Approximately 100 years ago Douglass High School graduated its first senior class. Fifty years later it graduated its last.
Douglass High School was Ardmore’s black-only school dating back to the earliest days of Ardmore’s history. The school closed after the class of 1969 graduated. The small school was no longer deemed needed once segregation ended in Ardmore, more than a decade after the landmark ruling of Brown vs. The Board of Education.
Some 50 years later, Douglass alumni continue to meet for reunions, every two and four years, with the 4-year reunions being the “big ones.”
The next big reunion begins this Friday with a tour and reception of the old Douglass High School, now the Ardmore City School administration building. Later that night, there will be a chapel-themed “Blast from the Past” and a meet and greet featuring an “Old School” costume contest. The fun continues at 10 a.m. Saturday with a parade winding its way through southeast Ardmore from the HFV Wilson Community Center to the Douglass building, followed by a banquet and dance later that night. The reunion will wrap up Sunday morning with a 9 a.m. prayer breakfast.
“During my era, the community was very close, we were all connected in some way, through church and family,” Paulette Davis, class of 1964, said. “The ones that don’t live here anymore, they still comeback. That has been the motivation through the years. Everyone gets excited. They start to get ready to come home. And since we lose so many people in between, people feel like they need to come home and see the friends or family that they have left.”
The Douglass Alumni Association has chapters in Ardmore, Dallas and Los Angeles.
“They talk about no child left behind, back then, it was no child left behind,” Debra Johnson, class of 1970, said. “It started at Douglass many years ago. The parent and teachers had relationships, and the principal made sure — HFV Wilson was my principal — and I appreciate who he was and the structure he gave.”
Wilson continued to play a large role in area education, later being elected as the county superintendent of education, reportedly the first time a black person had been elected to a county-wide office in Oklahoma, a few years before Mazola McKerson was elected to the city council and named mayor.
“We were the hand-me-down, nobody wants to tell you that,” Johnson said. “Douglass got book hand-me-downs and leftovers from other schools. So our parents went out and did fundraisers throughout the year to bring in revenues.”