Reunion draws 400-plus former CCTS students

Published 1:18 am Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jessie Johnson, Arthur Johnson, Isaac Church, Edward Boswell, Johnny Cowan, Fred Crittenden, Willie Jessie, Corene Ross, Evelyn Jackson, Murl Bradley, Annie Holmes, Dorothy James, Rena Carter, Willie Jones, Alma Daniels, Louise Church, and Alice Gavins.

They came; they ate; they danced; and they worshiped as more than 400 former students and their spouses attended the bi-annual Covington County Schools reunion event on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

The Covington County Schools reunion is held every two years for the many students who attended Covington County Training School (CCTS), Ralph-Bunche High School, Bethune Jr. High, and Woodson High School, all of which were for African Americans.

“This reunion was begun for the Covington County African-American schools that have no longer have an alma mater,” said Mattie Freeney, this year’s reunion committee president.

The reunion began with Bobby McGee and Louis Nelson from the class of 1958, she said.

“They decided to include other classes from CCTS, and C. L. Kirkpatrick joined the committee,” she said. “I was told that the first CCTS reunion was held at the Johnny Crenshaw Cafe. While CCTS had their reunion, Mr. and Mrs. Coleman Jones, Judy McCord, Judy Logan and Patricia Grace were having reunions for Woodson High. At the request of C. C. Baker, the two combined in 2000.

“Coleman Jones is one of the original people who started the combined reunion for those who attended the Covington County Training School and later the Ralph-Bunch High School; Ralph-Betune Junior High School and Woodson High School,” Freeney said. “The last class (at Woodson High School) graduated in 1970, and like other schools that have a class reunion, this is

one for all Covington County African Americans who no longer have an alma mater to host a class reunion.”

Freeney said in 2006, attendance exploded at the biannual event, prompting a move from Andalusia’s Oakwood Lodge to the

Kiwanis Center for the 2008 event.

Freeney said at last count, 413 people had signed in this year.

“We had people from all over,” she said. “We had people from Washington, Michigan, New York, Florida, Texas, California, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee. There was a lot of stories told ­ about the things that we all used to do; the times we used to have; the whippings we used to get. There was a lot of catching up on kids, grandkids, the kind of work we’re doing.”

And of course, eating, Freeney said, as fellow Woodson High Class of 1969 graduate Billy Jo Stallworth catered the events Saturday and Sunday. Janice Byrd catered the Friday banquet.

“Thursday was hospitality night, like a meet and greet to catch up,” she said. “Friday, we had a banquet. Rufus Clanzy, a 1955 graduate, was our speaker, and we had dance afterwards. We are serious first, and then we dance.

“Saturday was picnic day, and Billy Jo catered,” she said. “We had Boston Butt, barbeque ribs, chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs and goat, along with all the fixings that go with that. Plus, watermelon and homemade ice cream.

“Let’s just we all ate good and had a good time,” she said.

On Sunday, the group visited First Baptist Church Whatley Street. Each reunion cycle the group visits a different church throughout the county, she said.

The group will begin planning the 2012 event in the summer of 2011, she said.

“We’re hoping for an even bigger crowd then,” she said.