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.

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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.

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School stories: Hickory Grove

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Hickory Grove school, located in east Hancock County. The headstones behind the building are from the adjoining Hickory Grove Church.

This was a schoolhouse. It remained a schoolhouse until January 1960.

That information about the above Hickory Grove School may seem shocking, but not for Hancock County. Though quite rural, the county operated 14 black schoolhouses until January 1960 and some were even smaller than Hickory Grove. Ten years earlier, there were 23 schools.

Not much is known of Hickory Grove’s history. As it was not uncommon for black churches to double as schools the buildings could have been one and the same in some of the 1930s community reports.

Hickory Grove’s appearance resembles that of a Rosenwald school.

However, while the Rosenwald fund seems to have been generous to Hancock County, the Fisk University database has no record of a school built at Hickory Grove. Nor is it mentioned as one in the Sparta Ishmaelite.

It is certainly possible that Hickory Grove was inspired by Rosenwald schools. The fund is known to be responsible for four other buildings in Hancock, including a school at East End, which was located only a few miles away and though bigger, had a entrance that merely appears to have been a mirror image of Hickory Grove in an archive photo.

The school was active for community and children. Registration for war ration books was held there in 1943.

In 1948, it hosted its district of Hancock County schools in an Achievement Day, where the schools competed in literary and athletics competitions, with special displays of home economics and 4-H club projects. Schools coming over for district were Galilee, Sandy Run East, Archer’s Grove, Cherry Hill, Bethlehem, Culverton, Thankful and Pleasant Grove.

The Georgia Educational Directory did not make an attempt at identifying all black schools until its 1956-57 edition, which only then highlighted the bigger centers. Hickory Grove was not considered one of those.

In 1957-58 and 1958-59, the school was listed as having grades 1-7 under the guidance of two teachers. It was not listed in 1959-60 as a pair of new black schools being built by the the State School Building Authority (Hancock County Training and Southwest) were not finished.

Hickory Grove was finally emptied in January 1960, but possibly not for one of the new buildings. Brand new Hancock County Training was already overcrowded.

As the January 28 Ishmaelite explained, “This will leave some Elementary pupils at the L.S. Ingraham School and some at Galilee as the mammoth new building was not large enough to accommodate them all.”

Galilee was just a few miles directly west of Hickory Springs, almost located on the same road. It looks to have remained a school until 1962.

Shortly after closing, Hickory Grove – as well as its land – was slated to be sold at auction in June 1960, along with several other small former black schools.

Hancock seems to have had a change of heart over what to do with Hickory Grove. Online property records for the county show that the parcel, which is still identified as Hickory Grove School, was granted to Hickory Grove Church for $0.

(Note: The date listed for Hickory Grove’s property transfer to the church is given as May 6, 1960, before it was listed in the Ishmaelite as being part of the auction.)

Sources: The Sparta Ishmaelite – Oct. 21, 1943, April 22, 1948, Dec. 28, 1950, Sept. 24, 1959, Jan. 28, 1960, June 2, 1960; Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Card File Database; multiple editions of the Georgia Educational Directory; Hancock County property records.

School stories: Hiram Rosenwald

Not every story of a closed school ends badly, with ruins, weeds and caved-in roofs.

Some not only thrive, but have something to teach us.

Hiram Rosenwald is one of these stories.

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Hiram Rosenwald, 2013

Rosenwald schools got their name from Julius Rosenwald, a supplier who eventually became president and chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Company. Rosenwald took an interest in African-American education, especially in the south, where schools were lacking and conditions were deplorable.

Through a partnership with Booker T. Washington, he became a board member at Tuskegee and set up the Rosenwald Fund in 1917. One of the major programs of the Fund built black schools – nearly 5,000 of them across 15 states. The New Georgia Encyclopedia gives Georgia’s share of this total as 242, built in 103 counties.

Many of the schools were small – one- and two-teacher – and were aided by community support. That was the case in Hiram, where the fund contributed $750 towards the $3,010 total cost for a local school. African-Americans, presumably Paulding County/area citizens, contributed $1,400.

Hiram Rosenwald was budgeted in 1929-30 and built as a two-teacher school. Notes from Fisk University’s Rosenwald Database said it included an elementary library valued at $120.

For the next 25 years, Hiram Rosenwald faithfully served. For part of its history, it contained high school grades, but by the 1946-47 term, it was limited to seven grades, older students going to Matthews in Dallas.

In 1952, Paulding County became one of the first systems in Georgia approved for Minimum Foundation Program school building funds, with further support coming from a local bond issue passed later that year.

Plans called for the building or improvement of nine schools in the county. Plans also called for the consolidation of all black schools into one: Matthews.

Grading began on school sites in the spring of 1954, but not all of the schools were open by the time the 1955-56 year was to begin.

“The Board regrets that all the new buildings are not ready for the opening of school,” said The New Era on August 18, 1955.

Matthews was one of the schools that had yet to open and the Paulding County Board of Education opted to send all of Hiram’s students back to the old Rosenwald school at the beginning of the term. The new Matthews was finally dedicated October 30 that year, with Dr. Lynette S. Bickers of Atlanta University delivering a special speech.

R.L. Cousins, perhaps the leading African-American involved with education in Georgia (and honoree in the naming of two high schools), was also present.

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Historical marker at Hiram.

After Matthews opened in its new building, Hiram Rosenwald was transferred to Sweet Home Baptist Church, which had purchased the property in July 1955 for $500. Sweet Home continued to keep up the building in the decades after. In 2001, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Hiram continues to keep the building’s spirit alive. There is now a museum dedicated to its history as a school and it remains active for community events, with updates on Facebook.

Sources: The Dallas New Era – June 19, 1952, Aug. 28, 1952, March 4, 1954, Aug. 18, 1955, Nov. 24, 1955; National Register of Historic Places; Fisk University Rosenwald Database; New Georgia Encyclopedia.

School stories: Mount Olive (Twiggs)

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Mount Olive Elementary, Twiggs County, 2010

The red dirt of middle Georgia tends to stain.

It is difficult to wash out when dry and when wet, turns into an even thicker mud.

Twiggs County has never been populous.

Less than 10,000 people filled out 363 square miles in 2010 and in 2015, the population was estimated to have dropped from 9,023 to 8,390. Instead of a baby boom in Twiggs from 1940-60, the population fell during each census. There were 9,117 recorded in 1940, 8,308 in 1950 and 7,935 in 1960.

The small population of Twiggs was not a wealthy one.

Unlike in other school systems in the 1950s where school buildings were pushed behind a need to stymie overcrowding, Twiggs needed new schools for safety reasons.

When the State Board of Education approved $12 million worth of school building projects in April 1953, the Twiggs County New Era was thrilled that $1 million was to be local:

“The largest beneficiary of the new program would be Twiggs County, which will rebuild every school in its system at a total cost of $1,025,025. Projects will include 32 white and 46 Negro classrooms. All of the structures in Twiggs now are wooden.”

Five schools were approved, high schools for white and black in Jeffersonville (the white structure consolidating high schools at Twiggs, Smith and part of Twiggs-Wilkinson at Danville), a white elementary at Smith and black elementaries at Antioch and Mount Olive. The county was to help fund the building of an elementary at Twiggs-Wilkinson.

Antioch and Smith were both at Dry Branch. Mount Olive was in the southern part of the county.

The red dirt surrounded Mount Olive, an eight-classroom school with a lunchroom, built on land purchased from Mary Hand. The Twiggs County New Era stressed that all buildings would be fireproof, constructed with concrete blocks inside and a brick exterior.

Mount Olive had already been a school base, listed as having four teachers in 1951-52 and eight in 1953-54, after presumably some small school consolidations.

The contract for building was let in June 1955, with the buildings finished in 1956.

Despite the eight classrooms, Mount Olive opened with just seven teachers for its seven grades. Antioch had eight teachers for seven grades. The Georgia Educational Directory finally listed the school as having eight teachers in 1965-66, nearly a decade after it opened.

Mount Olive remained at eight teachers, but was reduced to six grades in 1968-69. The Freedom of Choice era did not seem to affect the school’s student load.

 

In 1970, Twiggs’ schools were restructured so that Antioch and Mount Olive became junior highs with grades 4-7 integrated. Twiggs-Wilkinson and Smith became grades 1-3. By 1972, the elementaries were renamed to South Complex #1/#2 and North Complex #1/#2.

Mount Olive, now South Complex #2, remained grades 4-7, but was down to five teachers. One principal was now handling both southern schools.

The 1975-76 Georgia Educational Directory was the first to list telephone numbers for schools and the last to mention South Complex #2.

South Complex #2 lacked a telephone.

Few improvements had ever made at Mount Olive, to the extent that the building never had a proper parking lot. Georgia red dirt surrounds the property.

In 1976-77, the South Complexes were reduced to South Elementary. Antioch and Smith still split grades in the northern half of the county.

As kindergarten fit into the Danville building, Mount Olive was likely abandoned permanently as a school in 1976.

Sources: Twiggs County New Era – April 30, 1953, May 27, 1955; Historical Maps of Twiggs County; multiple editions of the Georgia Educational Directory

School stories: South Side

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South Side in Brooks County was barely visible from the road in 2010.

The woods of Brooks County hold secrets.

The county seat and main city of Brooks is Quitman. There are other towns – Boston, Morven, Dixie, Barney, part of Pavo.

But Brooks is a large county and a rural one.There are lots of pine trees and lots of places to get lost. It is perhaps not surprising that there were nearly 40 African-American schools in 1950 within its borders.

A better effort was made on behalf of Brooks’ white schools. Only eight of those existed in 1950, half of those large enough to have high schools.

The other half, however, were all four-teacher institutions, existing at Barney, East Side, Sand Hill and South Side, the latter of which might have actually been Southside. (Spellings had little consistency.)

South Side opened in 1942, strangely highlighted in a brief history of Brooks County Schools, and probably one of very few schools to be built in the year after World War II began. It seems to have combined Nankin and Palmetto schools and was listed as carrying seven teachers its first year.

The student load did not last long.

The 1943-44 Georgia Educational Directory said there were six teachers at South Side. In 1945-46, the number was down to four. The number did not rebound at the war’s conclusion and four it would stay for the rest of its history.

South Side’s history would be short-lived.

With Georgia preferring its elementary schools to have at least one teacher per grade, many rural locations were in trouble. Though South Side’s included grades have not been found yet, a guess of 1-7 or 1-8 is probably not far off. Four teachers meant even more trouble.

If that was not trouble enough, other factors were at play as Quitman city and Brooks County worked to figure a merger as the school building programs were finishing.

South Side was not necessarily being maintained well, based on a sanitation report printed in The Quitman Free Press not even seven years after its opening.

A survey of all schools in the county listed South Side’s water and bathroom situation as having a drilled well and electric pump, but “unsanitary pit privies.”

The opening of the new, consolidated high school in Quitman meant that there was now more room at the nicer town schools to house children.

No stink seems to have been made when Brooks County announced in March 1959 that South Side would be closing, along with Barney, East Side and Sand Hill. South Side students were divided between Dixie and Quitman.

Brooks would never use the South Side building again as a school. Its status post-consolidation is unknown, though its condition in 2010 seems to suggest that someone did maintain the building for at least some time before the woods grew around it.

Though rural, South Side was not totally alone. From 1953-59, a very short distance separated it from Empress, a consolidated African-American school. Empress itself closed around 1967.

Sources – The Quitman Free Press – Jan. 6, 1949; March 19, 1959; Multiple editions of the Georgia Educational Directory; Greater Brooks.

School stories: Central High (McRae)

Central High (McRae)

The former Central High School in McRae, 2012. The sign from its days as Central Elementary is standing to the right of the entrance.

In just about every corner of Telfair County there is an abandoned school.

Lumber City is still neat, with a bell out front to remind of those bygone days of education. Weeds grow through Milan’s black school. Workmore died as a school, then died as an antique market, whose signs are still up. Rock Hill seems to beg for attention just to the side of US 441.

McRae-Helena, the conjoined county seat at Telfair’s northern tip, has its own tribunes to former education. Old South Georgia College continues to sit proudly on a hill as a museum. But barely off the middle of town is another series of abandoned buildings.

Those buildings were Central High School, which was open from 1958-2003.

There is little microfilm of The Telfair Enterprise housed at the University of Georgia from the 1950s. What took the Telfair County school system so long to get going on its school building project is hazy for an outsider, who can only suppose that the delay was either location of sites or a fight by Milan and Lumber City white high schools to stay alive.

Whatever the case, Telfair County students could only be bystanders as their schools disintegrated. Conditions grew so bad that the Telfair Enterprise ran a two-part story in 1957 highlighting them, complete with pictures.

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Twin City High (The Telfair Enterprise, Feb. 28, 1957)

Twin City High, the name of McRae’s black school, looked to have been a hand-me-down former white school, based on its size. An instructor in the school said the building swayed in the wind.

New schools across the county had already been planned, with the details released in February 1956. A new consolidated African-American high school (combining Twin City, Rock Hill, Milan and Lumber City) was to be located on a 20-acre tract donated by the city of McRae.

Months after the series on school conditions, Telfair was able to get started and the buildings were open in the fall of 1958.

Countians were even nice enough to approve the building of two new gymnasiums to go with their new schools, but those were not to be built until the schools were nearly finished and the new Central High played its first season of basketball on the road.

Central High (McRae) gym

Central High’s gymnasium was built with bond money voted in 1958. Amazingly, it seems that post-integration, someone merely painted over the “HIGH” part of the name, a rare artifact of its former days.

Central High swept to the state basketball titles in 1961.

C.J. Easley’s Tigerettes defeated Liberty County, 50-45, to cap an undefeated season and E. McDonald’s Tigers tripped up East Depot (LaGrange), 58-51.

No football was played at Central, perhaps in part because none of the white schools did. Central’s average daily attendance hovered around 300 for most of its existence.

Telfair began stepping up its integration efforts prior to total consolidation in 1970. In 1969, the Georgia Educational Directory lists Central as being only grades 2-12.

Post-integration Central became a middle school, serving grades 5-8, later adjusted to 4-7. In c. 1986, it was renamed Central Elementary, with grades 3-7. In c. 1989, Telfair removed its middle grades and the old school became grades 3-5. Central was shuttered in 2003, when the school system opened a new elementary school that combined primary and elementary grades.

Central High (McRae)

Either a vocational building or classrooms built after Central’s opening.

Sources: The Telfair Enterprise – Feb. 23, 1956, Feb. 28, 1957, March 7, 1957, Nov. 21, 1957; Macon Telegraph – March 26, 1958. Multiple volumes of the Georgia Educational Directory.

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.

School stories: Wilson (Ringgold)

Wilson (Ringgold)

A rear view of Ringgold’s Wilson High in 2013.

This was an all-grades school.

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.

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Wilson is now a JROTC building. A careful examination of its walls show where windows were bricked over.

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.