July 23, 2013
Seventy years passed for a Yadkin High School’s first graduating class, a class part of a school that was required to educate itself with only black students.
The Yadkin High School Alumni Association gathered at the Fairfield Inn located in Elkin on Saturday celebrating school history and honoring one of its living legends; Gladys Morrison, the sole survivor of the Class of 1943, one of six women who graduated that year.
“We are here today to pay tribute to Gladys Morrison, a true champion and last surviving member of the Class of 1943 for Yadkin High School,” said Beatrice S. Murry of the alumni association. “She is an amazing woman and an inspiration to so many of us.”
Unlike high schools today, the Boonville schoolhouse was racially segregated, a four-room wooden structure that was moved from West Yadkin to Boonville.
The alumni association, which gathers annually, opened the ceremony with an official entrance of the 1943 graduate.
After Morrison was seated, the Russell Singers performed “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
A ceremonial lighting of the memory candle was presented honoring the deceased and used as hope for those unable to attend and not in strong health. Laura M. Hurt read the poem “Remember Me.”
Billy Hayes and Melvin Morrison presented “I Believe I Can Fly.”
The welcome comment was provided by Charles Carter, vice president of the Yadkin High Alumni Association.
“I lived in Jonesville and had to go to Boonville to school. It was a tough life to pass three high schools just to get to a school that we were allowed inside of,” said Carter. “Though I was able to walk to Jonesville High School, I went to Yadkin High and always wondered if things would ever change.”
Change did happen.
In 1967, the county began integration of schools, and the Yadkin High School was eventually closed. Carter stated the association alumni has no regrets and doesn’t gather because of race, but for camaraderie.
“From 1943 until 1967, the school had a total of 188 students who graduated from Yadkin High,” said Nancy F. Wilkes of the alumni association. “The class of 43 was the second smallest graduating class with six students. The Class of 66 was the largest class with 27 students who graduated.”
Morrison, a spunky pioneer of the school and known as its trailblazer, was issued an award by Beatrice Murry and took to the podium.
“My Daddy was a Sunday School missionary through South Carolina and funded to the North Carolina Presbyterian’s [church],” said honoree Gladys Morrison to the attendees. “Dad never said anything ugly about what was going on. He kept things positive. He always let us know that we were loved. He was always focused on progress, and that’s a value that I picked up from him.”
After graduation in 1943, Morrison not only pursued a college education, but also began teaching at the all-black Yadkin High School at the age of 19.
“As a black woman you were either a preacher or teacher, and Lord knows I was not going to be no preacher,” said Morrison.
Past graduates, family and friends erupted in laughter, connecting to every sentence from Morrison.
“I wanted to be a ballerina at a time when they didn’t want blacks doing that. Right until this day, I love tennis and wanted to play like a Serena Williams, but nobody would let me onto a tennis court,” she said. “I had to fight my way through with my rackets.”
Morrison attended Barber-Scotia College originally commissioned by the Presbyterian Church to establish an institution for the training of black women. Then, the North Carolina-based school prepared teachers and social workers mostly.
More of Morrison’s journey may be found in the Friday, July 22 edition of The Tribune as part of the Tribune Tribute.
Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 336-835-1513 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.