A Special Class Reunion For "Old Time's Sake" - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

7/13/06-Henderson

A Special Class Reunion For "Old Time's Sake"

  Standing in the entrance of their former high school are students of Henderson Colored High. There were members of the Class of 1960 and 1961 all the way back to the Class of 1945, 1949 and 1952. 
  Being back in Henderson again is like turning back the hands of time. "What does it remind you of when coming back here?," asks KLTV 7 Reporter Christine Nelson.
  "It will always be home!," says Mary Nell Foster Harris, Class of 1958. "Our social life was school and church and we were all like family as you can see," says Inez Hollis Baker, Class of 1952. 
  The head of this family was their beloved principal, Elmer Hill, revisiting the building again at 99-years-old. 
  "I retired in 1971," says Mr. Hill. "So I was around these [former students] a good little while. I met a lot of them that I didn't know and I still don't know them yet!," he says jokingly. 
  Back in the 40s, Henderson Colored High became the place where blacks in that area could get an education. All of them had to walk as many as three miles to school. 
  "We only had one pair of shoes mind you. We had to hit that water in those shoes and sit them by the heater that night and hope they fit the next morning!," says Baker with former alumni laughing in agreement. The school had its own band and a football team, the mighty Panthers. 
  "We won the district in 1958 and we went to the semifinals in 1959," says Billy Tribble, Class of 1961. "The 1945 guys, we were undefeated too!," adds Willie Reedy, Class of 1949. But at that time it was knowledge these students were after.  Something they all say they couldn't have done without the principal they still call Mr. Hill.  
 "School started at 8:00-8:15. [Mr. Hill] was at the door to meet all the students!," says Johnnye Jones, Class of 1961. Hill became principal in 1941 with a staff of as little as four teachers. Arkalio Windom Stein, Class of 1960 and now a teacher herself, made the national honor society during her time at Henderson Colored High. 
  She adds, "And it has stayed with me. So I always encourage my students to strive now to make the honor roll." With Hill in charge, instilling high standards many times came in the form of tough love; Something these alumni can laugh about today. "There's one person in here I won't mention.
  She said 'Mr. Hill don't hit me on my leg.' He said, 'I'm going to hit you where your legs knell on!,'" recalls Sidney Columbus Coleman laughingly, Class of 1958. 
  "He was just a strict disciplinarian and we respected this man," says Harris. "I didn't know if they felt well of me or not," says Mr. Hill about his students. 
  "It's been really amazing to sit here and listen to the different [stories] coming from our children," he says with endearment. With the overflow of memories, sharing and laughter, Hill's former students couldn't resist thanking their beloved principal for his priceless gifts one more time. 
  Henderson Colored High was later named Hill High School, after Elmer Hill. Next month during the reunion, alumni also plan to celebrate Mr. Hill's birthday. He'll be turning 100 years old.

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com 

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