The Lincoln School 100th Anniversary meant a weekend-long reunion, chock full of activity. From the formal gala to cookouts to a community worship service, it was a time to meet with friends, celebrate and remember.
“The first African American school in Middlesboro was started in 1892 and the first school for white children was built in 1881. From 1892 to 1907 it was known as the Middlesboro Colored School,” explained Bill Smith, a former Lincoln School student. A new school was erected in 1907 and was finished in 1908, the year classes began. The school was called the Lincoln School.
Lincoln School was in existence until 1964, when the United States Government passed a law where all schools had to be integrated. Smith recalled that those were trying times, “We came out of a tight-knit system. We had black teachers and small classrooms. As I remember, there were 14 to 15 students in each classroom, per teacher. You went from a closed system and merged the African Americans into a Middlesboro School System. Larger classrooms, more students. Some subjects taught in the Middlesboro School System was not taught at Lincoln. So, in the merger, they had to try to catch the Lincoln School children that didn’t have certain subjects, because they were not taught, they had to boost them up to get them into the system and get them competitive, just like the rest of them.”
In the early 1940’s, Middlesboro integrated the high school baseball team and was among the first to do so; however, racial tensions separated white and black people in other aspects of life, for another 20 or more years.
“The Lincoln Homecoming Committee was formed to keep the dream alive, here in Middlesboro,” Smith stated. The former homecoming organization, Lincoln Alumni Association, which no longer exists, was formed in the early 1970’s, when former female students got together and founded the first Lincoln School reunion in about 1972.
Most Lincoln School graduates went on to become successful in their fields. There were plenty of physicians, nurses, school teachers, and many more professionals that attended the Lincoln School Homecoming over the weekend.
One of the former students in attendance was Lois Wade Weaver who graduated in 1959. She lives in Lumberton, North Carolina, now. She used to live in New York and was a Nurse Practitioner. “I went there for the whole 12 years. I liked it. I enjoyed it. I graduated Valedictorian of my class. My sister graduated Valedictorian of her class, the year before that and my brother graduated Valedictorian, before her class, so there were three, in our family, that graduated Valedictorian in our class,” she said.
“We come from a one-room school building. We have doctors, lawyers, judges, any number of professional people came out of that one-room school building. Ministers, nationally known ministers. There is one that started off with Jesse Jackson in Chicago, Clyde Miller. Joe Ballinger marched with Martin Luther King. We have a lot of import, in this area. We have one young man that was regional director, in Southern California of an insurance company and moved to Illinois and was regional director of the same company. It shows that wherever you come from, you can always accomplish something. Whatever you accomplish, be thankful for,” stated Julian Costner.
C.J. Harte is a Correspondent for the Daily News. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.