Places in Time

Racial segregation created G.W. Carver High


By Terri Jo Ryan, Waco Tribune-Herald

Jan. 16, 2006


Even though the U.S. Supreme Court had deemed that “separate but equal” school facilities for black and white children were unconstitutional in 1954 – in the case known as Brown v. Board of Education – Texas was slow to come around to the idea of desegregation of public education.

The La Vega Independent School District opened the doors of George Washington Carver School on Sept. 5, 1956. Some 500 black children in grades one-12 were enrolled in the school.

By 1962, the number of students had more than doubled, to 1,200, so in 1963 the younger children were moved to another building. The remaining grades, seventh through 12th, stayed at Carver.

Located at 1601 Dripping Springs Road, a street that would be renamed decades later after pioneering Carver principal J.J. Flewellen, Carver High was one of only two black high schools in the area – the other being A.J. Moore in the neighboring Waco Independent School District.

In their “separate but equal” school, the students had numerous social clubs, an award-winning band, a drill team, cheerleaders, sports teams, debate teams and especially music to fill their days and nights when not cracking the books, according to records and news clippings kept in the Texas Collection at Baylor University .

The 10th anniversary Panther yearbook was dedicated to the 10 “who laid the solid foundation” for the school's success. Besides the principal, and head coach Ben A. Young, students lauded teachers Thurman E. Dorsey, Rhubert L. Ewing, Della C. Mathis, Gertha M. Munson, Martha A. Renfro, Otis L. Rush, Thomas J. Washington and Fannie B. Watson.

That 1967 yearbook, the only one the Texas Collection has for the high school that operated for only 14 years, recalled a banner year for the school's athletics. The football team won the District 2-AAA championship.

The Tribune-Herald in July 1967 noted the triumphant return of the award-winning Carver High Marching Band, which had traveled to Montreal to take part in the World's Fair. Known as Expo '67, the fair hosted a marching band competition that Carver's musicians won, garnering a $1,000 grand prize.

But the idyllic days of Carver High wouldn't last much longer. In the summer of 1970, after football practice had already begun at Carver, students got word that their school would be closed immediately. They were to go to school with whites at La Vega High School in Bellmead.

Later that first school year, black La Vega students walked out en masse from class because the school did not renew the contract of a popular black coach, Clarence Chase. The students marched more than five miles back to Carver High School as part of their protest.

The racial tensions at La Vega led the federal courts to negotiate a plan with Waco ISD to take in East Waco . The courts agreed to place General Tire in WISD's tax base to provide extra funding for the 1,300 new East Waco students who were to attend Waco schools in late summer 1971.

After the doors closed at Carver High in 1970, the building was left vacant for more than a year – a decision that would cost the school districts dearly.

By the following summer, the Tribune-Herald recorded in a photo essay and story, the former “Pride of the Panthers” had been vandalized to the tune of $100,000 in damages.

WISD, which had acquired the building when it took in East Waco , then offered it as community space to the nonprofit operations Blue Triangle YMCA and the Inner City Ministries' Meals on Wheels program. Both programs invested in renovations to the wings they occupied, until the district reclaimed the building in 1980 as a special education facility.

After WISD invested another $250,000 toward renovations, the old Carver High became Carver Sixth Grade Center in 1984, its identity for almost a decade. In the fall of 1993, the school was dubbed Carver Academy , the magnet school for science and technology.



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