yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee


by Marilyn Henry

from Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church Black History Celebration "Memories" February 25, 1996,
compiled by Marilyn Henry

George W. Beal was born on September 2, 1891 near the Pleasant Hill Community where he attended school through the eighth grade. From there, he finished high school in Jackson, Tennessee at the North High School. Later, he worked his way through Lane College where he graduated. Mr. Beal taught school for a number of years. He was married to Clara West.

Mr. Beal struggled for his education. During his time the students walked to school. On several occasions he did not have any shoes to wear. He wore his mother's shoes and other times he wore one of his mother's shoes and one of his aunt's shoes. For lunch, he carried fried onions and cornbread in a dipper which had the handle broken off. The students constantly laughed at him, so during lunch time he would go outside and eat behind a tree to keep the students from seeing his lunch.

In spite of his obstacles, he was the only student to continue his education and graduate from college. He received his first Temporary Elementary License, No. 2511 on July 1, 1914 which was signed by S. H. Thompson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Two years later in July 1916, Samuel W. Sherril, State Superintendent of Public Instruction signed a second grade State Certificate, No. 3059. On August 9, 1926 he received his Permanent Elementary Certificate from the State of Tennessee Department of Education, No. 1568. This certificate was signed by P.L. Harued, Commissioner of Education and by Roy Myers, Supervisor of Certification. On July 15, 1940 he was assigned as teacher of Timberlake School and his contract, No 115 was signed by Ira C. Powers, County Superintendent. His teaching salary started at $45.00 and reached a total of $75.00 per month.

Most classes were held in the community church. Black citizens only attended school 5 months during the calendar year -- 3 months in the winter and 2 months in the summer. This time was allowed for chopping and picking cotton.

In spite of Mr. Beal's handicaps, he began teaching school at the age of 17. The name of the school was "Who-Would-Have-Thought-It". He also taught in Kizer Town. The county later built a school in Chesterfield, and the name of the school was "Walker School," built on Walker's land. He also taught in and out of season in the Timberlake Grove Community until he received his contract in 1940.

Near the 1920's he became principal of the Lexington [Colored] Elementary School. This school was located in front of the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church. This school was destroyed by a storm. After this disaster, Mr. Beal and Prof. Vinson started a two year high school near the present Montgomery School. The name of the school was "Rosenwald." They taught there several years. Later, Prof. Bond set up a brick high school which became Montgomery High School. This school was for grades 1-12.

In 1924, Mr. Beal founded a school in Cedar Grove, Tennessee. The name of it was "Pritchard's School". In the last days of his teaching career he taught in Sardis, Tennesssee. This school was later closed because the Negroes in that area moved from Sardis.

Despite of the fact that Professor Beal taught off and on for several years, he taught for a total of 29 years. He was known as "Fessa Beal." His friends laugh at him but, he proved that "you can make it if you try". After teaching, he began working at the Lexington Depot and at the Jackson Depot. The pay was much better than that he received for teaching. He worked at the Depot until he retired.

He served as Master of the St. John's Lodge no. 43.

He was the father of 6 children: George Washington Beal, Oscar G. W. Beal, Earl Thomas Beal, Georgia Lou Beal, James Earl Beal, and Joe Murry Beal.

He died on January 14, 1960 at the age of 69.

Kizer School among first of county's black schools

November 15, 1995
Lexington Progress

A 1925 photo shows students of Kizer School, formerly located on Old Huntingdon Road near the Beech River Cemetery, which was at that time was called Kizer Town.

Kizer School, located on Old Huntingdon Road, in 1925

front, left to right: Lonnel Taylor, Totlo William, Vernon William, Virgel Taylor

second row: L.H. Kizer, Velma William, Leana Johnson, Martha Lou Ellis, Ramell Easley, Lucille Taylor, Willie Lee Easley

third row: Professor George William Beal (JoAnn Beal's grandfather), Vernell Kizer,
Raymond Johnson, Artie Mae Ellis, Sam Johnson, Ramell William, A.D. Hart, Earline Taylor,
Clyde William, Ray Taylor, (fourth row) Alice Taylor, Vernon William, Dera Easley, Webster
Easley, Roberta Pearson, Arbie Pearson, Vera (Sis) Easley, Manuel Easley, D.C. Easley.

photo courtesy of JoAnn Beal & Mrs. Lottie Laster

Professor George William Beal 1891-1960, was one of the early pioneers of education in Henderson County, beginning prior to the 1920s. He taught at four of the seven schools for African Americans. These schools were Coopers Grove, Kizer, Lexington Colored School, Park Meal, Pleasant Hill, Pritchard and Timberlake School, where he was principal in 1941. Six of these were rural schools and one was within the city. In time, people in the community expressed a desire for a new school. The community had to raise $5,000 before the board would grant the citizens the necessary funds to build what eventually became Montgomery High School, which originally housed grades one through eight. The citizens, doctors, lawyers and members of the business community of Lexington were asked to donate money for construction of the new school. Each teacher was asked to raise $60. Montgomery School was then built and served eight counties. In the early years, girls from outside the county were able to stay in a dormitory, while the. boys roomed out and then traveled home on weekends.

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