BOOKER T. WASHINGTON -- HILLIARD HIGH SCHOOL -- By Blanche M. Franklin Johnson
The eyes of Booker T. Washington & Hilliard High School are upon you,
Do not think you can escape them at night or early morning,
'Til Gabriel blows his horn!
In this narrative history of Booker T. Washington--Hilliard High School, students and citizens are referred to as Colored, Negroes, Blacks and African-Americans, all denoting one race of people.
The early twentieth century is sometimes phrased as the second great era of reform in America. This era was characteristic of American citizens responding to the industrial revolution. American citizens began organizing reform movements in order to alleviate some of the social problems such as labor laws, social and educational injustices.
It was thought by many Anglo people that African American children did not need to be educated due to their limited opportunities in society and other responsibilities that they had to perform in order to make a livelihood.
Readin' 'riting and 'rithmetic were not taught before the Emancipation Proclamation became a reality on January 1, 1863. It was illegal for "Colored" people to be taught or even let it be known that they could read or write.
The town of Bay City was founded in 1894 through the efforts of four land developers, who saw the potential of a town on the Prairie in almost the center of Matagorda County, Texas. Touting their campaign for an election to move the county seat through a small newspaper, The Bay City Breeze, to begin this new town.
In the town establishment, there was no learning institution for African American children. Schools are learning institutions where minds are cultivated and people have the power to communicate by such symbols as words and numbers. Through the use of language, they can explain their surroundings and deal with them abstractly in terms of time, space and value.
Carter G. Woodson stated: "When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to let him know not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his 'Proper Place' and will stay with it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary."
The Chinese proverb states, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."
Considering these proverbs of truth and realizing the necessities for a school, the African American people of Bay City organized a pretty good sized school according to the August 27, 1896, Bay City Breeze newspaper.
The first school for African American children was located in the 1100 Block of what is now Avenue A and Second Street, across from the present site of the First Sacred Memorial Christian Church. This school was a small one-room frame building donated by the railroad company.
A. A. DeLeon was the first teacher in Bay City, Matagorda County, Texas for the Colored students. There were teachers added later: A. G. Hilliard, A.P. Allen and J. J. Grundy.
In May 1897, J. T. Hamilton, County Judge of Matagorda County, called a meeting of the Colored teachers to assemble in Bay City for the purpose of organizing an institute of Colored teachers of Matagorda County, Texas to execute a program named in connection with the call for this meeting.
The following teachers were elected as officers: A. G. Hilliard I, President, A. P. Allen, Vice President and J. J. Grudy, Secretary. Sometime later, another African American man was added by the name of Orange Dorse, a preacher.
In 1904, the student enrollment, 85, had outgrown the first school. Another building was moved to where the Enterprise Baptist Church is located at 2420 Avenue B. This second school for African Americans in Bay City was also donated by the railroad company. Teachers there were: A. G. Hilliard, Phoeba Allen and Beulah Holland. This was the beginning of the Booker T. Washington School at the end of Moore and Adell Streets where the Frank Henderson Memorial Park is located today . The faculty was A. G. Hilliard I, Grace Hayes, Ophelia Green, Barbara Ward and Livernia Smith.
In is recorded that the Bay City District took the Colored school over after 1905. Before that time, buildings were located on property owned by individuals.
The "Colored" school received very little public funding--if any, and operated with inadequate facilities. Colored teachers were paid a different salary from White teachers, although the school was under the control of the Bay City Independent School District. This policy was practiced until total integration took place, when Hilliard no longer existed as a high school. Black teachers learned of this when they were transferred to the white school.
Monday, May 19, 1925, Booker T. Washington graduated its first class. Commencement was held in the small auditorium of the Booker T. Washington School.
Before this date, a graduation ceremony was planned--May 22, 1922, but a terrible flood prevented the exercises. Later, Ethel Anderson and Barbara Ward did receive their certificates.
The school only taught through the 8th grade. Those who wanted further education had to go to Prairie View, Houston, Galveston or Kendleton, Texas.
December 17, 1926, there were 225 students enrolled in the Booker T. Washington School. Hilliard stated, "our enrollment reached 225, in charge of four teachers." "In the primary room, the teacher enrolled 83 children, but on investigating there were four not having been enrolled. Two other rooms have two grades each with an enrollment of 34, consisting of three grades, which made a total of eight grades.
A two-story frame structure was moved from the present site of Cherry Elementary School, located at 2509 Eighth Street to the North End Section of town at the end of Moore and Adell Streets. The school housed many students and had only eight rooms. There were no provisions for a library, cafeteria, science room, athletic room or facilities for person hygiene care.
The basketball court was located between the two buildings. The court was on bare ground, lined with lime and the goal posts with a goal on each end of the court. The basketball games had to be played during the day. Eventually, in the early 1940s, electric lights were strung on the buildings to provide lights for night games.
The Hilliard PTA (Parent Teacher Association) was very enthusiastic about the educational welfare of its children. They organized the famous "Hilliard High November Drive." The purpose of the drive was to raise money to buy some school items that were not being furnished to the "Colored" students. The PTA also raised money to build two additional classrooms behind the two-story building and also paid the salary of Tyree Hardeman, who taught grades eight through ten. The PTA raised money to build the first swimming pool in the South End of town on LeTulle Street. It was a very popular drive as far as classes were concerned. The class that raised the largest sum of money would be the winner. All types of family oriented fundraisers were held. A queen would be chosen from each class. The student that raised the most money would be rewarded by receiving free passes to the movie theaters.
In 1941, A. G. Hilliard II was asked to use Hilliard School as a recreational facility for African American soldiers stationed at Camp Hulen in Palacios, Texas. The Negro soldiers could not go to the USO--now Bay City Service Center. Upon this request by Mayor R. C. Gusman, who was the chairman of the Coordinating Council for Civil Defense, Mr. Hilliard wrote a letter and gave the findings of a committee on existing conditions at Negro Hilliard High School, Bay City, Texas.
Mr. Hilliard's report as centered on the following:
"The building incapacity to provide a library, cafeteria, science rooms, or bathing facilities, the heating insecurity, wood stoves, overflowing enrollment, the location prevents security, city utilities, the curriculum very limited, no auditorium to entertain Negro soldiers of citizens. The proximity of this thriving little city at [to] Camp Hulen is largely responsible for our increased enrollment. Soldiers and civilians who have moved here to work for them frequently ask whether we might admit their children, provided they send for them, but we have had to discourage this act, as we had no room for them. In concluding, allow me to say a word as chairman of recreation activities. I find that our people are anxious to cooperate with the Colored soldiers, but we do not have a decent place to entertain them unless we carry them to churches. Therefore, I wholeheartedly endorse any plan to include a large auditorium in a new school building which could be used to entertain the soldiers at night and on weekends. We have attempted to entertain those soldiers in our homes from time to time, but the type of entertainments which we offer are rather limited in as much as we do not have the proper places. I am sure you will be interested in knowing that the Negro citizens of Bay City, through our committee, are extending an invitation to each of the Negro soldiers to eat dinner in our various homes on Christmas Day."
There were many handicaps for learning in the two-story structure. Students were issued outdated books, books that had been discarded by the White students, hand me down equipment furniture and uniforms.
There were many respected citizens--doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. that had gotten their roots from Booker T. Washington School. Upon the death of A. G. Hilliard I, in 1935, Dr. J. I. Browning suggested that the name of the school be changed to Hilliard High School. Mrs. Maria Anderson made the motion. The Board of Trustees accepted the motion.
The Bay City school of Negroes, hereafter known as the Booker T. Washington School, is now known as the A. G. Hilliard High School in honor of late A. G. Hilliard I, who stood at the head of the school for many years. The honor conferred upon a worthy man and teacher is a fitting recognition of his worth as a citizen and leader of his race. The only regrettable part about such things is that the one whose memory is remembered never knows it. It is like flowers after death, the beauty and sweetness of which never reach beyond life, even though appreciated by the living. We are glad to know A. G. Hilliard's name now graces the school over which he held exalted sway for so many years, but we wish the honor could have come to him in his consciousness so he could have felt and seen the esteem of those who know him. Mr. A. G. Hilliard II was named principal of the A. G. Hilliard High School after his father's death.
The Board of Trustees originally purchased 6.059 acres out of the E Hall League from one of the four original owners, D. P. Moore, of Bay City for the new school. Chairman Steves read a letter from Nolan Stevens to the Board concerning a tract of land the Board purchased from Nolan Stevens for a Colored school site. Trustees Bussell and Briscoe having made the deal for the property for the school board stated that it was their understanding that the following statement should have been part of the original deed from Nolan Stevens to the Bay City School Board.
"In connection with and as part of the consideration for the execution and delivery to me by you of deed of even date herewith that I will, within thirty days from date of the delivery of such deed, procure at my own expense a licensed surveyor to make a survey on the ground of the tract of land in the E Hall League conveyed to me by such deed: and if such survey shows an acreage in excess of fourteen acres, I will pay you an additional consideration for the conveyance of such land the sum of One Hundred and Fifty Dollars per acre for each such acre contained in said tract in excess of said fourteen acres; if such survey shows an acreage less than fourteen acres, you agree to return to us, out of the consideration paid for such conveyance, the sum of One Hundred Fifty Dollars per acre for each acre less than fourteen acres contained in such tract."
This statement having been left out of the original deed, he question of paying for the additional 1.55 acres arose. It was the opinion of the Board that the Board was morally obligated to pay Nolan Stevens for the excess acres. Upon motion by Trustee Bussell, duly seconded by Trustee Shoultz that the Board of Trustees pay Nolan Stevens for the additional 1.55 acres of land at the rate of $150.00 per acre. Voting yea were Trustees Steves, Matchett, Briscoe, Shoultz and Bussell and duly seconded by Trustee Shoultz and unanimously carried the Board voted that if this action of the Board of Trustees was ever contested, that the individual members would pay the same out of their own pockets.
On December 9, 1946, the architect and engineering firm of Wyatt C. Hedrich presented plans for a new school building and the architect's loan of the Federal Government. Motion made by Trustee Bussell and seconded by Trustee Barkley that the Federal Works Agency would be asked for an extension of time to March 1, 1947, for use of architect's fee.
Several bids for a new Colored High School were given to the Bay City District Board of Trustees. The companies, cost and days of completion were as follows"
J. W. Bateson & Son $127,980 280 days
A. N. Evans 125, 700 250 days
P. E. Garrett & Co. 128,955 180 days
R. P. Farnsworth & Co. 115,618 150 days
Shaw & Eske 134,922 200 days
Thomas Bate & Son 127,917 150 days
Henderson 116,583 200 days
As recorded in the August 11, 1947 minutes of the Board of Trustees of Bay City School District, bids for a Colored High School were opened. The lowest bidder was R. P. Farnsworth and Co. for a sum of $115,618 to be completed in 150 working days.
Upon motion by Trustee Matchett duly seconded by Trustee Barkley and unanimously carried. The architect bill from Wyatt C. Hedrich on the Colored school amounting to $2,744.75 was authorized to be paid.
A representative of R. P. Farnsworth and Company stated that as soon as a contract was drawn up and signed, his company would begin immediately on the Colored school.
The matter of insurance for the new Colored school building was discussed and the Business Manager was instructed to work out a plan for insurance between the seven insurance agencies of the community and present to the Board at the next meeting.
In 1948, a new Hilliard High School became a reality for the African Americans in Bay City and was located at 3008 LeTulle Avenue, Bay City, Texas. Additions to the original structure were a wing for extra classrooms, a band hall, a chemistry laboratory and a gymnasium. Several other buildings were moved to the site for still more classrooms for elementary grades, a typing room and a cafeteria. A structure was erected for an agricultural building, an athletic field house and a shop.
A plaque at the front entrance of the Hilliard High School down the main corridor reads:
BOARD OF EDUCATION
L. M. Matchett--Vice President
R. W. Bussell--Secretary
Hollie L. Briscoe--Vice Secretary
H. L. Barkley--Member
W. R. Gordon--MemberBOARD OF EDUCATION
Dr. Chas. A. Schultz--Member
John H. Cherry--Superintendent
H. J. McAllister--Business Manager
Wyatt C. Hedrich--Architect & Engineer / R. P. Farnsworth & Co., Inc. Contractor
Some teachers at the school on Adell and Moore were: A. G. Hilliard II, Thelma Woolridge, Ralph Green, Tyree Hardeman--first men's coach, Ophelia Greene, L. C. Anderson, Grace Hayes, Willie Murphy, Hugh Ella Griggsby, Dave Young, Grace Young--first women's coach, Linnie Roberts, Leola Boone, Alma Davis, Juanita Hardeman, Rosa Lee Brown and others.
Hilliard School was the first in Bay City Independent School District to receive a Charter from the State for a National Junior Honor Society and the first to have two State Football Championships. Many of the students excelled in literary evens at the District, Regional and State Levels.
Hilliard High School no longer exists as a school. It is apparent that today's public schools are no longer under the mandate of "separate but equal." Therefore, the citizens of Bay City must remember the importance of the Hilliard High School. The years that the Hilliard High School was in operation brought about a sense of family and community cohesiveness among the African American residents. The graduates of Hilliard High School show evidence that the school positively influenced their lives in many ways.
Hilliard High graduates continue to hold regular school reunions. This year, 2001, marks the seventeenth Annual All Classes Reunion of the Booker T. Washington--Hilliard High School. The African American community continues to keep the tradition of educational excellence alive. The memories and lessons of the early Black schools are still remembered.
Hilliard High School closed its doors as a high school in 1967. It was used for a short period of time as a junior high school while the present McAllister Junior High was being built. Now, parts of the school that are still usable are being occupied by the Headstart and Economic Action Organization.
Today, for those who passed this way in yesteryears, just the name, the structure, the site, bring back many appreciative memories. Those who never passed this way can never see or realize the significance. They cannot identify with the reflections.
The dedication for Texas Historical Marker for the Hilliard High School was held October 26, 2002. The marker is located at 3008 LeTulle Avenue, Bay City, Texas.