For every town, a high school (or woes of Wilcox County)

“It looks to me that if there was ever a school system ripe for consolidation, it’s yours.”
David Rice, State Board of Education, to Wilcox County officials, March 1963

In 2016, Wilcox County, Georgia, was estimated to have a grand total of 8,761 citizens. The number was a bit smaller just over 50 years ago. Census records show Wilcox with 7,905 citizens in 1960.

The Wilcox County Patriots currently compete in Class A athletics, the smallest in the Georgia High School Association. There are only two years that Wilcox has ever been above Class A. After GHSA restructuring in 1978, in which Class B was eliminated, the school jumped to AA. It was A again in 1980 and Class A is where it has been since.

All Wilcox County public high school students attend Wilcox County High. There are no private schools within Wilcox’s borders and probably no more than a handful or two attend private schools elsewhere.

With all of Wilcox in Class A, it would seem natural that it was an early consolidation because of its lack of students. Fellow Class A school Lanier County did not entertain another white high school beyond the early 1920s. Irwin County finished consolidating its white high schools in 1952. Turner County was complete in 1957. It had only two white high schools to consolidate at that time.

Then the following might be odd.

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Surrency versus State

When Georgia wanted to overhaul its public schools in the 1950s, it unveiled the Minimum Foundation Program.

The program worked for both state and school systems. School systems got much needed money to upgrade and in exchange, the state got systems to agree to its conditions. Conditions were for equalization of white and black facilities, certain acreage and location of schools and if impartial surveys indicated that a school was small and losing population, there was a good chance Georgia would decree it be closed and consolidate with another.

In some cases, this led to a battle. Rural schools, especially high schools, were occasionally hesitant to lose their status. Systems like Washington County and Elbert County/Elberton city were late to start building programs because of wars over small high schools.

Others readily accepted Georgia’s offer of money and agreed to consolidate, but ultimately did not.

Ten years later, Georgia was not happy with the stragglers.

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Georgia’s high schools of 1949-50

Here’s a simple list: Georgia’s white high schools of 1949-50.

Currently, there is not a cumulative list freely available on the internet prior to 1960. The Georgia High School Association, citing the number of consolidations taking place in the 1950s, declined to publish region lists. Not that region lists were cumulative in that era, there were a number of unaccredited high schools. Depending on year, the GHSA frowned upon its member schools playing non-accredited schools in the state, or at times, ignored it happening.

The methodology of this list was copying down the number of four-year public high schools per each listed school system in the Seventy-Eighth and Seventy-Ninth Annual Reports  of the Department of Education to the General Assembly of the State of Georgia.

Accredited high schools were applied to the list from the 1949-50 Georgia Educational Directory. At that time, the directory did not print what grades each school housed. Accredited high schools were listed in all caps.

Fortunately, much is known of school systems of that era to add in nearly all unaccredited high schools. We know all nine of Gordon County’s county schools and that Walker County was operating minuscule high schools at Cedar Grove and West Armuchee.

Unfortunately, not enough is known about Georgia’s African-American schools to attempt that list. The Annual Reports said there were 289 four-year black high schools in the year ending June 1950 (there were 482 white four-year public high schools). Sources are few and far between, especially for a rural county like Meriwether, which was said to have nine public African-American four-year high schools.

The stats from the Annual Reports almost assuredly contain a handful of errors. Glascock County, for example, was credited with two white high schools.

There were four schools in Glascock County in 1949-50, according to the Department of Education’s Educational Directory of the same year: Gibson, Bastonville, Edgehill and Mitchell. Gibson, of course, being the county seat and the biggest town in the county, had an all-grades 13-teacher school and was accredited as a high school by the state. The directory specifically labels Bastonville and Mitchell as junior high schools. Though not labeled, Edgehill was smaller than the two of those, at four teachers.

Any system number starred is one I feel the number is not correct.  Some likely had fewer schools. Some, like Cobb County, probably had more high schools than the list credited. If the asterisk appears by a school, it means I am not sure if the school was indeed a high school. Rather, it’s an educated guess.

In another note, the Annual Reports were not always consistent with breaking school systems into county and city. For example, Statesboro and Vienna were separate school systems than Bulloch and Dooly counties, respectively, but were included with them.

  • Appling (2) – Baxley, Surrency
  • Atkinson (2) – Pearson, Willacoochee
  • Bacon (1) – Bacon County
  • Baker (1) – Baker County
  • Baldwin (3) – Georgia Military College, Midway Vocational, Peabody
  • Banks (4) – Banks County, Davis Academy, Gillsville, Hickory Flat*
  • Barrow (1) – Statham
  • Bartow (4) – Adairsville, Cass, Pine Log, Taylorsville
  • Ben Hill (1) – Fitzgerald
  • Berrien (5) – Alapaha, Enigma, Nashville, Poplar Springs, Ray City
  • Bibb (3) – Lanier, Macon Vocational, A.L. Miller
  • Bleckley (1) – Cochran
  • Brantley (2) – Hoboken, Nahunta
  • Brooks (4) – Barwick, Dixie, Morven, Quitman
  • Bryan (2) – Bryan County, Richmond Hill
  • Bulloch (7) – Brooklet, Laboratory School, Nevils, Portal, Register, Statesboro, Stilson
  • Burke (4) – Girard, Midville, Sardis, Waynesboro
  • Butts (1) – Jackson
  • Calhoun (3) – Arlington, Edison, Morgan
  • Camden (2) – Camden County, South Camden
  • Candler (2) – Metter, Pulaski
  • Carroll (6) – Bowdon, Mount Zion, Roopville, Temple, Villa Rica, Whitesburg
  • Catoosa (2) – Lakeview, Ringgold
  • Charlton (2) – Charlton County, St. George
  • Chatham (2) – Commercial, Savannah
  • Chattahoochee (1) – Cusseta
  • Chattooga (5) – Gore, Lyerly, Menlo, Subligna, Summerville
  • Cherokee (2) – Canton, Woodstock
  • Clarke (2) – University Demonstration, Winterville
  • Clay (1) – Clay County
  • Clayton (3) – Forest Park, Jonesboro, North Clayton
  • Clinch (1) – Homerville
  • Cobb (8*) – Acworth, Austell, Fitzhugh Lee, Kennesaw, Mableton, McEachern, R.L. Osborne, Powder Springs, Smyrna. Nine schools.
  • Coffee (6) – Ambrose, Broxton, Douglas, Nicholls, Satilla, West Green
  • Colquitt (2) – Doerun, Norman Park
  • Columbia (3) – Evans, Harlem, Leah
  • Cook (1) – Cook
  • Coweta (4) – East Coweta, Grantville, Newnan, Western
  • Crawford (1) – Crawford County
  • Crisp (3) – Arabi, East Crisp, West Crisp
  • Dade (2) – Dade, Davis
  • Dawson (1) – Dawson County
  • Decatur (7) – Attapulgus, Bainbridge, Brinson*, Climax, Faceville*, Mount Pleasant, West Bainbridge
  • DeKalb (8) – Avondale, Chamblee, Clarkston, Druid Hills, Lithonia, Southwest DeKalb, Stone Mountain, Tucker
  • Dodge (5) – Chauncey, Chester, Dodge High, Eastman, Rhine
  • Dooly (5) – Byromville, Dooly High, Pinehurst, Unadilla, Vienna
  • Dougherty (0)
  • Douglas (1) – Douglas County
  • Early (4) – Blakely-Union, Damascus, Hilton, Jakin
  • Echols (1) – Echols County
  • Effingham (5) – Clyo, Effingham Academy, Guyton, Marlow, Rincon
  • Elbert (2) – Bowman, Nancy Hart Memorial
  • Emanuel (6) – Adrian, Emanuel County Institute, Garfield, Oak Park, Summertown, Swainsboro
  • Evans (1) – Claxton
  • Fannin (4) – Blue Ridge, Epworth, Fannin County, McCaysville
  • Fayette (1) – Fayette County
  • Floyd (6*) – Armuchee, Cave Spring, Coosa, Johnson, McHenry, Model, Pepperell. Seven schools.
  • Forsyth (2) – Chestatee, Cumming
  • Franklin (3) – Franklin County, Lavonia, Royston
  • Fulton (9) – Campbell, College Park, Fulton, Hapeville, Milton, North Fulton, Northside, Russell, West Fulton
  • Gilmer (1) – Ellijay
  • Glascock (2*) – Gibson. No other high schools.
  • Glynn (1) – Glynn Academy
  • Gordon (9) – Belwood, Fairmount, Liberty, Oostanaula, Plainville, Red Bud, Resaca, Sonoraville, Sugar Valley
  • Grady (2) – Cairo, Whigham
  • Greene (2) – Greensboro, Union Point
  • Gwinnett (11) – Bethesda, Buford, Dacula, Duluth, Grayson, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Norcross, Snellville, Sugar Hill, Suwanee
  • Habersham (4) – Baldwin, Clarkesville, Cornelia, Demorest
  • Hall (10) – Air Line, Chattahoochee, Flowery Branch, Lyman Hall, Lula, Murrayville*, Oakwood, River Bend, Sardis (and unknown)
  • Hancock (1) – Sparta
  • Haralson (5) – Bremen, Buchanan, Tallapoosa, Waco (and unknown).
  • Harris (4) – Chipley, Hamilton, Mountain Hill, Waverly Hall
  • Hart (1) – Hartwell
  • Heard (2) – Centralhatchee, Franklin
  • Henry (2) – Hampton, McDonough
  • Houston (2) – Perry, Warner Robins
  • Irwin (3) – Irwinville, Mystic, Ocilla
  • Jackson (5) – Benton, Braselton, Commerce, Jefferson, Maysville
  • Jasper (1) – Monticello
  • Jeff Davis (1) – Jeff Davis
  • Jefferson (6) – Avera, Bartow, Louisville, Stapleton, Wadley, Wrens
  • Jenkins (1) – Millen
  • Johnson (2) – Kite, Wrightsville
  • Jones (1) – Jones County
  • Lamar (1) – Milner
  • Lanier (1) – Lanier County
  • Laurens (10) – Brewton, Cadwell, Cedar Grove, Condor, Dexter, Dublin, Dudley, Lowery, Rentz, Wilkes
  • Lee (1) – Lee County
  • Liberty (1) – Bradwell Institute
  • Lincoln (1) – Lincolnton
  • Long (1) – Ludowici
  • Lowndes (6) – Clyattville, Hahira, Lake Park, Naylor, Pine Grove, Valdosta
  • Lumpkin (1) – Lumpkin County
  • Macon (4) – Ideal, Marshallville, Montezuma, Oglethorpe
  • Madison (4) – Colbert, Comer, Danielsville, Ila
  • Marion (1) – Buena Vista
  • McDuffie (2) – Dearing, Thomson
  • McIntosh (1) – Darien
  • Meriwether (4) – Greenville, Luthersville, Manchester, Woodbury
  • Miller (1) – Miller County
  • Mitchell (4) – Hopeful, Mitchell County, Pelham, Sale City
  • Monroe (1) – Mary Persons
  • Montgomery (2) – Montgomery County, Mt. Vernon-Ailey
  • Morgan (1) – Morgan County
  • Murray (1) – Murray County
  • Muscogee (3) – Baker, Columbus, Jordan
  • Newton (1) – Newton County
  • Oconee (2) – Bogart, Oconee County
  • Oglethorpe (2*) – Oglethorpe County. Oglethorpe County was the only high school.
  • Paulding (2) – Dallas, Hiram
  • Peach (2) – Byron, Fort Valley
  • Pickens (2) – Pickens County, Tate
  • Pierce (2) – Blackshear, Patterson
  • Pike (2) – Concord-Molena, Zebulon
  • Polk (1) – Rockmart
  • Pulaski (1) – Hawkinsville
  • Putnam (1) – Eatonton
  • Quitman (1) – Georgetown
  • Rabun (3) – Lakemont, Rabun County, Rabun Gap
  • Randolph (2) – Cuthbert, Shellman
  • Richmond (3) – Hephzibah, Richmond Academy, Tubman
  • Rockdale (1) – Conyers
  • Schley (1) – Schley County
  • Screven (5*) – Bay Branch, Hilltonia, Jackson, Newington, Rocky Ford, Sylvania. Six high schools.
  • Seminole (1) – Seminole County
  • Spalding (1) – Spalding
  • Stephens (2) – Stephens County, Toccoa
  • Stewart (2) – Richland, Stewart County
  • Sumter (2) – Plains, Union
  • Talbot (1) – Talbot County
  • Taliaferro (1) – Alexander Stephens Institute
  • Tattnall (3) – Collins, Glennville, Reidsville
  • Taylor (2) – Butler, Reynolds
  • Telfair (5) – Lumber City, McRae-Helena, Milan, Ocmulgee, Workmore
  • Terrell (1) – Terrell
  • Thomas (5) – Boston, Coolidge, Meigs, Ochlocknee, Pavo
  • Tift (2) – Omega, Tifton
  • Toombs (3) – Lyons, Toombs Central, Vidalia
  • Towns (1) – Towns County
  • Treutlen (1) – Treutlen
  • Troup (4) – Center, Gray Hill, Rosemont, (Hillcrest or Mountville)
  • Turner (3) – Ashburn, Rebecca, Sycamore
  • Twiggs (3) – Smith, Twiggs, Twiggs-Wilkinson
  • Union (2) – Union County, Woody Gap
  • Upson (1) – Yatesville
  • Walker (6*) – Cedar Grove, Chattanooga Valley, LaFayette, Rossville, West Armuchee. Likely only five high schools.
  • Walton (3) – Loganville, Monroe, Social Circle
  • Ware (4) – Manor, Wacona, Waresboro, Waycross
  • Warren (1) – Warrenton
  • Washington (4) – Davisboro, Harrison, Sandersville, Tennille
  • Wayne (3) – Odum, Screven, Wayne County
  • Webster (1) – Webster County
  • Wheeler (4*) – Glenwood, Shiloh, Wheeler County. Likely just three high schools.
  • White (2) – Cleveland, Nacoochee
  • Whitfield (7) – Cohutta, Dawnville, Pleasant Grove, Tunnel Hill, Valley Point, Varnell, Westside
  • Wilcox (4) – Abbeville, Pineview, Pitts, Rochelle
  • Wilkes (2) – Tignall, Washington
  • Wilkinson (4) – Gordon, Irwinton, Toomsboro, Twiggs-Wilkinson
  • Worth (4) – Bridgeboro, Sumner, Sylvester, Warwick
  • Albany (1) – Albany
  • Americus (1) – Americus
  • Athens (2*) – Athens. Probably just one high school.
  • Atlanta (9) – Bass, Brown, Central Night, Grady, Murphy, O’Keefe, Roosevelt, Smith, Sylvan
  • Barnesville (1) – Gordon Military
  • Calhoun city (1) – Calhoun
  • Carrollton (1) – Carrollton
  • Cartersville (1) – Cartersville
  • Cedartown (1) – Cedartown
  • Chickamauga (1) – Gordon Lee
  • Cordele (1) – Cordele
  • Dalton (1) – Dalton
  • Decatur city (2) – Decatur Boys, Decatur Girls
  • Elberton (1) – Elberton
  • Gainesville (1) – Gainesville
  • Griffin (1) – Griffin
  • Hogansville (1) – Hogansville
  • LaGrange (1) – LaGrange
  • Marietta (1) – Marietta
  • Moultrie (1) – Moultrie
  • Rome (2*) – Rome. Likely one high school as Georgia School for the Deaf and Berry both called private.
  • Tallulah Falls (1) – Tallulah Falls
  • Thomaston (1) – R.E. Lee
  • Thomasville (1) – Thomasville
  • Toccoa (1) – Toccoa
  • Trion (1) – Trion
  • West Point (1) – West Point
  • Winder (1) – Winder

Indefensible: Schools closing after winning state basketball titles

A wide variety of Georgia high schools have won state basketball championships.

The GIAA began state tournaments for its league in 1922 and the official Georgia High School Association championships started in 1926. (For reasons unknown the GHSA does not list the 1926-37 champions on its site.)

Of course, in nearly 100 years of tournaments, not all schools are still standing.

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A school name too difficult

You probably have not heard of Morgan-Leary High School.

Its existence is only  noted in a single one of Georgia’s educational directories, the 1957-58 edition. Its actual life was even shorter.

Morgan-Leary is likely one of the shortest-lived high schools in Georgia’s history.

Under its name, the school only lasted three months. The reason for changing it was one of the stranger decisions in state school history, too – Morgan-Leary was too cumbersome.

Morgan-Leary, located in Morgan, was named August 14, 1957 at a Calhoun County Board of Education meeting. It was renamed at another Calhoun County board meeting to Morgan High November 13, 1957.

The reason behind the change was explained by the Calhoun County Board of Education in the November 22 Calhoun County News:

“Upon suggestion of the board members from the Morgan district, a motion was made with concurrence from the Leary board member to change the name of the Morgan-Leary High School back to its original Morgan High School. Explanation revealed the name Morgan-Leary High School was impractical because of its length.”

Morgan-Leary was not even the most complicated name in the state at that time; Sardis-Girard-Alexander, which existed from 1952-87 (or 1954-87) in Burke County had two hyphens and three towns and communities incorporated into its name. And there was also Newnan-Coweta County Central High, though that was nearly universally referred to as Newnan Central.

Morgan-Leary was a name change from Calhoun High. Not to be confused with the city of Calhoun, whose high school held the same name, this Calhoun High had adopted the moniker in 1953, when Calhoun County was seemingly on the cusp of consolidation.

Edison and Morgan were going to consolidate in 1953, with the high school at Morgan. Everything looked ready to go, until the state of Georgia intervened.

No public hearing had been set up in Edison, the state said. Five years later, the state would rule similarly when Cleveland and Nacoochee high schools were kept from consolidating in White County.

High schools in Edison and Morgan went back to their previous status. Morgan kept the name Calhoun.

White County was delayed in 1958 and consolidated in 1959. The opposite happened in Calhoun County where instead of being a temporary delay, consolidation turned into a war.

In 1955, Arlington and Edison refused to consolidate and Calhoun County maintained three white high schools for three more years, with the second Morgan High existing for less than one year.

On February 12, 1958, the Calhoun County Board voted for Morgan High’s students to go to Edison for the 1958-59 school year. In return, Edison sent its middle school students to Morgan.

Morgan’s status as a junior high only lasted until 1968, according to the Georgia Educational Directory. The school closed completely that year, with the only school remaining in the town the all-grades segregated school, H.T. Singleton.

Arlington and Edison were gone by then as high schools.

Low attendance caught up with them and the Calhoun County BOE voted to consolidate both in September 1962, with the two coming together in 1963 when a new high school building opened in Edison.

Sources: The Calhoun County News – Aug. 21, 1953, Sept. 2, 1955, Aug. 23, 1957, Nov. 22, 1957, Feb. 28, 1958, Sept. 20, 1962; Georgia Educational Directory – 1953-54, 1957-58, 1958-59, 1967-68.

School stories: Hickory Grove


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.

1949: Clay County High created

Clay County became one of the earlier Georgia school systems to consolidate down to one high school in 1949, when a ruling from the state made it the only solution.

The Clay County board decided May 17, 1949 to join Bluffton and Fort Gaines high schools together.

“The section was taken with some apparent hesitation by the board after public hearings at the courthouse Tuesday morning had revealed the step as one to be taken only because of curtailed allotments from the state,” said Fort Gaines’ News Record on May 19.

The state, said The News Record, had cut their allotment of teachers by four. Bluffton elementary was entitled to three, the elementary at Fort Gaines to six and the consolidated high school earned four.

Elementaries were kept in both cities. The new high school was  housed in that building in Fort Gaines.

Clay’s board said it reserved the right to break up the monopoly on high school education if the situation ever bettered. It never seemed to do so, though conditions did not get worse.

When requesting money from the State School Building Authority in 1952, all Clay County High wanted was a vocational building, which at most cost $68,500.

Little changed at Clay until total integration in 1970, with students from A. Speight coming in. Clay County High combined with Randolph County in 1980 and as Randolph-Clay survives as the last of Georgia’s five post-total integration multi-county high school educational attempts.

Sources: The News Record – May 19, 1949, Aug. 21, 1952, Nov. 26, 1953