Dr. B.D. Perry school opened in 1958 in Laurens County, six years after Laurens County’s school building program began. It opened two years after black students in eastern Laurens County were denied use of Brewton School.
Brewton School had been a white school building, but Laurens officials with state approval planned on remodeling it and enlarging it for use by black students. Brewton’s white students were going to be abandoning the building for the new East Laurens High, an all-grades building that opened in April 1956.
Despite Brewton’s updates being 90 percent complete, builders were forced to stop. Part of one wing was being built on private property. Local Brewtonians, who admitted they did not want black students in that school, now had their wish.
When East Laurens opened in April 1956, all school children from Brewton, plus all the high school students from Condor and Wilkes moved into the new building. Wilkes’ high school had combined with Brewton at the start of the 1955-56 school year, a consolidation known as Brewton-Wilkes High.
Laurens County was still in the middle of a building program and black schools were being erected at Dudley (Millville) and a few miles south of Dublin (Mary Fleming). With Brewton now vacated, work could also finish on the building there, which was being renovated and remodeled for a third all-grades black school.
The location of another white high school in the Rentz area had been debated some time, with one court case decided and its appeal hanging in the balance.
Rentz, however, was joined by a newer and bigger problem in Laurens County: Brewton.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.