W. H. Reed High School, Napoleonville, LA

           W. H. Reed High School

History

Prior to 1948, during the era of dual school systems in the south, there was no public high school in Assumption Parish for black students. Those interested in pursuing an education beyond the ninth grade had to attend secondary schools for blacks in the adjoining parishes of Ascension and Lafourche. Yet, others attended private secondary schools for blacks that were part of the curriculum of Leland College, Straight College in New Orleans and Sager Brown which was a United Methodist related black school located in Baldwin, Louisiana.

Our parents, educators, and community leaders had a great idea! – a centrally located secondary school for black youth. “one can resist an invasion of armies,” Victor Hugo wrote, “but not an idea whose time has come.” Their ideas, dreams, and goals were attained through concrete action.

Around 1939, the Assumption Parish School Board decided to construct the present Napoleonville Primary School main building. In the early years of its existence (Napoleonville Junior High as it was called) was a little more than an elementary school with ninth grade added. Yes, the door was cracked. But in actuality, most Blacks only had a foot across the threshold. As time passed and the school grew in student enrollment, higher grades were added. Twelfth grade was added to the curriculum in 1948. Thus, Napoleonville Colored High School emerged as the first secondary educational facility for black children. Its’ Motto:

“Education Is Guidance.”  The plaque is still on the wall in the original building. There were five students in the first graduating class of 1948. Those students were:

  1. Hattie Butler Auery
  2. Lois Hawkins Parker
  3. Agnes Lewis Smith
  4. Daniel Mitchell
  5. Gertie Sparks Patterson

The original building was a very distinct structure set amid spacious lawns lined by oak trees has stood the test of time. It is an extraordinary composition of wood, stone, and glass overlooking the town of Napoleonville. Noted for its octagon shaped office, beautiful wooden floors, centrally located skylight and chimney. The structure has survived hurricanes and modern renovations. The two roomed white wooden building that housed the lunchroom, band room, and later the teacher’s lounge was torn down and moved off the site many years ago.

Once there were special people in the educational arena that had to leave us, but they left a light burning so that we might follow.  Former principals of Napoleonville Colored High School were Mr. George Parker, Mr. Lawrence A. Southall, and Ms. Ruth Dorsey, who served as the interim principal while Mr. Southall pursued a graduate degree.

Times changed both socially and politically and the school enrollment grew. The need to expand the curriculum was evident, extracurricular activities were needed, and of course modern facilities were the order of the day.

In 1953 under the continued administration of Mr. Lawrence Southall, a very elegant, spacious, and modern new structure was constructed on the adjoining grounds and a name change was in the making due to the social and political atmosphere that engulfed the area at the time. In 1953 the name Napoleonville Colored High faded into oblivion and the name W. H. Reed High emerged in 1954. The school was named after Rev. William H. Reed, former pastor of First Israel Baptist Church located in Belle Rose, Louisiana, and a strong advocate of education. He also taught classes in a small school that was housed on the church grounds.

The newly constructed structure housed grades eight through twelve. A new gymnasium was also built to accommodate Physical Education classes for both genders, and of course-Basketball, the main school sport at that time. The basketball program produced many outstanding players and brought accolades to the school under the direction of such noted coaches as Mr. Simpson Southall, Mr. Nathaniel Lewis (Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Assumption Parish), Mr. Alvin Sylvester, and Ms. Verdell Chatman. As time passed football was added as a main sport. Mr. Nathaniel Lewis served as the first coach. He produced many outstanding players during his coaching tenure. Many outstanding leaders in the fields of education, medicine, business and other disciplines passed through the doors of W. H. Reed High School.

The demise of W.H. Reed High School occurred in 1970. School desegregation across the state of Louisiana resulted in W.H. Reed being closed as a secondary institution of learning.  Some of the school’s buildings disappeared due to the ravages of time. A small number of the original structures remain on the grounds.  W. H. Reed played a tremendous role in the education of African American children in Assumption Parish. The school itself is gone but the heritage and the memories live on!

Faculty

Principal players in the capturing and nurturing of the minds of many, many students. Their roles as administrators, teachers, role models and leaders were especially important given the special needs of students. These teachers helped scores of Black students reach their educational goals. We thank the teachers and administrators for their contributions to the education of the youth in Assumption Parish.

  1. Oscar Williams
  2. Nancy Walton
  3. Permilla Reed
  4. Perscilla P. Johnson
  5. John L. Comeaux
  6. Cleo Southall
  7. Mary B. Terry
  8. Jeffery England
  9. Alvin Sylvester
  10. Melba Reed Sullivan
  11. Edith Parker
  12. Willis Hadrick
  13. Walter Milton
  14. Marion Reed Melancon
  15. Octavia J. Lewis
  16. Clarence Sims
  17. Verdell Smothers
  18. Zelpha Perkins
  19. Mr. Porter
  20. Mr. Spain
  21. Othello Celestine
  22. Shirley Burd
  23. Katie Cockerham
  24. Florence Bowser
  25. Ollie Jarvis
  26. Roberta Southall
  27. Simpson Southall
  28. Verdell Chapman
  29. Harding Anderson
  30. Joseph Singleton
  31. Thomas Bailey
  32. Nathaniel Lewis
  33. Ms. Irvin
  34. Loyalene Wilson
  35. Frances M. Stevenson
  36. Betty LeBlanc
  37. Roslyn Pugh