Monday, July 7, 2008

Greetings, New Visitors to the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Website

Greetings, Douglass-Slater and Langston visitors:

Below, you will find news articles of your recent reunions. Each reunion has three articles covering the three events on Saturday. You can also click on any of the pictures in the articles to make them bigger.

Pictures are located in the PHOTO GALLERY (go back to the main page, and click on that link).

There is also a video of the Douglass-Slater Parade through Bristol. It is also posted in the PHOTO GALLERY. You'll need the Adobe Flash Player to see the video, as well as any video on the website (the Flash Player is available with the Adobe program free of charge, at It comes standard on most Windows XP and Vista systems. Also, don't move your mouse during the video playback (it upsets the tracking of the video).

Any questions, additions or corrections, please drop me a line at:

Also, at the bottom of any of the webpages, click on OLDER POSTS to go back a page.


Calvin Sneed

2008 Douglass (Bristol) Business Meeting: "Let Us Be Seen By Our Deeds"

Heavy traffic proved to be both a boon and a hindrance to the very first Douglass High School in Bristol, Virginia in 1921.

In its favor, was the bustling, industrial hum of development as the nearby Bristol Iron and Steel Corporation provided needed jobs to the area, but at the same time, the school had to design its building to restrict the play and exercise space for its children to keep them away from the heavy traffic.

In 1921, the school moved to the building that still stands today, on Oakview Avenue, where five streets meet. Again, the school was the center of activity in the neighborhood. During many years of economic development, the school grew under the guidance of several note-worthy principals, among them Mrs. Sybil Wilson, whose motto was a simple one: "for the work, the humblest and weakest hand will do."

In 1952, the school building was renovated and expanded, with several new educational departments added. As the years went on, Douglass students achieved many academic and athletic triumphs, but alas.. integration was on the horizon, having begun in many school districts around the country. Bristol, Virginia was no exception, and in 1966, Douglass High School closed, and its students went to Virginia High School.

"Bristol, Virginia was a quiet town, until we intergrated and closed the school in 1965," says John Edwards II, president of the Douglass Alumni Association. "At that point, we found out how important Bristol really was, because when we went to Virginia High, we found out that we'd had a rich history at Douglass.. we didn't realize it at the time, but it's true. You don't realize something that's valuable, until it's gone."

At the 2008 Douglass Alumni Business meeting in the former gymnasium of the old school, which is now an apartment complex, legacies, traditions, and continuing the spirit that made up the school was the main topic of discussion.

"It's important to have reunions like the one year, because of the history of the school," says Mr. Edwards. "We came from someplace, and we don't need to forget the fact that we came from Douglass School, It gives a sense of pride about where we started, and if you lose this, you lose a part of your soul."

"The black history of the area, you can't get it now. They don't teach that. The only way for the descendants to get it, is from us, and once we're gone, our history is gone, unless we can pass it on through our reunions.

"Some of the best athletic teams in the country went to Douglass, right here in Bristol," he says. "Basketball, football.. our biggest aports competitor was Slater just down the street and across the border, but we never thought of them as being in another state. Most of us all attende the same churches, shopped at the same grocery stores, and were even related."

"There are so many wonderful graduates from Douglass, people who've gone on and done well in their lives and careers, and they're from all age groups," says Mr. Edwards.
"That's the beauty of this reunion, we have people from 1955, 1934, up to 62 and 66.

"Many Douglass-Bristol alumni have passed on, and that's a really big problem for us now, in continuing these reunions," he says. "Our age group is fixed.. the average age is between 65 and 68 years old. They are senior citizens, most of them, and there are not many replacements, once this group is gone. We don't have any descendants that we've got interested enough to take their place. That's a good reason for the children and grandchildren to start participating."

And what of talk about having a big reunion with other schools in the area, like Langston in Johnson City, Douglass in Kingsport, Bland in Big Stone Gap, Clem in Greeneville?

A reunion of all the all-black schools in the area?

"I do think we have to all get together, at some point," says Mr. Edwards.

"We're running out of people."

2008 Slater Business Meeting: "The Strength Of The Wolf, Is In The Pack"

In the early 1900's, three schools were available for the education of the African-American population in Bristol, Tennessee. The Woodlawn Avenue School was located where the Hackler Wood American Legion Post stands today. The 9th Avenue Presbyterian Church also contained a parochial school of 10 grades. The Bristol Normal Institute was operated by the United Presbyterian Church with 12 grades of education.

In 1914, a philantropist named John F. Slater gave a very generous monetary gift to the city of Bristol, and at that time both the Woodlawn Avenue School and the Bristol Normal Institute combined into one school, which was named the McDowell High School. The 9th Avenue school closed at this time, and its black students joined their bretheren at the new school.

Shortly after that, the name of the school was named after the man whose gift started the ball rolling for quality education in the African-American community. At that time, Slater High School continued the quest for excellence.

Students excelled in all areas over the years, especially reading, spelling, music and sports. Slater High School moved into a new building in the late 40's-early 50's on McDowell Street, which still stands today. It is now home to the Bristol Parks and Recreation Department.

"We're trying to preserve the history of Slater as best we can," says John Hogans III, president of the Slater High School Alumni Association. "On the Virginia side, one of our community leaders, Willamena Banks, has a museum of local Black History. She's doing lot to keep those memories in physical form.. Dr. Dixon, the superindentent of the Tennessee schools has started a nice collection of memoribilia for Tennessee High School, and he's including Slater. We have two glass cases, and I'm encouraging everybody that ever went to Slater or anybody that wants to see it, to go over to Tennessee High and tell 'em you want to see the Slater memoribilia and they'll take you upstairs there to see it. I've been collecting as much as I can, and other people have also started looking for things."

That was one topic discussed at the 2008 Slater High School Business Meeting in the auditorium of the old school on McDowell Avenue. Another was how to keep the bi-annual reunions going.

"We discussed that just this year," says Mr. Hogans, "whether to go to a reunion every three years or keep it at two years, and everybody thought people might become disinterested if you don't have it every two years."

"No matter when you do it, though, it's important to at least have one to keep the camraderie and the memories alive. The heritgage is most important, as our alumni have told us. But the problem with keeping it going, is that the schools have closed and there's no feeder system.. there are no young descendants to pass the heritage on to. Eventually, we know it's going to end and we need to do what we can to continue. It's difficult.. people are getting older, getting sick, they're passing away, and they're just not able to participate anymore."

So how do you get the younger people, the descendants of those wonderful Slater graduates, interested in preserving their ancestral legacy?

"I don't have any idea," he says sadly. "We've had one lady in our organization who had some ideas, but they never materialized."

"The younger people enjoy seeing us have fun remembering the good times we had in school, and think that it's great what we're doing, but they don't want to participate. My children are the same way, when we've talked to them. 'Oh it's great what you all are doing,' and they like to see us do it, but they don't seem to want to continue it, for us."

Talk is going around about having one big reunion involving all the former black schools in upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, and maybe perhaps making it a regular event, since each school is rapidly losing alumni every year. Would Slater be part of that great reunion?

"We have talked about it," says Mr. Hogans, "but our people don't see it as a regular event. Perhaps one big reunion with everybody, but just that one time, not the regular thing that we're doing now. One big reunion with all the other schools might work, but other than that, the idea on a regular basis has not been received too well."

But one of the biggest challenges facing Slater High School alumni in the near future will be one of passing the torch of heritage. The legacy of the school rests on the shoulders of current alumni, and their charge is to encourage their descendants to take up the Slater banner, and carry it proudly.

Mr. Hogans says, that task begins now.

On Video: The 2008 Douglass-Slater Parade

Video of the 2008 Douglass-Slater Parade on July 5, 2008 through downtown Bristol, TN/VA is posted in the PHOTO GALLERY. It is shot from several locations in downtown Vristol. You will need the ADOBE FLASH PLAYER to see the video, and also don't move your mouse during the video playback (it upsets the tracking of the video).


"We Love A Parade:" The Douglass-Slater Parade in Bristol

Nothing gets school spirit pumped up better than a parade that celebrates the traditions of your old high school.

Folks in both Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia got a reminder that the spirits of two wonderful schools no longer with us, are still alive and well.


As part of the 2008 Douglass-Slater Reunion, a parade of cars went from street to street, to remind everybody that although Douglass High School in Bristol, Virginia and Slater High School in Bristol, Tennessee are no longer with us, their competitive legacies live on.

The parade assembled in the parking lot at the old Slater High School, now the Slater Community Center. Parade participants decorated their vehicles with festive banners, colorful streamers, and helium balloons in the colors of Douglass High and Slater High. As they lined up, you could tell something wonderful was about to happen.

With its police escort and horns blaring, the parade left the Slater parking lot, and came down McDowell Street to Pennsylvania Avenue (U.S. 421). It then traversed several streets in Bristol, Tennessee before crossing the state line into Bristol, Virginia, headed towards the old Douglass High School on Oakview Avenue.

Residents along the route came outside to see what all the commotion was about, and were greeted by Douglass-Slater classmates in the parade, who quickly got the residents into the mood and spirit of the festivities.

As it came through downtown, the Douglass-Slater Parade ran head-on into the "Star Spangled Saturday" Celebration sponsored by the cities of Bristol, VA/TN at the Cumberland Square. The event had started at 10 AM Saturday, and was in full swing when the Douglass-Slater parade came through. No doubt, our Douglass-Slater folks with their decorated cars, honking horns and enthusiastic school spirit, provoked many stares and wonderments about what ELSE was going on in the town that Saturday!

Nonetheless, the school spirit kept up at a feverish pace, with horns blaring, people waving and yelling, and lights flashing, many observers could not help getting in on the fun, as the parade wound its way through the city streets, and back to the parking lot at Slater.

After the parade ended, folks stayed in the parking lot with the adrenaline still pumping. In fact, there were several reunitements with friends there, as many of the parade participants did not know that friends they hadn't seen yet, were in the parade, too. The excitement was overwhelming, and it was a good forecast of things to come.. the 2008 Reunion Banquet coming up later!

Reunion 2008 Banquet at Douglass-Slater; "Proud Traditions Forever United"

Somehow, it is fitting that alumni from the former Douglass High School in Bristol, Virginia, and the former Slater High School in Bristol, Tennessee held their 2008 reunions together.

When the two African-American schools were operating, they were only separated by the Virginia-Tennessee state line, but their families are inter-twined both by school spirit and blood relationships. Many of the students had relatives that went to the other school, attended the same churches, and even married into the other school's family.


It was that spirit of togetherness, that filled the banquqet hall at the Holiday Inn in Bristol, Virginia. The hall was packed with alumni and their families for the 2008 Douglass-Slater Reunion. The event was held Saturday evening, July 5, 2008, and by all accounts, everybody had a wonderful time.

"We don't know if this will be one of the last times we'll get together," one alumnus was overheard to mention to another. "But we'll come as long as they'll have 'em."

Mistress of Ceremonies at the banquet was Ms. Olivia Howard, and Mrs. Rose Bunche welcomed the many alumni visitors. Ms. Rita Howard and Mr. John M. Brown recognized the Honor Classes, Mr. Charles Jones paid homage to the teachers at both schools, Scholarship recipients were announced by Mrs. Drucilla Hogans, and Mr. Norman Cook. Ms. Olivia Howard presented the awards that are listed below.

The dance contest that was held at the opening reception back on Friday night was won by Patricia Horton and Daniel McCall, and the card game "Bid Whiz" that was played that night, was won by Kay Wisdom and Charles Simpson. Parade winners were Emma Jean and Yancy Gayles. The bowling competition was close.. in the first category, Daniel McCall came in first, Tony Ross was second, and Ben Long was third (Ben has a Douglass-Kingsport connection: his mother was Faye Long, longtime 6th Grade teacher at Douglass-Kingsport, and his father was Bron Long). Winners in the second category were Penny Walker in first place, Ella Kane in second place, and third place went to Missy Charles.

The Douglass-Slater Golf Tournament was just as exciting. Winners in the 65-and-over competition were Zeke Johnson with a 99, and Don Gayles in second place with a 100 score. In the 58-to-64 competition, George Watkins shot a 114. In the 57-and-under category, Monroe Preston scored an 83, Eddie Jordan had an 84, and Dennis Hill scored a 91.

The banquet capped off a marvelous reunion, after the alumni picnic and Memorial Service at the Steele Creek Park Lodge. Activities just before the Memorial Service included bingo, whist, bridge, pinochile and checkers, and of course, a delicious lunch.

Judging by all the smiles, the 2008 Douglass-Slater Reunion was a rousing success, with hopefully many more to come!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Langston's 2008 Community Get-Together: A Time to Share A Laugh Or Two...

It was the time of "fun-tivities" at the Carver Recreation Center in Johnson City.

As part of their 2008 Reunion, Langston alumni got together Saturday morning, July 5, 2008, to bend a few elbows, and also bend a few ears.

There was plenty of fun and games to go around, as former classmates swapped stories and got to catch up on each others' activities since the last reunion in 2006.

"We love this time of the get-together," one alumnus told me. "There's always plenty of good gossip to go around, but because we're all a little older now, we've got a lot more sympathy for the ones we're gossiping about."

The fun and games, also included games of basketball, but only "the easy part," says organizer Barbara Love-Watterson. "We have the 'best free thrower' in the bunch, and the 'most free point scorer' competition. They're not the full-scale basketball games that we used to play, but they're easy for our age group of master," she laughed. There was also a horseshoe-pitching competition, pitting some of the best arms and the best eye-to-object coordination in the bunch. The award winners will be announced at the Reunion Banquet later in the day.

Fellow alumni from George Clem High School in Greeneville, Douglass High School in Elizabethton, and Douglass High School in Kingsport were also invited to join their Langston comrades to participate in the morning's activities. From this gathering, the Langston Reunion would organize activities for future reunions. Lunch was also provided for visitors and attendees, and a good time was had by all who attended.

Langston's 2008 Business Meeting: A Look Back & A Look Forward

When Johnson City began a school building program back in 1892, little did school leaders know, that by establishing a new school was established for "colored children," that school named the Langston Normal School would blossom into one of the most properous schools in upper East Tennessee.


The school, which became Langston Elementary and High School, was named after noted black leader John Mercer Langston, a Congressman from Virginia. It became a guiding light in the eyes of young black children in Johnson City.

"After integration in 1965, we realized that never again would we have a black school with teachers who really cared about their students," says Langston graduate Barbara "Bobbi" Love-Watterson. "Our teachers were so encouraging to us.. they prepared us well to meet the world back then. They trained us in every aspect they could train us in, and they cared about us. Back then, the teacher could go to the parents, and they would tell on you, and you knew if a teacher told on you, you were not only going to get it from the school and they were allowed to spank and correct the kids in school."

As much as the old Langston School is loved in the community, it's difficult getting today's kids, the descendants of those wonderful Langston graduates, to take an interest in remembering the heritage of that educational cornerstone.

"We're trying to figure that one out right now," says Mrs. Love-Waterson. "If anybody out there knows how to do it, please let us know because we're trying our best. We try every chance we get to involve the teenagers and 20-somethings in reunions and Langston Community events, but they don't seem to pick up on the enthusiam we have, that this is part of their heritage, this is where you come from, this is your background. Without that, you will never know what your heritage is and you'll be lost out there, not ever knowing where you came from. If you don't know where you came from, how do you know where you're going."

One idea that has been floated around for quite some time now, is having one huge reunion, that involves alumni from the other black schools in upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. "We've talked to Doug Releford, president of the Douglass Alumni Association in Kingsport about combining forces and we'd like to talk to the folks in Bristol, in Morristown, at Swift in Rogersville, Clem in Greeneville and the schools in Virginia. We could have one big reunion committee that could coordinate get-togethers in the odd years perhaps. We've all got tall tales and good stories to tell."

That was also a topic of discussion at the Langston School business meeting on Saturday. The school committee also talked about reducing the number of days for the bi-annual reunion, having at least one mid-cycle or off-year business meeting during the summers when there is no reunion, and whether to utilize an application or a form letter for potential scholarship awardees. Discussion was also held on whether to change the current academic requirements to a 2.75 GPA for scholarship winners.

"We had 80 alumni to register for this year's reunion," she says, "and we found out it's a good idea to have people pay for specific events, instead of one fee for the whole reunion. That way, folks can attend what they'd like to come to, and that makes it easy for them to afford."

Missing this time around, are the familiar faces of 35 Langston alumni, who have passed on since the last reunion in 2006. "It puts a real damper on your celebration without those voices in our crowd. It's been a difficult situation and our hearts go out to their families, and ours, too, because they were our loved ones, too."

"We've had one Langston alumnus attend her very first reunion," Mrs. Love-Watterson says, "and she told me how sad she was that she had not been to any of the others. She saw people that she went to school with, but really didn't know who they were. She had to work her way around to get to know everybody all over again. On the other hand, there was Sam Watson, Langston alumnus from Detroit, who's come to every Reunion since the very beginning. He's gotten old with us, and he's just as lively as he's always been. Columbus Hartsaw used to play football and basketball for Langston in the 30's and 40's, and even though he's on a walker, Tad, as we call him," still gets out to the reunions and we all love him, just like all of our alumni."

"I think as alumni from all the black schools, we've all got two big projects that will take center stage in the future.. involving our descendants in the reunion process, and combining our forces to have one really big get-together. We can keep our individual school spirits alive, but in unity, there is strength. Only that way, can we honor our distinguished pasts, and move our respective legacies to the next level."

Langston High School's 2008 Reunion Banquet: "Returning To Yesteryear"

Returning to those days of old. Isn't it a wonderful thought?

That was not difficult for arguably, East Tennessee's oldest Black High School, at its 2008 Reunion Banquet.


Alumni of Langston High School gathered in pomp and circumstance, and a great deal of friendship, at the Double Tree Hotel in Johnson City Saturday night, July 5, 1008. It was the 17th reunion for former classmates of the school.

A packed ballroom listened to words of welcome from Nancy Robinson, banquet chairwoman, also serves as the Alumni Association treasurer. There were plenty of door prizes to go around, including some huge fruit baskets.

Winners of the Langston Games were announced at the banquet. Those games at the Carver Recreation Center included basketball free throws and horseshoe pitches, nice easy games that former Langston Committee leader Barbara (Bobbi) Love-Watterson said with a smile, were easy for "folks our age." The first place winner for the number of correct basketball free throws was Mary Katherine Williams, and second place was won by Nancy Howard.

Winner in the Free Points category was also Nancy Howard, with Annie M. Hall coming in for the second place trophy. The Horseshoe Pitch competition was divided into men and women's categories, with Patsy Fields taking the first place prize. Second place went to Annie M. Hall. Over on the men's side, Billy G. Williams took first place, and Boise Young won the second place award.

Guest Speaker at the banquet was Betty McFarlin, whose words of wisdom were both inspirational and instrumental to the group. Afterwards, the Eunice Miller Lee Scholarship was presented, as it is every reunion to a deserving student continuing their higher education. Alumnus William "Bill" Coleman co-chaired the scholarship committee.

The group Risse' entertained the group late into the night as dancing took center stage, and many alumni found out they still have "all the right moves."

The "In Memory" list read at the Sunday Memorial Service includes the names of 35 Langston Alumni, whose voices have been stilled since the last reunion two years ago. Although gone, they are not forgotten by alumni who attended all of the events of the three-day reunion.

All in all, it was a wonderful Langston High School Reunion, with the same spirit that shone at one of the most successful African-American schools in upper East Tennessee. The motto "One Step at a time---but always forward" will serve all Langston alumni for years to come, and hopefully their descendants will pick up the gauntlet and forge on.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Lincoln School of Middlesboro 100th Anniversary Celebration

The Lincoln School of Middlesboro, Kentucky will be celebrating its 100th Anniversary, July 18-20, 2008. On Friday, we will have “Blue and White Night: Down Memory Lane”, free reception and where persons will share their memories of Lincoln, at the Civic Center, 5-7 pm. There will be an Old School Dance and Karaoke for Adults at the Civic Center starting at 9 pm, admission: $10. On Saturday, there will be the Lincoln School Park Cookout at the original Lincoln School site, 10 am-2 pm. There will be a celebration of the school history, recognizing former teachers, football and basketball teams, cheerleaders and veterans, at the East End School (across from Park) beginning at 1 pm. “Blue & White Gala” (a dance for adults) will be held at the Civic Center, admission $15.00. Attire for the dance: “Sunday Best” or Semiformal; you do not have to wear blue and white. Celebration will end with Community Worship Service, Middlesboro School Arts Center, beginning at 11 a.m. If you are a Lincolnite or just have the spirit of a Lincolnite, you are welcome!

2008 Langston High School Reunion, Johnson City

Langston High School Reunion Committee announces the 17th Bi-annual Reunion for all former students, families and friends of Langston High School will be held July 4th, 5th, and 6th. Reunion headquarters is the Doubletree Hotel.

Registration is Friday morning at the hotel, with planned activities throughout the day on Friday and Saturday, including an area tour. There will be heavy hors d’oeuvres and an informal gathering to honor LHS educational professionals on Friday night.

Saturday’s events include a luncheon at Carver Recreation Center, followedby a Business Meeting for all attendees. Saturday night will feature a semi-formaldinner dance with the band, “RISSE”. Sunday events will start with a buffet at 11:30 a.m., at the Doubletree Hotel, followed by a MemorialService at 1:00 p.m. The Memorial Service is open to the public.

Fees for the weekend or individual events are as follows:

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday events are $95.00

Friday Night only $25.00

Saturday Dinner and Dance only $50.00

Sunday buffet: $20.00

Sign-up deadline for all events is 2:00 p.m., Friday, July 4th, 2008. Please contact the LHS Reunion Committee Treasurer to reserve a place, Nancy Robinson, 423-753-4291

Johnson City Eatery Wins Award!

Elmer Washington, of TASTE BUDZ'S, won the Johnson City BBQ Cookout Championship in April 2008. Elmer and Lorraine Washington own TASTE BUDZ'S a downtown eatery hotstop.

Johnson City's New Lunch Hotspot
Corner Market and Roan Street
(423) 926 9304

Call Ahead for Menu
Monday thru Friday
10 AM until 2 PM
Elmer and Lorraine Washington