SNHS alumni return

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Alumni from Southern Normal High School celebrated their alma mater’s centennial last weekend with a variety of events — and a lot of fellowship.
Greeting each other with hugs and handshakes Friday during an opening reception at the school, former students, teachers and friends of Southern Normal were happy to see each other again.
“I’m excited to see so many people turn out,” said William McGhee, a graduate of the school that was founded for African-American students. “It’s going to be a great weekend.“
Relia Lee, a teacher at the school for five years, said she had a hand in planning the events of the weekend, which also included a parade and tour of the school on Saturday, a dance Saturday night, and a speeches Sunday, including one from the son of the school’s founder, James Dooley.
“I’m so excited to see old students,” Lee said. “We had a huge response (from alumni).”
A. Faye Boykin, a graduate, sat with her “sisters” Friday evening — her actual sister and a longtime friend from school.
“It’s exciting to be back at home to see so many of my sisters,” Boykin said.
During Saturday’s parade, class members paraded toward the Southern Normal campus, grouped on floats and trucks by their graduating class year. A band also performed for those who lined the streets to celebrate the school’s centennial.
Southern Normal founder James Dooley wanted to establish a school for black students modeled after Tuskegee as there was no public education for them at the time. He wanted to combine an education with the principals of a Christian life and offer that combination to students.
Dooley persuaded the State of Alabama to give him the property of a recently closed reformed school near Brewton. He opened a boarding school on the 350 acres of that land. He struggled for several years to keep everything together and raise funds to operate the school.
In 1919, Dooley took the school choir on the road to raise money to keep the school operational. It was on one of these trips that he gained the interest of the Reformed Church in America, a Protestant denomination, which took Southern Normal on as a mission.

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