Alexander High School Hall of Honor inducts first class

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sixteen graduates were selected as the first entrants into theAlexander High School Hall of Honor by alumni during reunionactivities this weekend at the school.

“Alexander may no longer be a high school, but its legacy liveson in each of us,” said Patricia Dow, an event organizer, duringopening remarks.

That legacy is most evident, however, in the 50 nominees chosenfor the school’s first Hall of Honor presentation and, especially,in the 16 honorees chosen to fill the first class, she said.

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The honorees chosen, in order of graduation, were:

* Dr. A.L. Lott, class of 1937, posthumous award: physician andpublic official. He was the first black doctor to be appointed tothe staff at King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven and thefirst black to serve on the Brookhaven Public School District Boardof Trustees.

* John Dow Sr., class of 1942, posthumous award: an educator andcoach. He was the first black assistant superintendent ofBrookhaven Public Schools and the first black member ofCopiah-Lincoln Community College’s Board of Trustees.

* John C. Berry, class of 1944, of Hattiesburg: a retirededucator with more than 30 years of service and the first blackfaculty member at the University of Southern Mississippi.

* Jesse Buie, class of 1947, of Brookhaven: a retired educatorand administrator in the Brookhaven and Clarksdale school systems.He was the first Alexander High graduate to serve as principal ofthe school, and led the school through the desegregationtransition.

* Dr. Estus Smith, class of 1949, of Centerville, Ohio: aretired educator and advisor to the president and vicepresident/COO Emeritus of the Kettering Foundation.

* Dr. William Sutton, class of 1949, of New Orleans: a retirededucator and former president of Mississippi Valley StateUniversity.

* Dr. Rudolph Waters, class of 1949, of Alcorn: a retirededucator and former interim president and vice president at AlcornState University.

* Walter Weathersby, class of 1950, of Rantoul, Ill.: a retiredchief master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and a teen mentor andmotivator for Lincoln’s Challenge Academy.

* Robert E. Pickett, class of 1953, of Vicksburg: a retiredcoach and educator. He became the first black superintendent of theVicksburg-Warren School District.

* Eunice Trass Smith, class of 1953, of Jackson: a retirededucator at Jackson State University and founder of Century 21Reliable Real Estate in Jackson.

* Robert E. Tyler, class of 1955, of Brookhaven: a retirededucator at Brookhaven Public Schools and the co-owner and funeraldirector of Tyler Funeral Home Inc. He also serves as LincolnCounty assistant coroner.

* Raymond Trass, class of 1958, of Los Angeles: a real estatebroker and co-owner of Century 21 Rayshire Ladera.

* Herman Coleman, class of 1958, of Troy, Mich.: a businessfounder, partner and marketing director and the present presidentof Interstate Consulting Services, Inc.

* James Swinney Smith Jr., class of 1958, of Ocean Springs: aformer teacher and coach who also worked in research developmentand marketing in chemistry for Corning Glass, Orion Research andYSI Inc. He is also the only black charter boat captain inMississippi.

* Margie Turner, class of 1958, of Alexandria, Va.: a retiredcaptain in the U.S. Navy and the first black female to have her owncommand within the Naval Telecommunications Command.

* Arlustra “Pap” Henderson, class of 1965, of Brookhaven: policeofficer and public official. He became the first black Brookhavenassistant police chief and, later, its first chief. He was recentlyunopposed in his second bid for that position.

Honorees were given a few minutes to speak to the alumni duringthe presentation and extolled the values and strength the school’sfaculty and staff instilled in the graduates.

“Alexander High not only prepared us academically, but alsosocially. And it gave us confidence. The confidence to realize wecould be whatever we wanted to be despite what society believed atthe time,” Sutton said.

James Smith said he had “never been speechless in my life, but Idon’t know where to start.”

“I travel all over the world and I carry that Alexander HighSchool legacy with me,” he said.

Alumni were also treated to a short documentary film featuringthe history of the black school from its start as a one-roomschoolhouse in 1901 through the tragedy of a fire in 1952 thatdestroyed it and culminating in the school’s closure in 1970.

“Even though Alexander High School’s heart stopped beating in1970 under court-ordered integration, we can and must keep it aliveby recognizing, recording and publishing the accomplishments of itsalumni, who have done and are doing great works all over Americaand in some foreign countries,” Buie said.

Reunion attendees were given a special glimpse of thoserecording works with a first printing of a book publishing therecollections of 11 percent of its alumni.

The second, and final edition, will be available at the 2008reunion, Patricia Dow said. She encouraged all alumni who had notsubmitted vocal histories or pictures to do so.

“Alexander reunions have always allowed us to come back andverbally share our stories and our histories, but time has a way ofchanging things,” she said. “It is the goal of the Legacy Committeeto publish a detailed history of the school so that importantlegacy is not lost forever.”