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Trinity Standard - Local News

Copyright 2017 - Polk County Publishing Company

 

George Washington Carver receives marker
Trinity Standard -

 

Editor's note: Below, Columnist Dickie Dixon describes his first hand account of attending the George Washington Carver school's marker dedication in Groveton, TX.

By Dickie Dixon
I arrived about 5 p.m. Friday afternoon in Groveton from Lufkin to cover the historical marker dedication ceremony there for the George Washington Carver school, and, as I did, I was clueless where I needed to be. I had failed through last minute scheduling to call Susanne Waller or my Groveton connection Neil Kemper to find out where it was. I was not prepared for what I would discover. Thinking everyone would know where that was, I stopped in to a convenience store a few blocks from the courthouse and asked where the school was. The young clerk returned a blank look like I had asked her "What is quantum physics?" and, after being blanked by a number of people, I figured this school might be more obscure than I had believed. Their blank was immediately followed by my question: "Did you grow up here?" A few answered it was in Nigton, but I had heard Susanne Waller's announcement at the Nigton program on June 19th in Lufkin, and I was sure she said Groveton. So, in desperation, I went to the sheriff's office, where the nice jail administrator (no, that's not an oxymoron!) told me to go inside and ask Alyssa because she grew up in Groveton. I did, but it wasn't Alyssa in the office, it was her fellow worker, who told me how to get there. "Take a left at Groveton Tire. Pass the apartments on the left, and I would find a church on the right." I did what she told me, and voila! I was there, just about on time. Now, that is a fitting backdrop to why this marker needed to be there, because not everyone there knew where this African- American school had been. As a matter of fact, there, where Baldwin Chapel Baptist church now stands there is nothing right there that is indicative that a school was there. (The gym is down the road if you take a right off of FM 2912, now Martin Luther King, but also known as South Caney Road.) The first school building, about a quarter of a mile down the road in front of Craig Callahan's house, has long been torn down. The gym, an intermediate building, came next, and the third and final building to the left of the tree row at the church is no longer there, but the fight is still there. That fight I would call the resilience of the black community to get an education in spite of the odds, is still there, and it shows. That desire, as an old man I worked with called it up,' was telling in the speakers who spoke warmly about George Washington Carver school (which I believe began as "Groveton Colored School"). Charles Hubbard of Fort Worth, the designated emcee (and a very appropriate choice) spoke about his father's duty as the bus driver and the fact that one of the principals lived in their home. They spoke warmly about the spirit of community they obtained as they received their education there. Susanne Waller warmly encouraged all present to engage themselves in their heritage and how she wasn't sure they were going to be able to get the marker the alumni and family members so much wanted to have. About thirty to forty filled the room of the church before everyone went out by MLK to watch her unveil the marker: a testimony to a school that served the community well until integration and beyond. Thanks Susanne, Charles Hubbard, Craig Callahan, the members of Baldwin Chapel Baptist Church, the Trinity County Historical Commission, the Texas Historical Commission, and all who had a part in filing the application for this marker for what you did. As they would say in the vernacular: "Ya done good!" The marker reads: GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER SCHOOL In 1881, the town of Groveton was established near the Trinity and Sabine Railway and Timber Company. With the availability for work, the area attracted settlers seeking employment. With the rapid increase in population, the need for services such as schools became apparent. By 1886, the Groveton Colored Community School operated within the school district but was underfunded. Steady population growth increased the need for better educational facilities for the African American community. In 1900, the Trinity County Lumber Company sold land to the Groveton Land Cooperation for a new school located in the African American neighborhood. A wood-frame building was erected and used until 1955. In 1952, the school board purchased adjacent acreage and built a gymnasium, occasionally used for classrooms. By 1956, the school was known as George Washington Carver School in honor of the prominent botanist and inventor. Several years after purchasing additional acreage in 1955, the contract to build the new G. W. Carver School was awarded. After integration in 1965, the Carver School was repurposed as the Groveton Junior High. Throughout the years, many outstanding African American men and women served as teachers and staff, dedicated to education, integrity, and compassion. Most notably, Mr. T. L. Mathis who was principal from 1956 to 1965. Mr. Mathis worked tirelessly to improve and advocate for the school, and its students. Activities were typically funded and/or organized by the community or students such as sporting events and the marching band, a testimony to the community's dedication to education and civic duty. (2016) Marker is property of the State of Texas

 

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