School stories: Cornelia Regional

Cooperative county education has always existed in Georgia.

Children in a border community might go across county lines for convenience of travel.

When Bridgeboro closed its high school in 1953, Worth County permitted a certain district to go to Doerun in Colquitt County, instead of making the long trek to Sylvester. A large controversy ensued a decade later when Lumber City High students refused to go to Telfair County when its doors closed, preferring to simply cross the river to go to Jeff Davis.

When entire county high school populations grew small, Georgia began the first of five multi-county high schools with Tri-County in 1975.

Tri-County, however, was not the first time a county was too small to support a high school population. Twenty years earlier, several school systems collaborated with others to educate older black students.

Cornelia Regional was the most involved of these, at one time being the high school for four counties: Habersham, White, Banks and Rabun.

Currently, it is unknown when Cornelia first became that base in northeast Georgia.

White County looks to have begun sending their older students there for 1953-54, right after its new black elementary school was completed.

Banks County announced its high school students would be attending Cornelia for the 1954-55 school year. Banks had previously sent high schoolers to Johntown, located in Commerce (and not a full high school), but when Johntown combined with Bryan in Jefferson, there wasn’t enough room.

Rabun County may have been using Cornelia even earlier.

A 1950 article in The Clayton Tribune describing each of the county’s schools had words about the single black school in the county, Ivy Hill.

“No opportunity is offered for a colored child to go above the seventh grade. It is our responsibility to send these children to high school. Last fall the County Board of Education offered to pay the expenses of two students who are away at high school, but since they were enrolled in a Church School in Athens, the State Dept. of Education ruled that payment could not be legally made. Next fall plans should be made to send these children to a school outside the County to the nearest place where facilities are offered.”

Banks moved in at a time Cornelia likely did not have much room.

Habersham County was in the midst of its school building project through the Minimum Foundation Program.

Bids were called for in March 1954 for a new complete school for what was then referred to as Cornelia Colored. The school would sit on 12 acres in the northern part of the city.

Work was completed for a September 5, 1955 opening.

Cornelia Regional
Cornelia Regional, 2012

Even with so many systems together, the total black high school attendance was said to be 91. Seventy-two Habersham children were in elementary grades and eight teachers made up the entire faculty.

In 1961-62, the average daily attendance was 74.

Cornelia Regional continued as a school until 1966 when students were integrated into their respective county high schools. The building was quite possibly never used again as a regular school. In recent years, it has hosted museum exhibits about its history.

Cornelia Regional
Side view of Cornelia Regional

Cornelia was too small to attempt football, but did have basketball. It mostly played area schools, including Cleveland before it consolidated with them. Cornelia made at least three appearances in the Georgia Interscholastic Association boys state tournament and at least one in the girls tourney.

Cornelia Regional
Long view of Cornelia Regional. The sections possibly were the elementary and high school divisions.

Sources: Banks County Journal, Sept. 2, 1954; Northeast Georgian, Jan. 28, 1954, March 4, 1954, Sept. 15, 1955; The Cleveland Courier, July 17, 1953; The Clayton Tribune, June 1, 1950; Georgia Education Statistics: Public High School Data (1961-62).

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.

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Consolidation, only slightly unchained

By the start of the 1950s, most school systems with rural schools realized that they had a very real problem with African-American schools.

Most were in one-room shacks.

The Georgia Department of Education, in its Seventy-Eighth and Seventy-Ninth Annual Reports in 1950 said that out of the state’s 2,310 black schools, 1,254 employed only one teacher. By contrast, there were only 135 one-teacher white schools.

Baldwin County was one of the systems with many such schools. There were 21 one-teacher schools in Baldwin in 1949-50 and 29 schools total, according to the Department of Education.

A school survey happened in Baldwin, likely during the first half of 1950. It recommended consolidation of small schools.

Baldwin had nine in a section of the county: Browns Crossing, Fishing Creek, Walker’s Grove, Antioch, New Mount Zion, St. Mary’s, St. Paul, Morgan’s Chapel and Vaughn’s Chapel. Enrollment at the nine totaled 340 students.

After some consideration, the Baldwin County school system decided upon a plan as to what to do with this school population.

They would move them into a hospital. A hospital that had until recently served as a Georgia State Prison hospital (and still was at the time the plan was unveiled).

Milledgeville’s Union-Recorder described the thinking behind this decision as such:

“The board of education believes that since the county has the hospital building under lease from the state for 16 more years and since the prisoners housed there will be moved by August 1, that savings can be made in the number of Negro teachers employed and that a better school program can be carried on.”

Three buses were added to the fleet to transport the students.

The prison was located just west of Milledgeville on GA 22 and actually in the Brown’s Crossing District. It is approximately where the Baldwin County Recreation Department is currently located.

Settling into its former prison digs, the school was named Northside.

Northside apparently remained in its former prison hospital building until c. 1967, when it moved to North Columbia Street.

Sources: Seventy-Eighth and Seventy-Ninth Annual Reports of the Department of Education to the General Assembly of the State of Georgia; July 13, 1950 Milledgeville Union-Recorder;  1950 State Highway Department Baldwin County map; Georgia Educational Directory 1966-67, 1967-68.

Region 1, 1951

The Georgia High School Association announced new region alignments for 1952-54 in October 1951 and The Daily Tifton Gazette felt obliged to give the entire rundown of Region 1.

Average daily attendance was included with the alignments, of which official numbers are rare to come across in archives.

For the fun of comparison, I’ve included the numbers on file from the GHSA, which were announced in late 2015 for the upcoming 2016-18 reclassification. Status of each school is also included. For all but a few, I have a concrete date of closure.

It should be noted, of course, that the numbers are generally much lower for reasons beyond Georgia’s overall population increase over 65 years: Segregation, more rural schools, baby boomers were just beginning school and not as much of a push for a high school education.

Also, some of these schools had yet to graduate their first 12th grade classes. The addition of 12th grade was uneven across the state, which some systems adding earlier than others.

Of the 88 schools listed, only 22 have survived with the same name and have not been consolidated at some point.

Region 1, Class AA

  • Baker 482 (closed in 1991)
  • Columbus 689 (1,269 at time of 2015 region reclassification)
  • Jordan 1,076 (787)
  • R.E. Lee 865 (combined with Upson in 1992)
  • Lanier 2,000 (became part of Central High in 1970)
  • Albany 834 (837)
  • Moultrie 1,189 (consolidated for Colquitt County in 1978; Colquitt’s ADA is 2,441)

Region 1, Class A

  • Americus 266 (combined with Sumter County in 2004)
  • Cordele 251 (consolidated for Crisp County in 1957)
  • Tifton 571 (became Tift County in 1962; Tift’s ADA is 2,173)
  • Cook 473 (901)
  • Miller County 418 (275)
  • Bainbridge 327 (1,487)
  • Cairo 496 (1,187)
  • Thomasville 391 (761)
  • Fitzgerald 408 (829)
  • Ocilla 352 (consolidated for Irwin County, 1952)
  • Nashville 340 (consolidated for Berrien, 1954)
  • Valdosta 588 (2,006)
  • Jeff Davis 301 (867)
  • Baxley 328 (school districts combined in 1952 for Appling County)
  • Bacon County 349 (570)
  • Waycross 438 (consolidated into Ware County, 1994)
  • Douglas 338 (consolidated for Coffee County, 1955)

Region 1, Class B

  • Warner Robins 299 (1,548)
  • Wacona 261 (consolidated for Ware County, 1958)
  • Seminole County 258 (452)
  • Sylvester 257 (consolidated for Worth County, 1960)
  • Mitchell County 253 (consolidated with Baker County, but reformed in 2006. Current ADA is 384)
  • Pearson 242 (consolidated for Atkinson County, 1955)
  • Blakely-Union 238 (consolidated for Early County)
  • Norman Park 234 (consolidated for Colquitt County, 1978)
  • Nahunta 233 (consolidated for Brantley County, 1967)
  • Cochran 226 (school districts combined to form Bleckley County in 1977)
  • Blackshear 224 (consolidated for Pierce County, 1981)
  • Terrell County 164 (396)
  • Lanier County 217 (400)
  • Camden County 208 (2,489)
  • Hawkinsville 202 (389)
  • Quitman 197 (consolidated for Brooks County, 1959)
  • Perry 186 (1,321)
  • Fort Valley 184 (consolidated for Peach County, 1970)
  • Cuthbert 184 (consolidated for Randolph County, 1963)
  • Buena Vista 178 (consolidated for Marion County, 1954)
  • Charlton County 175 (461)
  • Sycamore 174 (consolidated for Turner County, 1957)
  • Eastman 171 (consolidated for Dodge County, 1957)
  • Hahira 163 (consolidated for Lowndes, 1966)
  • Broxton 162 (combined with Mary Hayes Elementary in 1970, consolidated into Coffee in 1990)
  • Morven 160 (consolidated for Brooks County, 1959)
  • Ashburn 157 (consolidated for Turner County, 1957)
  • Nicholls 157 (consolidated into Coffee, 1990)
  • Crawford County 154 (481)
  • Whigham 154 (consolidated into Cairo)
  • Homerville 152 (consolidated for Clinch County, 1954)
  • Patterson 151 (consolidated for Pierce County, 1981)

Region 1, Class C

  • Shellman 65 (consolidated for Randolph County, 1963)
  • Omega 71 (consolidated into Tift County, 1964)
  • Plains 64 (consolidated for Sumter County, 1979)
  • Union (Leslie) 62 (consolidated for Sumter County, 1979)
  • Clay County 77 (combined with Randolph County)
  • Attapulgus 49 (consolidated into Bainbridge, 1964)
  • Climax 112 (consolidated into Bainbridge, 1964)
  • West Bainbridge 89 (consolidated into Bainbridge, 1964)
  • Mt. Pleasant 48 (consolidated into another school in Decatur County before end of decade)
  • Arlington 88 (consolidated)
  • Edison 69 (consolidated for Calhoun County, 1963)
  • Morgan 87 (consolidated for Calhoun County, 1963)
  • Richland 68 (consolidated into Stewart County, 1964)
  • Stewart County 74 (combined with Quitman County before reestablishing in 2008; current ADA 124)
  • Lee County 105 (1,874)
  • Sumner 134 (consolidated for Worth County, 1960)
  • Warwick 67 (consolidated for Worth County, 1960)
  • Bridgeboro 52 (consolidated into Sylvester, 1953)
  • Doerun 141 (consolidated for Colquitt County, 1978)
  • Baker County 87 (combined with Mitchell County before reestablishing in 2006; current ADA 84)
  • Damascus 87 (consolidated for Early County)
  • Jakin 67 (consolidated with school in Early County)
  • Hilton 84 (consolidated with school in Early County)
  • Meigs 103 (consolidated with Central (Thomasville))
  • Ochlochnee 120 (consolidated to form Central (Thomasville) in 1959)
  • Coolidge 100 (consolidated to form Central (Thomasville) in 1959)
  • Boston 68 (consolidated to form Central (Thomasville) in 1959)
  • Pavo 132 (consolidated to form Central (Thomasville) in 1959)
  • Webster County 72 (consolidated to form Tri-County before reestablishing; current ADA 105)
  • Georgetown 63 (consolidated to form Quitman County in 1970)
  • Sale City 64 (consolidated with Mitchell County)
  • Hopeful 73 (consolidated with Mitchell County)

Hey now!

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.)

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.

DSC02412 - Copy
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.

Anniversary of GHSA admitting black schools

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.

Back on their feet

Occasionally over the course of the history of basketball, there was a strange blip that seemed to defy convention.

One of those happened in the mid-1980s when national rules mandated that high school basketball coaches could not stand during the course of games.

It was reversed in November 1988, but only somewhat, according to the Associated Press and reprinted in the November 15, 1988 Waycross Journal-Herald:

“The high school coaches cannot stand and question calls by officials, as in college basketball. They can only stand to talk to their players or to react to an outstanding play.”

Not that arguing on your feet is a necessity.

The coaches box created from the rule change was six feet in length.