George Washington Carver High School Banquet

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 14, 2018

Last Saturday, graduates and teachers from the now closed George Washington Carver High School gathered for the inaugural Carver High Pirates Banquet.

Dozens of men and women in suits and flowing dresses filled the banquet hall – laughing and reminiscing.

George Washington Carver High School was a segregated school in Picayune in the early 1900s. Beginning as East Side Colored School in 1919, it was eventually rebuilt and became George Washington Carver High School. The high school was known for its excellent teaching staff and award-winning football team. In 1970 Carver High School closed its doors when students and teachers were integrated into surrounding schools.

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City Councilman Larry Breland said he graduated from Carver High School in 1966. He said he has very fond memories from his time at the facility and that his experiences there shaped his career as a teacher.

Breland said his fifth-grade teacher, Lois Oliver, had a special impact on him. Oliver taught a class consisting of 52 students and had to teach without an aide and without air conditioning in her classroom. Breland said with that many children, Oliver had to have a lot of discipline. He said she would even visit students at their homes when they struggled or had problems with the subject matter during class.

“See, I’m a retired teacher and I’ve had as many as 32 in one classroom, but that’s nothing like having 52,” Breland said. “What made it so good was that she was a dedicated teacher and she was a caring teacher.”

After earning a degree, he came back to Picayune and taught at Nicholson Elementary. Being a teacher is a calling a person has to love, he said.

Gladys Vaughn was a 5th grade teacher at Carver High School. She said she started teaching in October of 1964 and continued to do so for 32 years. After Carver High School closed, she was transferred to Nicholson Elementary where she continued her career. One of her fondest memories of working at Carver High School was playing baseball with the 6th graders. She said every year before the end of school the 6th grade students would play baseball against the Carver High teachers. Each teacher could pick one 6th grader to be on the teachers team, but otherwise the game was split – teacher vs. student. She said it was something they looked forward to each year.

In the 1960s the Carver Pirates football team were thrown into the national spotlight after earning a 64 game winning streak. The head coach at that time was Marion L. Henley, who passed away five years ago. Henley’s daughter, LuJuana Henley-Lyons, said although she was young while her father taught at Carver High School, she can clearly remember the impact he had on the children. She said he influenced a lot of young men’s lives and not only improved their education, but their discipline as well.

“He was a tough coach, but he got results,” she said.

She said her father went above and beyond for his students by teaching them not only how to play football, but also how to improve their minds. On Saturday mornings, team members would gather around the porch of their home to chat and play chess.