GHSA)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,092)
  2. Griffin (1,777)
  3. Lassiter (1,660)
  4. Walton (1,462)
  5. Evans (1,389)

This was Southwest’s final appearance as one of the state’s top five largest high schools. Macon’s now-defunct Southeast High joined the GHSA in 1988 with an initial ADA of 1,000 and obviously pulled at least some students from Southwest. In 1988, Southwest’s ADA was 1,040.

Evans made its sole appearance here and immediately saw numbers fall because of a new high school. Lakeside (Evans) opened in 1988 and nearly 900 students immediately entered its doors.

That actually made only a slight dent in Evans’ numbers, which were listed as being 909 in 1988.

Eighteen years earlier, Evans’ ADA had been 490 and as a school with grades 6-12, the entire student population was 918.

1988-90 (GHSA)

  1. Lassiter (2,390)
  2. Griffin (1,980)
  3. Walton (1,876)
  4. Dunwoody (1,843)
  5. Sprayberry (1,791)

Three schools are from Cobb County. A fourth is from Gwinnett.

Dunwoody’s numbers spiked with the addition of students from Peachtree High, which closed in 1988. In only one other reclassification period, 1998-99 (at 1,719) has Dunwoody come as close to having the this many students. By that point, the GHSA changed how it calculated average daily attendance and all schools had a significant increase. Dunwoody may be close to surpassing that number now, though, as currently it is listed as having 1,697 students.

Sprayberry was the second oldest high school on the list. It opened in 1952.

1990-92 (GHSA)

  1. Griffin (1,907)
  2. Jonesboro (1,774)
  3. Redan (1,621)
  4. Lassiter (1,589)
  5. Sprayberry (1,588)

Lassiter’s drop in students (700 between classification cycles) has no clear explanation at the moment, other than the GHSA perhaps not measuring the impact of the opening of Pope High.

Pope opened in 1987 and then was given an estimated ADA of  1,125 in 1988-90. While Cobb did cut one high school (Campbell absorbed Wills in 1989), Pope and Harrison, which opened in 1991, were tasked with lessening the major overcrowding going on in the school system.

In 1990, Cobb had had 11 public high schools. Now, it has 16.

Similarly, the GHSA declined to estimate attendance at the new (1989) Mount Zion High in Clayton County, which possibly kept Jonesboro in the top five if MZ’s impact was not being considered. In 1992, Jonesboro had an ADA of 1,230.

1992-94 (GHSA)

  1. Griffin (1,952)
  2. Brookwood (1,676)
  3. McEachern (1,671)
  4. North Cobb (1,577)
  5. Redan (1,476)

1994-96 (GHSA)

  1. Griffin (1,859)
  2. Brookwood (1,765)
  3. Lassiter (1,528)
  4. Redan (1,521)
  5. Walton (1,500)

This was Redan’s last appearance on the list. Redan’s numbers remained stabled until 2013-14 period (and currently at 1,025), but that, of course, couldn’t compare with the exponential growth in counties around DeKalb.

1996-98 (GHSA)

  1. Brookwood (1,792)
  2. Lassiter (1,711)
  3. Chattahoochee (1,709)
  4. Griffin (1,657)
  5. Walton (1,557)

Chattahoochee’s numbers swelled as north Fulton County’s did. Centennial relieved some pressure with a 1997 opening as did Northview in 2002. A third high school, Johns Creek, also opened in the old Chattahoochee attendance zone, doing so in 2009.

1998-00 (GHSA)

  1. Chattahoochee (2,760)
  2. Griffin (2,695)
  3. Harrison (2,566)
  4. Lassiter (2,536)
  5. Brookwood (2,465)

Griffin was knocked from its perch in 2000 when Spalding High opened with an estimate of 800 students.

2000-02 (GHSA)

  1. Collins Hill (2,860)
  2. Harrison (2,806)
  3. McEachern (2,694)
  4. Lassiter (2,676)
  5. Brookwood (2,651)

And we have the first appearance of Collins Hill.

A Gwinnett school opened in 1994, it immediately had an attendance of 1,247 students. It grew. There was an ADA of 1,491 in 1996 and 2,247 in 1998.

Three schools on the list are Cobb County schools and two are from Gwinnett.

2002-04 (GHSA)

  1. Collins Hill (3,484)
  2. Brookwood (2,908)
  3. Lassiter (2,802)
  4. McEachern (2,786)
  5. Chattahoochee (2,607)

In two years, Collins Hill has grown by 600 students.

Centennial, which cut into Chattahoochee’s attendance area, has 2,114 students in 2002.

2004-06 (GHSA)

  1. Collins Hill (4,089)
  2. McEachern (3,115)
  3. Brookwood (3,000)
  4. North Gwinnett (2,748)
  5. Lowndes (2,682)

Collins Hill peaks in size on GHSA lists. Mill Creek opened that year with 2,200 students, but that did little to staunch the amount of students entering school in that section of the county. North Gwinnett, in an adjoining school district, also felt the impact of the surge.

With Cobb and Gwinnett trying to keep up with high school growth, Lowndes sneaks into the top five. The Lowndes Board of Education gave heavy consideration in 2007 to building a new high school north of Valdosta (with an estimated open year of 2010), but nothing came of it.

2006-08 (GHSA)

  1. Collins Hill (3,443.5)
  2. McEachern (3,432.5)
  3. Brookwood (3,130)
  4. Kennesaw Mountain (2,940)
  5. Camden County (2,678)

Kennesaw Mountain opened in 2000 with 2,000 students, helping to relieve some of the stress of northern Cobb schools. Hillgrove (opened 2006) and Allatoona (2008) have since opened in the area. Hillgrove took much stress off McEachern as well, which now operates at 1,000 students less.

Camden County remains the lone high school in Camden.

Moderately sized through the 1980s, its growth accelerated with Kings Bay’s naval submarine base, which estimated in 1992 that its impact would mean an additional 1,000 students in the school system over the course of a decade. There do not seem to be any reports of Camden perhaps splitting its high school, which has been located in all three of its major cities (Woodbine, St. Marys and Kingsland) over the course of its history.

2008-10 (GHSA)

  1. Mill Creek (3,771.5)
  2. Collins Hill (3,643)
  3. Brookwood (3,409.5)
  4. Grayson (3,107.5)
  5. Peachtree Ridge (3,051)

Mill Creek opened in 2004 to relieve Collins Hill. Mountain View opened in 2009 to help relieve Mill Creek.

Lanier opened in 2010, Peachtree Ridge opened in 2003, Grayson in 2000 and Archer, on the east side of the county, opened in 2009.

All five of the top five were Gwinnett schools.

2010-12 (GHSA)

  1. Brookwood (3,433.5)
  2. Mill Creek (3,361 – projected)
  3. Collins Hill (3,335)
  4. Berkmar (3,208.5)
  5. Peachtree Ridge (3,152)

All five were again Gwinnett schools and the list has stayed that way. The projected figure for Mill Creek is because of Mountain View, which was projected to have 1,917 students.

2012-14 (GHSA)

  1. Mill Creek (2,766)
  2. Norcross (2,709)
  3. Brookwood (2,560)
  4. Collins Hill (2,539)
  5. Berkmar (2,512)

Note: Looks like a momentary return to three-grade ADA.

2014-16 (GHSA)

  1. Mill Creek (3,708)
  2. Norcross (3,649)
  3. Berkmar (3,376)
  4. Brookwood (3,372)
  5. Peachtree Ridge (3,204)

2016-18 (GHSA)

  1. Mill Creek (3,998)
  2. Norcross (3,753)
  3. Brookwood (3,476)
  4. Peachtree Ridge (3,201)
  5. Collins Hill (3,175)

Discovery High opened in 2015 and is currently listed with a 2,127 ADA. Gwinnett is planning to relieve high schools on the west side of the county even more.

A Gwinnett high school attendance zone map indicates that Paul Duke STEM High School will open in 2018 with another theme high school to open in the Meadowcreek area in 2019. A name has not been announced for the latter.

Gwinnett’s growth can be traced to the spread of Atlanta and a spread of students from both Atlanta/Fulton and DeKalb areas.

In 1960, the county school system had high schools at Central Gwinnett, Dacula, Duluth, Hooper-Renwick (African-American), Lilburn, North Gwinnett, South Gwinnett, West Gwinnett (which soon reverted back to the name of Norcross).

Lilburn gave ground to Berkmar in the middle of the decade and Hooper-Renwick integrated into other schools, but things began changing in the 1970s. Exponential growth, however, has only been in the past 20-25 years.

A look back at the state’s largest high schools

Reclassification is months away in the Georgia High School Association, but guesses about which schools are the biggest in the state are probably fairly easy ones.

The largest will come from Gwinnett County, some just slightly smaller from Cobb County. Lowndes may push into the state’s top 10.

Collins Hill dropped jaws and raised eyebrows when it topped 4,000 students almost 15 years ago. A high school larger than the populations of some small towns, including county seats.

It may not have been the first high school in Georgia to reach that mark.

Georgia’s average daily attendance figures for schools are difficult to find prior to the late 1970s.

I have stumbled on a partial list from 1951 and have a full list from The Atlanta Constitution from 1965. I lack access to ProQuest’s Constitution archives to see if more exist.

There are three lists that popped up – 1961-62, 1967-68 and 1969-70 – labeled Public High School Data in the Georgia Government Publications archives. The box of Georgia Interscholastic Association archives housed by the Georgia High School Association has a handful of region lists with ADA numbers.

Finally, some school systems would give attendance reports at the beginning of school years. Most of those that have surfaced are from smaller systems.

Mega-sized schools were few and far between in the olden days, at least by current standards.

The Atlanta Daily World in 1936 did claim that Atlanta’s Washington High was housing nearly 4,000 students. What grades Washington taught was not mentioned. Washington was the city’s sole public black high school.

Few others would have held as many as 1,500.

A few numbers that have surfaced from before the 1960s are eye-catching.

Augusta’s Richmond Academy had 989 students at the start of the 1940-41 school year while all-girls high school Tubman enrolled 1,118. In 1952-53, The Augusta Chronicle reported that at the start of the fall term Richmond Academy (and the associated junior college) had 1,500 students. Tubman had 1,262.

Lucy Laney had 904 students in high school in October 1952. At the time, it was Augusta’s only public black high school.

Lanier was a 2,000-man school for 1952-54 reclassification, according to numbers published in The Daily Tifton Gazette. It and A.L. Miller, boys and girls high schools, respectively, were probably similarly-sized. At that time, they were the only public white high schools in Bibb County.

Soon, more cumulative lists were published. These were the largest high schools in each, with a few historical notes:

1959-60 (GIA archives)

  1. Washington, Atlanta (1,534)
  2. Howard, Atlanta (1,188)
  3. Spencer (1,164)
  4. Ballard-Hudson (1,104)
  5. Beach (1,082)

Desegregation began in 1961 and Atlanta kept opening majority black high schools in the city, but Washington consistently grew through the decade. Howard grew slightly, but by 1969-70 was falling, with an average daily attendance recorded at 858 that year. In 1976, the Atlanta school system closed Howard High. Washington lost numbers in the 1970s, but never dropped below Class AA.

1961-62 (Public High School Data, includes white and black schools)

  1. Savannah (2,008)
  2. Washington, Atlanta (1,777)
  3. Albany (1,697)
  4. Baker (1,605)
  5. Columbus (1,581)

Albany High was not at its largest in 1961-62 – it was listed at 1,824 students in 1967-68’s Public High School Data – but the school was arguably at its most powerful. Albany was the sole white high school in the city (Monroe was the only black high school) and with no big private schools to eat at its population.

In 1963, the Dougherty school district opened Dougherty High on the east side of town. As the city’s population shifted, Westover opened in 1968 on the northwest side. With Deerfield Academy opening, then Riverview Academy opening and white flight taking hold, Albany’s significance began to dwindle. Albany’s ADA was 830 in 1969-70. While stable, it ultimately wound up on the chopping block in 2017. Dougherty’s oldest high school is no more.

1966-68 (Atlanta Constitution list for GHSA reclassification from Nov. 18, 1965)

  1. Lanier (3,126)
  2. A.L. Miller (2,994)
  3. Arnold (2,761)*
  4. Jordan (2,512)
  5. Baker (2,445)

Lanier and Miller would both lose significant numbers with the creation of Mark Smith and Lasseter high schools. All three Macon girls’ high schools were GHSA members, but oddly only Miller was listed in reclassification. A.L. Miller, Lasseter and McEvoy, the latter being the other Macon girls’ high school, were only associate members of the GHSA.

While the classifications list was released in November 1965, Baker’s and Jordan’s attendance figures might have been estimated (or simply incorrect as they vary tremendously from the state-published Public High School Data figures from 1961-62). The Constitution does list the region’s newest school, Hardaway, as having 1,448 students. Baker remained one of the state’s largest high schools as of the 1967-68 Public High School Data, but its number had dropped by 600 students. Jordan was even harder hit, losing around 800 in average daily attendance.

Long associated with Columbus’ military community, Baker’s decline was steep. The GHSA’s average daily attendance was 934 when it began publishing average daily attendance data in its handbooks for 1978-79 region listings.  In 1980, the number was 607 before falling all the way to 363 in 1986-87. It recovered to 600 in 1990-91, but by then it was too late; Baker closed in 1991.

* Arnold is almost assuredly an incorrectly labeled Savannah in the reclassification region list. Though the new Windsor Forest possibly pulled from its attendance area, Public High School Data of 1967-68 lists Arnold’s average daily attendance figure as 397, with Windsor Forest at 605.

Savannah is not listed in region list (the listing is technically “Savannah Arnold” in The Constitution) and at that time, Savannah’s numbers were huge. The GHSA region list of 1966-67 has both schools in the same conference.

1966-68 (GIA archives)

  1. Ballard-Hudson (1,862)
  2. Spencer (1,353)
  3. Monroe, Albany (1,138)
  4. Carver, Columbus (1,098)
  5. Tompkins (1,066)

Note: Likely constructed during the summer of 1966, after several teams jumped to the GHSA, the ADA list did not include schools such as Washington of Atlanta, which would have been around 2,000 students. It does, however, include several Savannah schools that jumped that year.

1967-68 (Public High School Data)

  1. Washington, Atlanta (2,039)
  2. Savannah (2,017)
  3. Albany (1,824)
  4. Baker (1,811)
  5. Price (1,716)

Albany peaks in (known) attendance. Price had 500 students fewer in the 1969-70 Public High School Data. Savannah began to slide, too, in 1969-70.

1968-70 (GIA archives)

  1. Ballard-Hudson (1,559)
  2. Monroe (1,142)
  3. Central, Newnan (763)
  4. T.J. Elder (711)
  5. Fairmont (692)

The exodus had begun, in both terms of larger schools to the GHSA and integration, and by the time district play actually commenced in 1968, Ballard-Hudson was gone to the GHSA as well. When fully integrated, Washington County – with whom Elder combined – would never be higher than a Class AAA school. Fairmont’s enrollment, however, would push Griffin to being one of the state’s largest high schools.

1969-70 (Public High School Data)

  1. Washington, Atlanta (1,919)
  2. Baker (1,918)
  3. Warner Robins (1,815)
  4. Savannah (1,797)
  5. Jordan (1,762)

Warner Robins’ ascent was rapid. After opening in 1944 – high school students were sent to Bonaire when the base first opened – its growth was enough to warrant a second high school (Northside) in 1963. In 1961-62, Warner Robins High had 1,286 students. In 1969-70, the Warner Robins and Northside accounted for nearly 3,200 students.

To be continued in part II, where we jump ahead to the end of the 1970s and see the rise of much larger metro Atlanta schools.

Sources: Atlanta Daily World – Sept. 15, 1936; The Daily Tifton Gazette – Oct. 24, 1951; The Augusta Chronicle – Sept. 8, 1940, Oct. 8, 1952; The Atlanta Constitution – Nov. 18, 1965.

School stories: Burgess Landrum

Burgess Landrum

The entrance to Jenkins County Elementary in 2011, modified since use as Burgess Landrum High School.

Formerly segregated schools still being used for school purposes are increasingly an endangered species.

Most systems attempted to get use out of their black schools after integration, but as their buildings became extras, their locations not ideal and the wear and tear of time, many have been shuttered.

In Jenkins County, a once-segregated building is thriving.

Burgess Landrum, a grades 1-12 building from 1956-70, was transformed into a primary and elementary school in 1970. It remains one today.

Burgess Landrum technically opened as Jenkins County Training March 30, 1956. The Board of Education decided on April 3rd to rename it for Landrum, the retiring superintendent of schools.

The Millen News said, “Mr. Landrum has been associated with the Jenkins County School system for twenty eight years and will retire at the end of this present term on December 31, 1956.”

Landrum worked “untiringly” on the building program for Jenkins County, funded via the Minimum Foundation Program, according to The News.

Burgess Landrum was not the only African-American school in Georgia to be named for a white educator; soon after the death of Greene County superintendent Floyd T. Corry, Greene County High was given his name.

Jenkins had always intended build a new black school plant in Millen. It was one of only four projects the county requested, along with a lunchroom and workshop at Jenkins County High, addition to the African-American Aaron Industrial and an African-American school for Birdsville-Herndon. The program was approved in 1953.

Any hope of getting the buildings finished early were shot down in December 1954, when The Millen News because the architect designed a building that was too fancy, some $14,000 more than Georgia’s cut-off. That was resolved quickly and bids were up in January 1955. Construction began in March 1955.

Before the first mound of dirt could be moved, though, tragedy struck.

Jenkins County Training burned to the ground on March 8, 1955. The only buildings saved at the school were the vocational and home economics building, as well as the library.

“Among the furnishings that were lost,” said The News, “were new Choir Robes and a new piano just purchased by the school. All other equipment was also destroyed.”

Little insurance was carried on the building.

JCTS students were housed in churches and other nearby buildings while construction was ongoing.

Burgess Landrum 2

The back of the former Burgess Landrum building.

Burgess Landrum was a Class A school in the Georgia Interscholastic Association for most of its existence and its overall size was perhaps deceptive for a black school in northeastern Georgia.

The 1961-62 Public High School Data recorded an average daily attendance of 203 in the high school and just under 1,000 for all grades. In 1969-70, as systems were to be desegregating, Public High School Data reported an increase in Burgess Landrum’s student body: a high school ADA of 258 and entire student body population of 1,300.

Some of the increase can be credited to Jenkins County eliminating its rural black elementaries. School directories report the elimination of Cousins Elementary in 1962 and of Aaron Industrial and Birdsville-Herndon in 1967. The former had 10 teachers in 1967, but the latter had dropped to just three after having seven in 1956-57.

Burgess Landrum was a 1-12 school through 1970, unlike other systems, not dropping any entire grades as desegregation progressed. In 1970 came the name change to Jenkins County Primary and Elementary and the housing of grades 1-6.

Primary and elementary grades were split for several years and the Landrum building held grades 3-5. By the end of the 1990s, primary and elementary were back in the same building.

In athletics, the Burgess Landrum boys are known to have played in the 1966 GIA Class A tournament, where they took fourth place.

Landrum defeated Fairburn and Ethel Kight during the tourney, but couldn’t get past ultimate state champ T.C. Calhoun in a game played at Hancock Central (and 88-74 or 88-67 loss, depending on source), then dropped a consolation game to Liberty County, 81-69.

Burgess Landrum’s Bombers also tried their hand at football late in the life of the GIA.

They were scheduled to play Evans County in 1963, but no result has surfaced. The Bombers did play in 1967-69, but did not have much success on the gridiron. Currently, the only known win for Burgess Landrum was in 1969 over Statesboro-based William James High and coming by a 6-0 score.

Opponents were mainly from eastern Georgia, but the Bombers did travel to as far as Dublin to play Dr. B.D. Perry High.

Frank Bell coached the squad in 1969, with an L. Callair listed in 1967.

Sources: The Millen News – Sept. 17, 1953, Dec. 2, 1954, Jan. 6, 1955, March 10, 1955, March 24, 1955, Oct. 6, 1955, April 5, 1956; 1961-62 and 1969-70 Public High School Data; multiple editions of the Georgia Educational Directory.

Wartime message from Quitman

We bring you this special wartime bulletin from the January 14, 1943 Quitman Free Press and the Ilex Theatre:

1943-01-14 The Quitman Free Press (go to the movies)

The Ilex, whose listed history on Cinema Treasures says it was named for a brand of cattle, has since been demolished.

Possibly the biggest reflection upon changes, though, is the claim that everyone in Quitman is located within a mile of the building. Or the suggestion that some Quitman ladies need to trim down, with a scale located right in the lobby for their convenience.

For the honor of being called Lanier

This blog recently told the story of Morgan-Leary, a high school that only lasted three months under its name. The school previously had been known as Calhoun and in 1957 and after three months as Morgan-Leary, changed its name to Morgan (which had been the school’s name until the 1953-54 school year).

An even shorter-lived school name has popped up: Pearl Stephens High.

Its brief existence is probably not a record, either, considering some of the upheaval in Georgia’s educational system.

More than one school in the state has bore the name of Pearl Stephens High School. The one for this story existed in Macon in 1924.

Macon had a complicated history of high schools in the 1910s-20s.

Gresham was the city’s main white high school until 1909, when a new school opened at Forsyth and Orange streets. This new high school would only share honors as being the main high school, though, as education was split into boys and girls high schools.

The new boys high school either did not have a name or retained the name of Gresham (split across two sites) until September 1910, when it took the name of Lanier, named for poet Sidney Lanier.

Almost immediately, both schools were overcrowded. In November 1912, the board of education decided to expand the Lanier site for boys and girls high schools and turn Gresham into a grammar school.

While the new Lanier was under construction, the board temporarily relieved some of the overcrowding at the site by creating double sessions at the Gresham girls high school and briefly returning it to a coeducational status.

The expanded Lanier of 1913 was coed and remained that way until changes in 1924 when the boys of Lanier were moved to a new building.

Lanier Girls

A postcard of Lanier High for Girls. It was the name female students in Macon preferred, but the honor of being Lanier High for Girls was only achieved by protests.

The new boys site was immediately christened Lanier. But what to do with the girls?

The Bibb Board of Education thought it had a perfect solution, which it announced at a September 11 meeting.

“Bibb County’s new high school for boys was yesterday named Lanier High School and the institution which has borne that name and is now to be used exclusively for girls was named Pearl Stephens High School, at the September meeting of the Board of Education held yesterday at the courthouse.”

The late Miss Stephens was a well known educator in the city schools for more than 35 years.

Keeping the boys school at Lanier was a source of pride for the boys and it was agreed to retain the name. Protests to the Stephens name were dismissed.

At that time, the board did not seem to recognize how important the Lanier name was for the girls as well, despite letters before the change.

When rumors of the new name were circulating in late August, a Lanier alumnus named Helen Shaw Harrold wrote the Macon Telegraph a letter about why she wanted the old name kept:

“Most of the letters have favored the idea of taking the name ‘Lanier’ from the building to which it rightly belongs, or giving it to the boys and of renaming the real ‘Lanier,’ ‘Pearl Stephens High School.’ Against this idea I do earnestly protest as do a great many, who, however, have not expressed themselves. I have nothing against the memory of Miss Pearl — she was fine — but it just seems foolish to me that the name should be taken from the school to which it belongs. As a matter of fact, when Miss Pearl taught at the high school she taught intermediate boys.”

It wasn’t just Stephens’ name seemingly being only significant to male students that Harrold protested, it was the lack of recognition given to the accomplishments of female students.

“The main contention of those would would take the name from us and give it to the boys is that the boys have won so many honors on the drill and athletic field while the girls have done nothing? Why haven’t they? Because the girls have never been allowed to have school teams in any sport at all. They have never been allowed to play on any basketball court except in the inadequate, unequipped, dark gymnasium in the basement of the school. There is good material among the girls which put together and with the proper instruction and coaching would make fine teams. Other high schools in the State, some of which are larger while others are smaller, have supported teams for boys and girls alike. Why can’t we?

“So much for athletics. A school cannot live off of that alone. In the field of scholarship, which have been the more faithful to their books, the girls or the boys? The girls, every time. Each month when the honor roll was published, the girls outnumbered the boys by a large majority.”

(White girls in Bibb County schools would not be allowed to play competitive high school basketball until 1970.)

Harrold suggested naming the new school Lanier High for Girls.

After the name change, even more letters of protest went to the Telegraph. One described the movement going on at the school.

“For a while there were indignant discussions and marked resentment at the idea of another name,” said Margaret Long on September 24.  “Now some of the girls wear black ribbons ‘in loving memory of the deceased Lanier High School.’ Others, maybe a little defiantly, are wearing orange and green ribbons on their shoulders.”

Long said the movement was not about Pearl Stephens, but about their love of Lanier.

“There is probably not a girl at ‘Pearl Stephens School’ who does not admire and respect this wonderful woman and honor her memory. But there are others who have taught at long as Miss Stephens and done as much good. For instance, Miss Clara Smith taught for forty-four years and is one of the most wonderfully beloved women in Macon. Miss Clara was not only loved devotedly by everyone who was fortunate enough to have her as a teacher but everyone of her acquaintance.

“Of course, Lanier couldn’t be named for more than one teacher and as there are more than one who are worthy of the honor, why not please the girls to whom it would mean so much to have for the name of their school, ‘Lanier Girls’ High’?”

The protests finally struck with the board of education, especially a petition with 1,000 signatures. On October 9, the girls school was granted its old Lanier name, but the decision was not unanimous.

J. Ellsworth Hall was the most vocal of the opponents.

““This whole thing has been assiduously worked up,” Hall said. “These girls do not know what they want. I can take a petition before them tomorrow morning and get every one of them to sign it.”

T.D. Tinsley asked that the board not acknowledge the petition at all. He lost that vote, 7-5.

Macon mayor Luther Williams urged that Stephens be honored with another school. Stephens’ family had previously blessed the naming of the high school in her honor.

Despite opposition, Pearl Stephens was again Lanier.

The name stayed six more years, when a new girls high was built.

In 1930, when the building was under construction, the school was given the name A.L. Miller.

There were again letters of protest against a name change, but this time the board stuck with its decision. Miller High it was when it opened in 1931 and Miller High it remained until Macon’s massive integration and coeducational high school shuffle of 1970.

The Bibb County Board of Education did find a way to honor Stephens; an elementary school was named in her honor. The Facebook group, We Attended Pearl Stephens Elementary in Macon, GA, pegs the school’s dates as 1929-90. Pearl Stephens Elementary was turned into senior housing, Pearl Stephens Village, in 2008.

(Note: The Pearl Stephens school in Warner Robins, which was an African-American high school through the 1969-70 school year, was named for a different Pearl Stephens.)

Sources: Macon Telegraph – Sept. 27, 1910, June 6, 1912, Nov. 21, 1912, May 9, 1913, Aug. 28, 1924, Sept. 12, 1924, Oct. 10, 1924, Dec. 12, 1930, Jan. 4, 2017;  National Register of Historical Places Registration Form for A.L. Miller buildings