Combs-McIntyre High School, Oak Grove, LA

Combs-McIntyre 1

HISTORY OF COMBS-McINTYRE HIGH SCHOOL

At the beginning of this (20th) century, changes began to take place in the field of education. With the appointment of Dr. William G. McDollerhide as part-time Superintendent of Education for West Carroll Parish in 1905 and later to full time, schools began to develop rapidly; and most parents awakened to their children’s need for an education. However, there were few young people who expected to make education a career; most of them wanted to be able to read, write, and “figure” well.

By the 1920s, this attitude was changing; many boys and girls from the farms were looking toward a career in teaching or other professions. Thus, schools were entering into a new era of growth and recognition.

Cedar Grove School for Negro children began shortly after the turn of the century, and the children were taught in the Bethany Baptist Church until 1922. About this time, Cube Combs, a prominent colored citizen, visited Tuskegee Institute of Tuskegee, Alabama, where he learned about the Rosenwald Fund for Negro schools. He came home with the determination to help his race improve school facilities. To receive these funds, it would be necessary for the local school board to match whatever funds were allocated. Mr. Combs approached the school board and found the members willing and anxious to participate in improving the two Negro schools in the parish, Cedar Grove and the Magnolia Training School.

New buildings were added to each of the above-mentioned schools, and a full junior high school curriculum was offered to grades one through nine. Both Cedar Grove and Magnolia became junior high schools. According to Mrs. Matilda Oliver, one-time principal of the Cedar Grove Junior High, Cube Combs motivated the interest and provided the leadership for these schools, while Lou McIntyre furnished the land at a nominal cost for the new Cedar Grove School building.

On April 3, 1956, a new building on the Cedar Grove campus was completed; and a new era in education for the colored youths of Oak Grove and all points north to the state line had begun. “The dedication program included a speech by the State Superintendent of Education, Shelby M. Jackson; Henry Thomas, Parish Superintendent of Education, also participated in the program. The new school was renamed the Combs-McIntyre High School in honor of the two men who gave of their time, energy, and money to promote better educational opportunities for the Negro youths of this parish.

Mrs. Matilda Oliver was principal of the Cedar Grove School for ten years and became the first principal of the new high school. She retired in 1959. Mrs. Oliver is proud that many of her pupils have made good in many professions. She mentioned some of them. Her son, Felton Coleman, is a postal clerk in Oakland, California; Carl Henry McIntyre, youngest son of Lou McIntyre, is a lawyer in New York; others are teaching in Chicago, Detroit, and New York as well as in schools near their homes.

By 1950, the buses were running from all rural communities, transporting children to the five high schools for white, the one high school for Negro children, and the junior high schools—one for the whites and one for the Negroes. The buses for white students traveled a distance of about 574 miles each day and carried 3,509 pupils for the 1949-50 school session. Two buses were operated for the Negro students and covered a distance of 80 miles each. One bus started southeast of Epps on the Holt & Murphy Plantation and traveled to the Magnolia School. The other one started west of Kilbourne and traveled to the Magnolia Training School, with some of the students stopping off at the Cedar Grove School in Oak Grove. There were 891 students enrolled in the Negro schools in the 1949-50 session; there were ten teachers at Magnolia and six at Cedar Grove.

During the 1949-50 era, the schools added to their program two other activities; the work of the visiting teacher and the provision of hot lunches for the children. The visiting teacher investigated all children whose attendance records were irregular. He went to the homes and tried to impress upon the parents the need for their children to be in school and also gave assistance toward solving other problems that might cause the children to be absent. The lunch room program was a boost to school attendance, and it also provided many of the essential foods that some of the children missed at home.

In 1950, the seven elementary schools providing education for the Negro pupils below the high school level were as follows: Bloomy Shade, located one-half mile west of Kilbourne; Kelly, located east of Oak Grove near Bayou Macon; Darnell, which was one mile north of the village of Darnell; Coleman, located north of Epps; Gowan, situated on the Gowan Plantation, northwest of Epps; and Holt & Murphy School, southeast of Epps on the plantation by the same name. These, one-room and two-room schools, were located in areas accessible to most of the Ne­gro children. The Holt & Murphy School had one teacher; Coleman, two teachers; Gowan, one teacher; Darnell, one teacher; Kelly, one teacher; Terry, two teachers; and Bloomy Shade, one teacher.

By 1960, all elementary schools for Negro children were consolidated, with the Magnolia Training High School and the Combs-McIntyre High School of Oak Grove. Today there are 25 teachers and 550 students in the Combs School. Doyal McDade is presently employed as principal. Other principals serving the Cedar Grove and Combs-McIntyre school have been W.  L. Thompson, Mrs.  Susie Smith, W.  M. Lucas, Joseph Watkins, J. S.

Hayes, H. E. Parker, George Hunter, B. L. Toombs, M. C. Sterling, Lionel Adams, H. R. Dorsey, and Mrs. Matilda Oliver.                                                                                  .

In the spring of 1969 eighteen classrooms and the office of Combs-McIntyre High School were destroyed by fire. The gymnasium and cafeteria sustained heavy smoke and water damage while the wooden shop building and a wooden building housing a few of the junior high classrooms and the band equipment were spared. The 1968-1969 school year was completed in a make-shift manner using the remaining buildings. The following school year a court mandate was issued to integrate the schools of West Carroll Parish. Students in grades one through eight remained at Combs-McIntyre High School while students in grades nine through twelve were transported to schools throughout the parish in the district where they lived. The following year Combs-McIntyre High School closed permanently.

 Reference

McKoin, Florence.  Between Two Rivers.  Baton Rouge:  A West Carroll Chronicle, 1971, pp. 235 -237; 246 -248.