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Class of 1969: Special graduation ceremony is March 3

A long-awaited graduation ceremony for local students who were excluded from graduating in 1969 will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 3 at the Pike County Auditorium. Graduates from the Class of 1969 will include Daisy Marie Anderson, Ann Rose Blackburn, Milton Clowers, Mary Helen Colquitt, Charles Davis, John Lee Dickerson, Marie Dozier, Robert Driver, Vickie Driver, Milton Favors, Patricia Ford, Earnest Grier, Dorothy Harris, Ida Bell Horton, Robert Horton, Willie Frank Jones, Sarah King, Kenneth Leeks, Emmet Mack, Raymond Miller, Linda Mitchell, Dorothy G. Reid, Annie Bell Riggins, Samuel Starks, Mary Pearly Traylor, Ernestine Tysinger, Milton Walker, Travis Wellmaker, Johnny Weston, John Horace Williamson and Mabell Willis. Members of the Class of 1969 who have passed away but will still be honored at the graduation ceremony include Larry Alexander, Oscar Alexander, Charles Ballard, Charles Britt, Laura Colquitt, Roger Gates, Kenneth Leeks, Willie ‘D.D.’ McDowell, William Mitchell, Gary Pate, Mary Love Sanford, Robert James Walker and Elijah Williams. In 1969, a certain number of black teachers and students were moved from the Pike County Consolidated High School to Pike County High School in order to satisfy the desegregation mandate from the state while the remainder of black students stayed at PCCHS in Concord. Students from that school were the ones who were not allowed to graduate due to a high number of absences due to marches and demonstrations. Several volunteers and administrators went through all of the students’ transcripts to find the students who had enough credits to graduate in the first semester of their senior year. ’The 1960s was a decade of significant social change in our country and in our community that saw the court-ordered end to a history of segregation in school systems and there were students and families who chose to show their displeasure for the lack of integration of the Pike County Schools through the non-violent act of boycotting school,’ reads an official resolution approved by the board of education. ‘As the result of their participation in the boycott, those twelfth grade students from Pike County Consolidated High School who were on track for graduation were prevented from receiving their diplomas and whereas we honor all of those students, families and educators who struggled through those turbulent times, we recognize that the lens of history allows us to acknowledge that prohibiting a student to graduate under similar circumstances would not be consistent with practices in place today. Therefore, the Pike County Board of Education authorizes the superintendent to take the necessary steps to confer diplomas to those deserving members of the Pike County Consolidated High School Class of 1969.’ Thirteen black students were suspended after leaving class to go talk to the superintendent and as a result, many other black students missed class to show their support for their fellow classmates. According to teacher Geneva Woods, many students were also upset that the contract for D.F. Glover, principal of Pike County Consolidated High School, was not renewed. ’When they didn’t renew Mr. Glover’s contract, that’s why a lot of the students marched. The black principal was said to be more qualified than any principal they had in the county. They ended up getting a retired superintendent from south Georgia to be principal instead. The kids got upset about it because they loved Mr. Glover so they started to march and they would march from Pike Consolidated to Pike County High in Hilltop in Concord to the high school in Zebulon,’ said Woods who taught many of the students at PCCHS before she was transferred to teach at Pike County High School. She retired after 38 years of teaching in 1996 but made it her goal to make sure the students who were left out would one day receive their diploma. ’I was just in bed one night and I couldn’t sleep and I prayed to ask God what I can do for my students that I hadn’t already done. So I asked the superintendent about them getting their diplomas and its gone from there. These students deserve their diplomas. Most of them became productive citizens anyway despite the fact that they didn’t have their high school diplomas. I just wanted to see that they got them. I loved all my students. I believe I was called to teach.’ She said her time at PCHS as one of the only black teachers was difficult but her faith and prayers got her through. She has been married for 41 years to David Woods who has been a member of the Zebulon City Council for more than 30 years. In addition to Mrs. Woods, those who will take part in the special ceremony include Hazel Colquitte, Rev. Fred Blackmon, Rev. Thomas Willis, Mildred Favors Dixon, Daisy Anderson Harris, Charles Davis, pastor Janet Ware, Marla Jones, Lonnie J. Willis, Dr. Michael Duncan, Vickie Driver Ogletree, Beulah Owens, Rev. Alfred Davis, Maynard Portis, Samuel Starks and Alfred Davis. ’This would not have happened without the efforts of Mrs. Wood. She went though files, produced lists and did a lot of transcript analysis,’ said Dr. Michael Duncan at the Feb. 13 school board meeting. ‘We’re excited about this ceremony and look forward to an amazing event that will bring some much-needed closure in the community.’

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