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Ned E. Williams School students recall bygone days

By Sherry Koonce skoonce@news-journal.com
July 8, 2012 at 10 p.m.


Johnnie Blanton Brashear clearly remembers the school superintendent's voice reading the same passage from Psalms every day before class started.

Those words, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the path of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners..." would serve as a pattern for her own career as school principal, and remain perhaps the fondest memory from her days at Ned E. Williams school.

Brashear, a 1955 graduate who now lives in Dallas, was among the many former Ned E. Williams students attending a banquet at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center in Longview Sunday.

The Fourteenth Anniversary Reunion Banquet was part of the weekend-long Ned E. Williams School Reunion.

"I remember every single word, he'd read it daily, the same passage from Psalms 1," Brashear said. "Those days at Ned E. Wiliams set the foundation for my years as elementary school principal in Dallas, and nurtured and prepared all of us to be strong leaders.""

Though the original Ned E. Williams, which served the black community in the Lakeport and Taum areas from 1883 to 1969, was torn down in 1969, memories of bygone days are still very much alive in the former students' minds.

Dressed mostly in black and gold - the school's colors - guests arrived Sunday to not only visit, but to pay homage to the days they spent in what they called, "a little country school."

"There were 23 kids in my class," Ruby Portley, reunion committee secretary, said.

Portley said she has fond memories of extracurricular activities she was involved in, particularly plays the students would put on, but mostly it was the teachers she remembered.

"The teachers were the type that insisted you learn - you were going to get an education," the 66-year-old, said.

Hosea Hutchison, 79, remembered his days playing sports. Whether on the football field, the baseball diamond, or basketball court, Hutchison, said he loved to represent his school in athletics.

"We had good teachers; they made you learn your lessons, or you'd get a spanking. I got some," the 1953 Ned E. Williams graduate, said.

School days were different then, Hutchison said.

The campus was right next to a wooded area that beckoned children to come and play on their lunch breaks.

"When you took lunch break you would go to the woods, jumping branches, and just enjoying the outdoors," he said.

If the school was different in those days, so were the students.

Dressed in a black suit and gold tie, Elijah Bryant, 75, of Lakeport, recalled those early school days walking to school barefoot with his brothers.

"We walked a mile to school, took our shoes off and walked barefoot most of the way. We'd put then on when we got to school. I guess we were saving our shoes," Bryant said.

Ella Faye Boyd, 69, of Longview, was among the last graduating classes before Ned E. Williams students integrated with Longview Independent School District students in 1964.

"That makes us special," Boyd said. "My days there were exciting. We made a lot of good friends, that are still friends today," she said.

Portley said about 50 people attended the event.

"We've been celebrating since Friday, and it's just been terrific," she said.

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