The Classes of 1971-1979 returned to commemorate themselves as “Integration Survivors” who were on the front lines of desegregation in rural Attala County, Mississippi. The theme was “Dancin’, Prancin’, and Slow Steppin’ Through the 70s.”
The Classes of 1971-1979 reunited as a collective of approximately 200 attendees. The weekend was full of moments to reconnect with classmates and some of their integration teachers and to notate how they survived integration. Many of the African American integration participants didn’t have a choice at the time because there were no private schools in the area for Black students. The majority of the white students went off to academies that were hastily convened to outwardly protest their objections to sitting in classrooms beside Black students.
Therefore, the all-Black Long Creek High School was turned into an elementary school and McAdams High School remained as the alternative high school in southwestern Attala County in 1971 – even though Long Creek High School was by far much newer than McAdams. White county school boards throughout Mississippi voted to have their white alma maters remain as the Black high schools were relegated to elementary status. A few white students remained at McAdams largely because their parents could not afford the private academy tuition along with a handful of white teachers who wanted to work out their public-school retirement pensions as they attempted to conceal their white supremacy demeanor in classrooms of predominantly Black students.
The Class of 1971 was the first class to walk the halls of McAdams High School as seniors. Unfortunately, during the school year, all extracurricular activities had been aborted except for basketball and football. As a member of the Class of 1971, this writer can attest to the fact that there wasn’t a senior prom to attend, and the year was devoid of other school-related activities which to participate in during the final year of high school.
Long Creek High School was the high school that Black students attended before integration. There, the students were provided with some of the best Black teachers who, maybe unbeknownst to them and us, prepared each class for what came with integration by the structure of the homework and in-class participation. Because of this superior education, many of the students received at Long Creek prior to integration, the white teachers at McAdams could not inhibit the academic progress of the transferred Black students throughout 1971-1979.
Therefore, the reunion of the classes of 1971-1979 was a joyous occasion that allowed those still living from as far away as California to greet each other as integration survivors and prosperous citizens. Many of the classmates had not seen each other since graduation day and were overwhelmed in reminiscence of the old school days and elated to catch up on what had transpired in the years in between. Everyone shared their career accomplishments, showed off pictures of their children and the many travels and adventures since graduation, and even complained about our weight gain.
The reunion activities included a morning brunch at the Jason-Niles Park in Kosciusko that was filled with good food, endless picture-taking, and great fellowship under the cool breeze of a sunny Saturday. Retired Master Sgt. Hubert Evans/US Army served as the emcee/program guide for all activities throughout the reunion weekend and DJ Too Tall served up all of the music of the 1970s. The evening event was a perfectly coordinated banquet with an exquisite buffet that was coordinated by Georgia Faye Collins-Stewart and her committee members. The reunion attendees were welcomed by Fannie Suggs and the introduction of classes were presented by:
Brenda Zollicoffer Burroughs (Class of 1971)
Eudora Thurman (Class of 1972)
Annie Rockett Teague (Class of 1973)
Diane Wingard McBride (Class of 1974)
Clara “Cat” Teague Lesley (Class of 1975)
Wimpy Fleming Chambers (Class of 1976)
Johnny Teague Thornton Hightower (Class of 1977)
Lawrence Levy (Class of 1978)
Mattie Teague Bridgewater (Class of 1979)
Sadly, a few classmates had made their heavenly transition and were noted in memoriam. They were remembered by the following living class members:
Linda Fuller Walker (Class of 1971)
Margie Wingard Johnson (Class of 1972)
Tanya George (Class of 1973)
Patricia Roby Bentley (Class of 1974)
Josephine Levy Riley (Class of 1975)
Willie Mae Brown Lee (Class of 1976)
Jim H. Wilson (Class of 1977)
Linda Faye Roundtree Golden (Class of 1978)
Alice Stewart Hart (Class of 1979)
Prayer by Otha Stewart Jr.
Eloise Riley Williams introduced special guests Virginia Clark, Brenda Jackson, and Earline McCormick who were the integration survivor teachers. Rev. Charlie Clark (Class of 1975) blessed the banquet food.
The finale day of the reunion concluded with a joyous Sunday Worship Service at St. John Baptist Church in McAdams, Mississippi. The worship began with a congregational song led by Sgt. Evans followed by scripture (Howard Little), prayer (Noah Stewart), song and welcome (Rosie M. Sample), offering (Sgt. Evans & Howard Little), introduction of speaker (Joyce Clark), hymn (“Amazing Grace”), and an additional song (Murlean Rockett & Friends). Rev. Charlie Clark brought a spirit-filled sermon and talked about the fact that we are now the elders of the community.
The day concluded with lots of hugs and kisses with a promise to do it again in 2025 if it is God’s will!