I am going to use my column today to share with you some of the landmark and historical events and facts about Gordon High School. Though the high school section of the school is no longer in existence and ceased to be so in the year of 1971, the rich heritage and legacy of my high school alma mater is very alive and well in the memories of the thousands of people who matriculated in her sacred classes. I recently had a conversation with one of her former students about the good old days of Gordon High School. We were both transported back in time through our talk to the days of Trojan’s lore and legends. We visited the time of the exploits of both scholars and athletes – a day when faculty members gave one hundred percent of their time and talent to cultivate their pupils to succeed in a system that was not equal and fair. I will list some of the categories of the greatest of all time at my alma mater, Gordon High School, with a few comments about each category.
The G.O.A.T within
It is only fitting that we start with the G.O.A.T.s within the faculty of Gordon High School down through the years. There were many great and outstanding teachers who mentored and taught at Gordon High who were grossly underpaid and underappreciated from its inception in1952 to its ending in 1971. However, to be a G.O.A.T., a teacher’s impact and longevity must be the determining factor. The following individuals were all considered to be the best of the best of Gordon High School’s faculty and staff: Mr. Harry L. Perry (who must be revered as the first faculty G.O.A.T. and principal emeritus of Gordon High School), Coach Paul J. Glen (athletic director, booster club president, and head coach of all three sports), Mrs. Lucille Belin (English teacher), Mrs. Florea Cagle (English and French teacher), Mrs. Rosanna D. King (Biology and Science teacher), Mr. Charles McClellan (math teacher), Mrs. Ruby Carter (guidance counselor), Mrs. Elizabeth McGill (Home Economic and Family Living), and Mr. Benjamin McTeer (Agriculture and Future Farmers of America).
The Greatest Entertainment Event
Many perhaps will not remember this landmark moment in the history of Gordon High School. Way back in the mid to late fifties, James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, did a special concert in our gym at Gordon High School. This was some years before he would reach the pinnacle of his fame and success when he did many engagements on the chitlin’ circuit in the rural and segregated South. As a young boy who was just starting school (though I did not attend the event), I well remember the cars being parked on every available space on the streets that ran parallel on the back and front of the school, as well as the road that led to the Green Top Inn and Tavern (that faced the Mullins Highway). James Brown’s featured song for the concert was, “Night Train.”
The Greatest Sporting Event
Though the Gordon Trojans captured a state championship in each of the team sports that we participated in (the final having been won at home in Dillon Memorial Stadium in 1966), our greatest athletic event took place during homecoming night at Dillon Memorial Stadium in 1961. We were hosting the Butler Tigers of Hartsville, South Carolina, the perennial powerhouse of our conference that we had never beaten. It came down to the last play of the game. We had scored a touchdown and was now attempting an extra point that would tie the game. When Cliff Leonard, the center, snapped the ball to Johnny (Fox) Hamer, the holder, he missed it. Russell (Big Bo) McClellan, the extra point kicker and captain of the team, quickly scooped up the ball and scuttled to the goal line where he jumped over a defensive player and scored the extra point thereby tying the game. For us, the tie with Butler was like a win and we celebrated as though it was. We had broken their dominance, got the monkey off of our backs, and the next year we beat them in their home stadium and won the conference title. For quite a few consecutive years, we were the perennial powerhouse of the district winning eight titles.
The Greatest Academic Award
Gordon High was not only known for producing great athletes and winning championships, we were also known for developing some outstanding students and scholars. If my recollection of the facts and records are accurate, Jimmy Jones and Kenneth R. Manning were our two greatest scholars among many brilliant ones who achieved great success and accolades in their given professions. Jimmy, who did his undergraduate work at Morehouse College and graduate work at UCLA, served as the Chief Brain Surgeon at Womack Hospital and as a colonel in the Army.
Kenneth R. Manning, who obtained both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University, has been a tenured professor at M.I.T. for well over forty years. He made history in 1964 (as a junior at Gordon High School), when he won the highest award at the state’s science fair exhibition.
Though I could have included many other categories in this article on the G.O.A.T.s of Gordon High School, I am unable due to not having enough space. However, after consulting with a few other Trojan students and athletes of the Gordon High era, I chose the categories that I have presented to you.
My last G.O.A.T. category is in the area of oratory. For quite a few years, a contest was held to determine who was the greatest public speaker. Participants were chosen from the sophomore class (tenth grade) and assigned a faculty trainer and coach who would help them to articulate, dramatize, and convince both the judges and student body that they were the best.
During the years, when this contest was held, many students did outstanding performances in their articulation of famous speeches like Shakespeare’s “Anthony’s Oration”, Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”, and quite a few other famous speeches and poems. Nevertheless, the G.O.A.T. of the oratory category was Mrs. Hazel Roberts Moultrie, who recited James Weldon Johnson’s poem, “Go Down Death.” Most who were fortunate enough to witness her articulation and dramatization of this poem will have to admit (if they are honest and fair) that she was in a category of excellence that certified her as the best of the best.