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

Advertisements

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.

School stories: Hickory Grove

DSC02122

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: 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.

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.

School Stories: Good Hope-Peters

DSC01157

The former Good Hope-Peters School in February 2010, located in southeast Walton County

The Minimum Foundation Program and State School Building Authority was a dual-purpose organization for Georgians: it enabled school systems to upgrade education and for Governor Herman Talmadge, it enabled school systems to upgrade education, hopefully enough to stave off integration.

When integration began sweeping the state, it meant that systems generally now had a bunch of buildings without a purpose. DSC01151Most attempted to incorporate their formerly all-black schools in some way, but for buildings in rural communities, those attempts were generally short-lived.

Talmadge’s grand scheme of warding off integration was already beginning to wear slightly thin by the time the new Good Hope-Peters school opened in the town of Good Hope in Walton County in 1958. A year earlier, Little Rock, Ark.’s, Central High had been the first blow to the deep south’s chances.

Good Hope-Peters had already existed in name, combining the black Good Hope and Peters schools at the start of the 1951-52 school term. The new school came via State School Building Authority funds, built for $164,000 and containing 12 classrooms, a library and a principal’s office.

An estimated 239 students were enrolled, according to the Sept. 3, 1958 Walton Tribune. It was an increase over the 150 from a year ago, due in part to students consolidating from the small Mount Enon and Bethany schools.

For the first year, the school held grades 1-10. Tenth grade was shipped to Carver High in Monroe in 1959-60. Ninth was dropped by 1963-64. Georgia Educational directories list the school as holding eight grades for the remainder of its days as Good Hope-Peters, but it appears that Walton County received a grant in 1966 for preschool; Good-Hope Peters was one of the sites listed to get a class.

Life at Good Hope-Peters came to an abrupt halt at the end of the 1967-68 school year. Walton planned a massive desegregation program. The initial plans, announced May 27, 1968, were to house K-5 at Good Hope-Peters and 6-8 at Good Hope (a white elementary) and operate them as one school.

However, Walton was told by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) the overall county plan was not completely acceptable. In the redraft, both Good Hope-Peters and Good Hope were eliminated as schools. Under its original purpose, Good Hope-Peters served 10 years.

The school then received a strange savior.

George Walton Academy, one of quite many private schools to open in Georgia in the late 1960s under the guise of a sudden need for quality education, DSC01149 took over both campuses in the fall of 1969. It is unknown if Good Hope-Peters was included from the start or not, but by the time George Walton opened a new building in late 1974, both Good Hope sites were operating.

After George Walton’s departure, Good Hope-Peters was used to educate special education students, in combination with Morgan County as the Walton-Morgan Training Center. The school is not listed in any Georgia Educational Directory and is unknown how many years the site was operational.

(Walton Tribune – Sept. 3, 1958; Sept. 9, 1959; April 13, 1966; May 29, 1968; July 3, 1968; Aug. 21, 1969; Nov. 14, 1974; July 6, 1976.)

School Stories is a series of current-to fairly current photos of schools 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.