yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

DCTS/Crowder High School Reunion 2000

By Mrs. Novella Yarbro Tole, B.A., M.A. (1992)

Before 1925 there was no high school for Decatur county's Negro students. Circa 1924 Professor David Carroll Crowder, a graduate of Roger Williams College of Nashville, Tennessee, and the only licensed Negro veterinarian in the state, came to Decaturville. He taught one year in the "Old Baptist Church on hill" near town and began a campaign to build a high school. Professor Crowder envisioned the school serving Decatur and adjacent counties.

The Negro population was dispersed among the little communities of Decaturville, and there was much discussion about where the school would be located. Professor Crowder felt like the school should be located where the majority of Negroes lived. This little community was called "Tin Cup." A more appropriate name suggested by Professor Crowder was "New Town."

The Decatur County Board of Education obtained from the Azalee Young (Pettigrew) family, a plot of land west of Highway 69 at the edge of "New Town"

Professor Crowder worked with the Board, the Superintendent, and the people of Decaturvflle to get facilities constructed. Citizens furnished labor, mules and wagons, and timber for the building. Money was provided by the Julius Rosenwald Fund. Julius Rosenwald was an American philanthropist who contributed about 63 million dollars to Negro education. The Julius Rosenwald Fund was created in 1917. It contributed to the building of' 5,000 Negro schools.[1]

Circa 1925 the main building was completed and consisted of four rooms, two of which had an operable partition that could be converted into an auditorium.

Later, a teacher's home was built, and after the principal, Professor Crowder and family moved, the house was used for a dormitory. Two other buildings were added to the campus for home economics, agriculture, and shop. Some funds for vocational education were provided from the Smith-Hughes Act. The Smith-Hughes Act established in 1917 provided federal funds to the states for vocational education.[2]

The campus was large enough to accommodate a basketball court, a softball field, and a play area.

The curriculum provided the 16 Carnegie Units required for a high school diploma. Latin was the foreign language taught. Provisions were made for private piano lessons. High school students participated in the chorus and the band that were offered. It was mandatory for the girls to take home economics and the boys to take agriculture and shop.

Home demonstration classes were provided for adult women of the community. Mrs. Mabel Mckay came from Nashville and taught millinery, basket weaving, cooking and food preservation.

Through the Jeanes Fund established in 1931, more equipment for home economics was provided. The Jeanes Fund was organized to improve the educational conditions of Negroes in the Southern United States.[3]

Later, organizations of the New Home Makers of America [NHA] and the New Farmers of America [NFA) were formed. Students participated both in the regional and state level.

In 1927 Professor Crowder introduced boys and girls basketball, and Professor Alvin Sharpe became coach. The teams traveled by bus to play teams in Centerville, Lexington, Milan, Whitewille, and other out of county schools. During the 50's and 60's after Crowder High was built, the teams won regional tournaments and participated in state tournaments.

Drama, musicals, and public speaking were also a part of school activities. The school closing was the highlight of the year. Activities lasted a week, and every student was included in some phase of the programs. There was a Parent-Teacher Organization, and the parents supported the school in whatever way they were asked.

The student body was composed of students from Decatur, Perry, Hardin, McNairy, Benton, and Wayne counties.

During World War II the high school was reverted to an elementary school. Professor Crowder died in 1944, but in 1946 Professor F. L. Buck was hired and the high school reopened. In 1953 Professor Buck passed away and Professor S. F. Dobbins served as principal until the school was closed in 1965.

During this period a new brick school was constructed with gymnasium facilities, lunch room, and library. Typing was added to the curriculum. The new school was dedicated to and named Crowder High School for its founder, Professor Crowder.

Throughout the existence of DCTS and CHS qualified and dedicated teachers served the students well. Four of Crowder High teachers were former students and graduates of DCTS. The students have done well as citizens of our country.

The former students and graduates have earned B.A., B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in education. They are serving as college professors, teachers, principals, supervisors, counselors, and psychologists. There are R.N.'s, L.P.N.'s, and medical technician and hospital workers. In the corporate world there are civil engineers, artisans, entrepreneurs (people in sales, marketing, catering, audio, and domestic services), analysts, consultants, administrators, and positions in research. There are people with positions in the telephone companies, insurance companies, and various types of manufacturing companies. Students have become licensed barbers and beauticians. Some have chosen to work in the government. They have positions in housing and the postal system. Some of our students are writers (published authors), and artists. Musicians have served as choir and choral directors. There have been candidates for local and state positions in government. Students have served our country in all branches of the armed forces. Many served in World War II, National Guard, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, and during Desert Storm.

The final existence of DCTS and Crowder High School came in 1965, and a factory now occupies the site. [Note: The building was demolished circa 1998.]


  1. Carter Alexander, "Julius Rosenwald Fund," World Book Encyclopedia, 1970 ed.
  2. Thomas J. McLernon, "Smith-Hughes Act," World Book Encyclopedia, 1970 ed.
  3. "Jeanes Fund," World Book Encyclopedia, 1970 ed.


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