Bishop Shares Gordon High School Memories

Note: The second Gordon High School Reunion will be held on Friday and Saturday, July 8-9 at Brandi’s Banquet Hall. For more information, call 774-7474 or 774-5330.

The Gordon High School Saga
By Bishop Michael Goings

Arguably for many of us baby boomers who are African-American and were born in Dillon, the greatest thing that we share in our culture and history is that we attended Gordon High School. Though the life span of our beloved alma mater was relatively short (1953-1970), it nevertheless contained a reservoir of rich history, memories, and experiences. I entered this world of academia and athleticism in the fall of 1965 as an eighth grader. I was absolutely captivated to be able to finally tread within the hallowed halls where many of my heroes had walked. From a distance, I had heard about the academic brilliance of Jimmy Jones, Kenneth Manning, and quite a few others. As a boy, I had watched the athletic prowess of Butch Manning, Junior Smiling, Woody Pernell, Victor Blue, Aaron “The Rabbit” Davis, Russell “Big Bo” McClellen, Fred “Buster Crab” Wheeler, Leonard “Jap” McNeil, and perhaps the greatest athlete who Gordon High School ever
produced, the iconic Johnny “Fox” Hamer. These athletes and many others who are too numerous to mention helped to create a legacy and winning tradition in Dillon that lingers to this day. From July 7th through July 9th, many alumni of the now deceased Gordon High School will converge on Dillon to celebrate, commemorate, and share their found memories and experiences. They will come from the north, south, east, and west to make a journey down memory lane. There will be nostalgic discussions about events and experiences that transpired long ago. It is only befitting that since I was a member of the last graduating class of Gordon High School, as well as its last student body president, that I make some type of effort to briefly highlight some of the wonderful history of our school.

Homecoming and May Day
Without a doubt, the two greatest festive events which took place at Gordon High were Homecoming and May Day respectively. Who amongst those who experienced these events will ever forget them? I remember the excitement, thrill, and competitive spirit that prevailed during the entire homecoming season which culminated with a parade and football game. In the eyes of my memory, I can see and hear the bands as they marched up Main Street, as well as the cars and floats with their occupants. The streets were crowded with waving and cheering people on both sides. I will never forget the homecoming game that would always follow at 8:00 pm in Dillon Memorial Stadium. My greatest recollection of a homecoming game occurred between Gordon High and Butler High of Hartsville. Butler, along with Mayo High School from Darlington, had always managed to beat Gordon High and keep us from advancing to the playoffs. However, this game would be a turning point in
our rivalry. With Butler leading by one extra point, the game had come down to the last play and chance to tie the game. For us, a tie with the mighty Butler would be like a win and would spoil their chance of advancing to the playoffs. Cliff Leonard, the center, shifted the ball to Johnny “Fox” Hamer, the holder, who could not contain it. Russell “Big Bo” McClellen, the extra point kicker, was able to pick the loose ball up and rush to the goal line where he leaped over a would-be tackler and scored the extra point. This play has to rank as one of the most important and spectacular in Gordon High School’s gridiron history.
The second most important extra-curricular event that was held at Gordon High School was an annual spring festival called May Day. This was a day set aside in the early part of May for celebration, performance, and amusement. Every year each grade from first to twelfth would be called upon to make some type of presentation during the May Day celebration. The presentation would usually be some type of cultural or contemporary dance or march. The May Day event would start with the seating of the king, queen, and their royal court. The royal court would consist of students from classes who had raised the most money. After the seating of the royal entourage, a herald would step forward and make his announcement and proclamation. In my recollection and estimation, the greatest of the May Day heralds was a fellow by the name of J.D. Rogers. It is hard for me to think or reminisce of May Day without seeing an image of him stepping forth in his all white
attire and declaring, “Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye! By the decree of Mr. Perry, our principal, I proclaim this day to be a day of festivities and fun. There will be songs, music, and dancing. Now sit back and enjoy the festivities and let the fun begin!” Like homecoming, May Day would always end with a sporting event. There would always be a baseball game on the field right behind the gym.
For the most part, on the day that these events took place, practically all the teachers would give you a bye (in the athletic sense) from classwork except for Mrs. Lucille “Cheeks” Belin. It did not matter to her what day it was or what special event was transpiring, she taught her English class! This of course brings us to the next part of our saga.

Teachers and Mentors
In my opinion, what made Gordon High School an outstanding institution was our teachers and mentors. These underrated, underpaid, and often underappreciated professionals who had to work with second-hand, substandard and hand-me-down books and materials are the true heroes and heroines of the Gordon High School saga. I do not have the space or the time to speak about all of them; consequently, I beg your pardon for the many names which must be omitted. Nevertheless, how can we truly talk of Gordon High School and not mention its most popular and beloved, pipe smoking principal, Mr. Harry L. Perry. It would indeed be a miscarriage of justice to not include the name of Coach Paul J. Glen, who almost single handedly as the athletic director, booster club president, and head coach of all three team sports, was able to build a dynasty and winning tradition. Under his leadership, Gordon High won two state championships in baseball (1961) and basketball
(1966). Furthermore, the players he had nurtured won the football state championship in 1966 under the freshman head coach, Willie Fred Daniels. I have already mentioned the very efficient Mrs. Lucille “Cheeks” Belin. I must also cite Madame Florea Cagle, who taught both English and French and who was instrumental in organizing many of the social and extra-curricular events and activities at Gordon High School. Along with her was the dame of decorum and etiquette, Mrs. Rosanna King, who also laid the scientific foundations in most of the students who passed through Gordon High having had the privilege of being in one of her natural science and biology classes. One must not forget Mr. Charles McClellen, who was arguably our most gifted and effective teacher of the various subjects of mathematics. Time would fail me to tell of Mrs. Elizabeth McGill, Ms. Leola Bethea, Mr. Benjamin “Chief” McTeer, and quite a few other instructional heroes and
heroines who served well for many years at Gordon High School. However, if there was a champion who impacted the lives of the students at Gordon High School the most, it would be Mrs. Ruby Carter, who taught English in her early years and served as a guidance counselor in her latter years. This is not just the opinion of this Trojan, but the consensus of most who wore the blue and white.

A Never Ending Story
I said in the beginning of our saga that Gordon High School was dead. If the truth be told, can you kill an adventure, an experience, or a memory that has been indelibly inscribed within the hearts and minds of all who were a part of this institution, the entity called Gordon High School? She will forever live, not only in the memories of her former teachers and students, but also through their achievements and contributions in various fields of professional pursuits and endeavors in many different places throughout this nation and world. Every time one of her former students attends to his patients or performs a surgical procedure, it gives undeniable proof of her perpetuity. Whenever one of her former students teaches a class from preschool to college or university level, it further validates her existence. Furthermore, every time one preaches a sermon, argues a legal case, or makes any constructive contribution to the betterment and preservation
of humanity in any way, what they were able to achieve or do must be, to some degree, attributed to their time spent at dear old Gordon High.
As I bring this saga of my alma mater to a conclusion, it is refreshing to know that though her life span was quite short, her influence and impact will continue to live on. I feel it is only fair to her legacy and befitting to her memory that we end with our school’s alma mater:

Gordon High School
Alma Mater
To you dear school we declare
a love that’s ever true.
Years may come and years may go
but we’ll remember you.
To you we must say that our love
is ever true.
We’ll fight to the end for our dear old
Gordon High
There’s no school so fine as our dear old
Gordon High
Long may she reign with the blue and the white
We’ll fight to the end for our dear old
Gordon High

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