RUSSELLVILLE — Joe Louis Graham graduated from Reedtown High School in 1958, and he still cherishes the memories of his days at the school.
“That school holds a lot of memories for a lot of people,” Graham said. “When we have the reunion, we have people from Maine to California coming back.”
Reedtown was the only high school in Russellville and Franklin County for black students, said Charles Dale, a 1961 graduate. It opened 1924 and became a part of the Russellville City School System in 1952.
The last graduating class was in 1968 as the school began integration with Russellville High School, the all-white school. Reedtown closed in 1972.
Every two years, a committee comprised of former Reedtown graduates hosts the Reedtown reunion at the school, which is on Hamilton Street. This year, the alumni coming back to Russellville, will not only get a chance to share memories, but they will be visiting the newest addition to the Alabama Historical Commission’s Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
An official with the Alabama Historical Commission was in Russellville on Monday to make the announcement.
“This is a major accomplishment and a big honor,” Russellville Mayor David Grissom said of getting the school placed on the historical register.
“Reedtown High School is a vital part of the history of Russellville and it’s great to now have that history recognized statewide.”
Reedtown High School is only the second former black school in the Shoals area to be placed on the state historical register. Leighton Training School in Colbert County was placed on the register in 1999.
Dale spearheaded the effort to get Reedtown recognized.
“This is something I have always wanted to do,” he said.
Dale called the Alabama Historical Commission in December to find out what he had to do to accomplish his mission. He recruited the help of Franklin County Extension Agent Katernia Cole and on Feb. 21 they submitted the documents to the historical commission.
The historical commission met last week and approved the application.
“They called me Friday morning and I couldn’t believe it was finally going to happen,” Dale said. “It took some work, but it was worth it.”
Milton Franklin, who started his coaching career at Reedtown in 1950, said it’s a tribute to the school to have it placed on the historical register.
“There were a lot of good times there and a lot of good memories,” Franklin said. “I think it’s great that the school can be recognized as a part of the state’s history.”
Dale said the school was a major part of the civil rights movement during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“Getting this honor and knowing that this school, and everyone who attended it, is a part of the state’s history, gives us a sense of pride,” Dale said. “I told someone the other day, I feel about this the same way I did when I walked across the Edmond Pettus Bridge (in Selma during a civil rights march). I’ll never forget the feeling of accomplishment I had that day and I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I got that call Friday.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.