DUNN — Alumni from Pleasant Grove High School stood near the entrance of the Midway Head Start Center and shared special memories together.
More than 50 years ago, they walked the halls as students in the building, which educated black students during the days of segregation. During a graduation celebration for the Class of 1967, they presented a special gift to Sampson County Schools as a reminder of their legacy. A granite bench with engraving by Ernest Harris was unveiled Friday afternoon during the reunion.
“To us, the building always meant more than just bricks and mortar to stack on top of one another,” said graduate Billy McPhail about the educational foundation. “It’s the first time that we’ve been back in 50 years …we had many firsts here.”
McPhail said some of them included learning how to write, arithmetic or a first girlfriend — another memory which drew laughter from the class.
“We always want to commemorate Pleasant Grove as a place that we’ll always call our educational home,” he said. “Now with (Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy) installing this bench, we think that will be the case.”
During the unveiling, Maxine Butler-Wall added that it will be around for a long time. Bracy also made remarks about remembering the legacy.
“I think it’s important that my generation and my children’s generation realize one thing — history did not start today,” he said. “This bench is a testament to the rich history of this school and of this community.”
Bracy was joined by representatives of the school district. Some of them included Executive Administrative Assistant Jacqueline Chabot, Mark Hammond, executive director of auxiliary services, and Lenora Locklear, assistant principal of Midway Elementary School.
“We’re so thankful to be a part of this and I’m thankful that God allowed me to be in this position to make this happen,” Bracy said. “We’re so proud as a school system and on the behalf of the Sampson County Schools system, we graciously and proudly accept this bench from the class of 1967.”
The unveiling was followed by remarks and presentations to remember a legacy which began in 1952 and continued through 1968. Alumni were honored along with teachers and staff. The PGHS leaders recognized included Fred Brown, Marzella Worley, Margirie Wilson Foster, Alfonza Williamson, Elena Robinson and Retha Colvin.
Alumna Mary Harris Blue spoke about the school giving students inspiration to have a life beyond sharecropping. Blue said the “country school” produced professionals such as teachers, preachers, business owners, psychologist and military veterans.
“It made us more determined to come out of those fields to get an education and pursue our dreams,” Blue said. “No matter where we came from, we got to Pleasant Grove High School. From the first grade through twelfth, we were all one family.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.