The History of Sevier High School
Researched and written by Henderson Cook, Jr.
People of Concordia Parish will be forever indebted to Mrs. Ernestine Lloyd Washington for foresight in purchasing the site where the new Sevier High School was to be located, thereby paving the way for its construction even before the bond was passed to obtain the money. Mr. Morris Melz, owner of the Arcade Theater, died and left $75,000 to be divided equally among black and white children for their greatest needs.
In one of the many conversations Mrs. Washington and Mrs. Corinne Baines Porter had, Mrs. Washington pointed out that the will specified that the money be used in a way which would help the most children. Mrs. Washington said, “We need a new school because this campus is getting too small. Furthermore, that will help more children than anything else we’ve talked about.” Having already considered, along with Mrs. Washington, the awarding of scholarships, granting of loans, or buying necessities for needy children, Mrs. Porter agreed. Mrs. Washington added that $37,500.00 wouldn’t buy land and build a school; so, they tossed around the idea that if some of the money was used to buy a site, maybe the school board would help with a building. Mrs. Washington approached Mr. J. S. Burris, superintendent of Concordia Parish schools, and he became interested and approved a search for a school site.
Mrs. Washington and Mrs. Porter became a committee of two to find an available land area large enough for the building. Inspecting land and locating owners, they “hopped a few ditches and dodged a few barbed wire fences and other obstacles on a few Saturdays,” in Mrs. Porter’s words. They settled on ten acres belonging to Mr. P. C. Corbett, owner of a woodmill on the south end of Ferriday. Mrs. Washington had a friend at Grambling College to design a building so that a plan would be available to present to the superintendent and the school board when the time came. In the end, the board approved the purchase.
Eventually, the “committee” was enlarged to include Mrs. Katie Brooks, of Vidalia, Mr. Alex King, Mr. Willie Graham, and Mr. Monroe Hale, all of Ferriday. The committee visited schools at Gilbert, Winnsboro, and Rayville in addition to Ferriday High School and at least one school at Washington, Mississippi, to inspect types of construction: brick-on-brick, brick-on-tile, and brick veneer. According to Mrs. Porter, the superintendent favored an all masonry construction to eliminate probable termite damage, even if the gymnasium had to be eliminated from the plans drawn up by Baker and Baker Architects. Mrs. Washington was persistent in fighting to keep the gymnasium for the sake of the student athletes who had been playing in the dust and mud all of their lives.
Somehow, the plan to build a new school and a gymnasium was satisfied by the contractor, who almost single-handedly constructed the building to include the gym, a cafeteria, a library, a home economics department, a business education department, and a band room, in addition to regular classrooms. In 1954 the new school was finished. The cost of the school was $262,670.00. The furniture and equipment were $87,982.00. Although classes were not held in the building until the fall of 1955, the first commencement exercises were held in the gymnasium in May 1954. Dr. Kara Vaughn Jackson of Grambling College was guest speaker.
When it came to a naming the new school, some wanted the name to be Helena High School, which was the name of the original plantation that the site had been a part of; others wanted to name the school for Mr. Melz, the donor of the $37,500. Until a permanent name could be decided, the school was named Sevier High School; obviously, no one ever decided on any other name.
Professor Albert Dennis Clark arrived at Sevier as its first principal in 1954; the school had only ten teachers for grades seven through twelve: Grace Hayes, Edna Alexander, Corrine Porter, Natalie B. Clark, Scott Stone, Katie Brooks, Henrietta Buford, Cephus Hayes, Morris Lee and Lula Edwards. The following year when Mr. Hugh Bateman became superintendent, three teachers were added.
Academics and Activities
During the first three years, the academic program was ranked among state-recognized schools. The students participated and excelled against schools whose enrollments were double and triple Sevier’s enrollment, in every phase of the state-sponsored LIALO Rally.
Sevier High School had many musical programs: a 30-piece concert band, a 19-piece jazz combo and “the mighty Marching Rams band.” The marching band put on shows at Grambling College, Alcorn College and at parades all over the state. Sevier was never given a public-school music teacher; but, at Mr. Clark’s request, Mrs. Porter spent extra time with music classes. Her entrants were winners in many competitions.
Students at Sevier High School competed in a variety of interscholastic sports: football, baseball, girls and boys basketball, girls and boys track and field, usually at the highest level available to them. Many teams won district championships.
In only 4 years of the school’s track and field team’s existence, members of the 1964 track and field team won the 100yd. dash and the 440yd. relay in state competition. Henderson Cook, Jr. won the 100yd dash; members of the 1964 440 relay were Charles Lee (C. L.) Bethley, Allen Warren, Alexander (Sug) Morgan, and Henderson Cook, Jr. In 1965 Henderson Cook won another state championship in the 100yd. dash; and, with a time of 2:16 seconds, Levada Brown, Jr. set a new state record in the 880yd. run. In 1966 the track and field team won its first state championship. Members of that team were Henderson Cook, Jr., Levada Brown, Jr., Rodney White, James Holmes, Curtis Brown, Willie Walker, Curtis Lee, Andrew Howard, Johnny Matthews, Fred Snedecar and Sylvester McKinney. Athletes set many records: Henderson Cook, Jr. set the Pelican Relays record with 21.2 seconds in the 220yd. dash. Track and Field News in 1966 listed him as the best performer in the nation in the 220yd. dash. In 1967 Willie Walker tied the Regal Relays record for the 440yd. dash in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
School Campus and Facilities
Beautification was a top priority for Principal Albert Clark and the faculty. Mr. Morris R. Lee, agriculture teacher, and Ms. Grace Hayes, home economics teacher, aided in planting roses and shrubbery and in building sidewalks to promote school pride.
A mound was the main landmark; and though it no longer remains, the image still remains in students’ memories as if it were yesterday. Sevier High Rams’ stadium seated 600 people; but, on any game night, 800 to 900 people packed the stadium area.
In 1967 Mr. Mack H. Moore became principal of Sevier High School. Thirty years later, in 1997, sadly, arsonists destroyed the original classrooms building.
Sevier High School Graduation Classes
Pictures of most of the Sevier High School students who have matriculated at some point in their enrollment are shown with their name on each photo.
Sevier High School Queens, Court and Prom
Queens from the fifties and sixties and a prom photo are displayed.
Newspaper articles from various activities at the school are
displayed. They range from sports to academics.
The 1954 Year Book was the only known year book when the school was known as Sevier Rosenwald High School. They flew high, as Eagles are known to do.
Sevier Rosenwald 1954 Year Book
The 1955 Year Book was the first year book when the school changed its name to Sevier High School. Though they landed on the ground as the Rams, their exploits were commendable. (Click photo for Year Book)
Sevier 1965 Year Book
Sevier 1966 Year Book
Sevier High School Commencement Exercises