yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee


Gracie Timberlake and A.L. Robinson

Throughout history societies have sought to educate their people to produce goods and services, to respond effectively and creatively to their world and to satisfy their curiosity and aesthetic impulses. First, we will deal with this question: How did Montgomery contribute to the education of its students?

The purpose was to prepare the Negro Youth to find his/her place in society to become a benefactor in society. To prepare them to maintain a livelihood, and to educate the hands, heart, head and health. The administration of Montgomery committed themselves to educate children from many backgrounds. There were students who came from near and far to attend Montgomery. The faculty regarded children as persons, not as problems. They never turned their backs on anyone. The faculty has always recognized the educational value of intellectual exploration and of concrete experimentation.

Montgomery was able to offer boys and girls advantages that few other High Schools of the State could offer, for that reason, the school was fortunate in being able to draw on both City and County Boards of Education, which afforded revenue to secure the best equipment, adequate building and a sufficient number of the best teachers that can be found anywhere to carry on a live and constructed program.

There were several rural schools around the county: Coopers Grove, Kizer, Timerlake, Dry, Luray, Holly Springs, Pritchard, Joyner Grove, Park Meal and Pleasant Hill.

The school (Montgomery) operated for quite sometime near the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church under the name of Lexington Colored School. Some of the pioneers of the early school were Prof. G.W. Beal, Prof. JH. Edwards, Odessa Hurt Wadley, and Daisy Edwards. Prof. J.H. Edwards served as principal of this school.

In the year of 1923, a new site was secured and through the help of the Rosenwald Fund and public subscriptions, the school was moved to its present location. Prof. J.A. Vincent served as its first principal with Mrs. Susie Newsom, his assistant. During these days, school was dismissed during the month of February.

In 1927, Prof. A.E. Gray, the next principal, was given permission to organize a high school. At this time, the name was changed to Montgomery High School. It was supported by the City Board of Education of Lexington, Tennessee. Teachers salaries were paid by both City and County Boards of Education.

Aid on Teachers' salaries and equipment was furnished by the General Education, Rosenwald, Slater and George Reid Funds.

With a continuous increase in the enrollment, it became necessary to construct a second building, as well as to increase the teaching staff. Thus, in 1928, a two room building was erected. Even this proved inadequate in meet the needs; therefore two more rooms were added in 1930. In 1934, the institution sent out its first graduation class.

The school was located within the corporate limits of Lexington. If was located on an ideal site of three or more acres which was a beautiful campus, including and Athletic Field and playground. Asphalt and gravel streets ran directly to the campus.

The erection of the dormitory was upheld due to financial depression. Under the leadership of Prof. C.C. Bond and others associated, there was a completion of a modern dormitory. Also, a teachers' home was added in 1940. Before the completion of the dormitory, provisions were to take care of all those that came in the homes of respectable families. Room costs ranged from .75 to $1.00 per week.

In the school year of 1932-1933, there were bigger and better things along the lines of athletics. For the first time in the history of Montgomery, there was a football team in action. Montgomery was able to offer to everyone the best there was in the forms of Physical Education. Both teams of Montgomery were very successful during the year of 1932-1933. There was more fight and a greater determination to be champions of Tennessee. In the spring of 1935, a gymnasium was started.

On July 17, 1935, Prof. C.C. Bond began his teaching at Montgomery. He succeeded Prof. Gray as principal. The faculty then consisted of seven members, with a total enrollment of one-hundred and sixty-seven students, thirty-seven of which were high school students.

The continued growth of the school caused the buildings to become congested, making it quite apparent that larger and better equipped accommodations were needed. In the year of 1944, under the dynamic leadership of the principal, the faculty, students, and friends of the institution began raising funds for the construction of a new building. The campaign instituted in 1944 came to a successful close in April of 1945, when the sum of more than $5,000 was turned over to the building committee.

In 1945, the City and County Boards of Education committed themselves to the proposition of building a school which meet the needs of Negro Youth of our community. Due to the shortage of materials, immediately following the war, as well as the exorbitant cost of the materials that could have been purchased, construction was delayed. It was in November of 1948, with a total amount of $165,000 appropriated, that work actually began.

The year 1950 was the first that the activities of the institution were housed in its new building. A beautiful brick structure with all new equipment and modern conveniences was completed at an approximate cost of $170,000. On the main floor was the principal's office, the county jeanes teacher's office, classrooms, the library, a library work room, a spacious corridor which extends the full length of the building, two latrines for boys, two latrines for girls, one for lady teachers, and an auditorium which has a seating capacity of 550. The completely equipped Home Economics Department was located in the basement, as well as the ultra-modern school cafeteria.

On November 15, 1956, Prof. A.L. Robinson succeeded Prof. C.C. Bond, who resigned here to accept a position of a high school in Chattanooga. Before taking over as principal of Montgomery High School, Prof. Robinson taught agriculture, science and coached the boys basketball team. Under the great leadership of Prof. Robinson, a new addition was added on the school, which consisted of a Homer Economics Department and several classrooms. Great works continued on under the leadership of Prof. AL. Robinson. He saw that each boy and girl got the best education possible. This great school, Montgomery High School, will always be remembered by all the great leaders it had under its roof.

As years passed, Montgomery continued to offer more and better things to students. Montgomery was the best cleaned and kept-up school in the county. Montgomery provided a good atmosphere for learning. There was a lot of determination among the principals, teachers, students, and parents of M.H.S.

Our principal, Prof. A.L. Robinson, served until the school phased out in 1967, as a center of public school education, because of a new change, desegregation. Also, closed was Park Meal School. The students at Park Meal were to attend Bargerton and Beaver School. Montgomery had about 170 pupils in high school who would attend Lexington High. There were about 370 in the elementary department who would attend one of the county consolidated schools or Lexington City. The Board had acted in compliance with desegregation orders which call for integration of faculties on the ratio of Negro students attending that particular school.

The first class to graduate from Montgomery was the class of 1934, and the last class was the class of 1967.

For many years, Montgomery was considered one of the better schools in the state. At the time of closing, the plant and equipment had a valuation of about $1.5 million dollars.
But the memories of our past lives on when we see our former students and graduates occupying creative and productive places in the society of today's world.

Remember the great words from one of our principals, Prof. A.L. Robinson, "There's no secret to success other than, Work, Work, and More Work."

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