Alexander alumni celebrate memories

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hendrick Sutton has been away too long.

The 83-year-old retired postal work from Chicago left Brookhavenin 1947 after graduating from Alexander High School, working hisway through Alcorn State University to the Windy City where he “gotstuck up there.”

This weekend, he felt the still voice urging him home for the11th Alexander Homecoming Reunion, where on Saturday he sat in therear with Brookhaven’s German Levi, 85, the only other member ofthe Class of 1947 who showed up.

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“A lot of these folks, I knew their parents. But it’s limited,because most of them have gone on to glory,” Sutton said. “Butthere’s nothing like coming home, back to your roots. It makes mefeel like I should be in my teens now, but that’s all in myhead.”

Sutton was one of estimated 300 people who came from across thenation this weekend to the Alexander reunion. In variousarrangements of black and gold they gathered to fellowship at theiralma mater and all across town throughout the three-day span ofevents.

“We get to see everybody who attended this school. It’s alegacy,” said Ida Jenkins, a retired Brookhaven teacher and memberof the Class of 1970. “More people are realizing what they had, andhow far God has brought us.”

This year’s reunion marked a handful of notable moments intime.

For Jenkins, the 11th Alexander Homecoming Reunion marked 40years since desegregation ended Alexander’s status as an all-blackschool in 1970. It was also the first reunion held without theguiding influence of former principal Jessie Buie, who passed awayin May at age 83.

“It’s really sad he’s not here, but he’s still a part of it,”Jenkins said of the reunion. “We remember him and how much hevalued our togetherness.”

The 2010 reunion was also a special occasion for the Class of1960, who celebrated their 50th anniversary and were awarded goldendiplomas during a small ceremony Saturday. For Patricia WilliamsTillman, it was her first Alexander diploma.

“I was accelerated from high school in 1959 directly to college,so I did not graduate with my class. Sometimes I feel like anisland because I’m not in the Class of 1959, not in ’60,” she said.”I hope they still consider me a part of this group, because I wantto be. I am honored to be a part of the Class of 1960.”

Few from the Class of 1960 remain, but other classes attendedthe reunion in force.

The Class of 1966 roamed the events with much esprit de corps intheir matching shirts and hats, colored black as night and trimmedwith gold lines. That class’s float in Saturday morning’s parade,which featured a replica of the old Alexander gymnasium, won thetrophy.

Their predecessors were on hand and proud, too. California’sJohn Billups called his Class of 1965 the “greatest class.”

“There’s been more unity in this class throughout the years, andwe’re just like family,” he said of his classmates. “‘Sixty-five’has been so unique through the years.”

No matter the class or its size, all Alexander’s sons anddaughters were celebrated this weekend. It will be 2012, anothertwo years, before they’re all together again.

“This is your school, and it will always be your school,” saidRod Henderson, principal of Alexander Junior High School. “We say,’Honoring our tradition while achieving excellence.’ You all arethe tradition.”

Brookhaven Mayor Les Bumgarner, who won over the crowd withhumor during his remarks, paid homage as well.

“I know they call it Alexander Junior High School, but to you itwill always be Alexander High School,” he said.