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Proposed memorial will honor Athens ISD students who attended segregated schools

A new memorial will be built in Athens in honor of African-American students who attended segregated schools in the city.
Published: Jul. 24, 2021 at 5:49 PM CDT
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ATHENS, Texas (KLTV) - A new memorial will be built in Athens in honor of African-American students who attended segregated schools in the city.

The memorial will be a wall that lists the names of students who attended Blackshear, Fisher, and Bishop Heights school campuses. The location of the memorial will be in O.D. Baggett Park, which is named after O.D. Baggett. He was the first black justice of the peace in Athens.

The idea of the memorial came about from Building Athens Together President Larry West. West spoke at a veteran’s event in which he was fascinated by a veteran’s memorial, and he thought it would be a good idea to do something similar for students who attended segregated schools in Athens.

“I was just in awe with the list of names of all the military people that have served in our military in all the wars the U.S. had fought in and with so many names with people representing Henderson County was awesome to me, and I thought this would be unique to be able to do something like this for the schools that were of segregated setting to list all the names of students and faculty and bus drivers, anybody that had anything to do with the school during segregation,” West said.

It’s history that this group is trying to preserve. Mary Henderson, who is a pastor at the Church of the Living God, will also have her name on the wall. She remembers attending Fisher High and the good times she had there but she also remembers the lack of resources the schools had. As she reflects on the list of names, it is rewarding for her to see what she and her classmates have accomplished.

“I look at some of those names now and they have gone on to accomplish a lot of great things even though we didn’t have all those wonderful accomplishments these others have right now,” Henderson said. “We took pride in what we had and used it and really, I guess, made a statement.”

They’re also making a statement that they want to show to future generations to help them understand the history within the city of Athens.

“What I hope is we give our younger generation hope to see this is where we have come from and actually have something that they can remember their relatives,” said Valerie Franklin who is the Building Athens Together Chief Financial Officer. “To be able to come to this location and see, ‘Oh that’s my grandfather’ or ‘That’s my grandmother’s name on this wall.’”

The groundbreaking is expected to take place on July 30.

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