Central Alamance

Graham, NC, 1961-1968

–from the Burlington Times-News, April 23, 2016

Former state Sen. Tony Foriest speaks in front of community members and Central High School alumni from the 1961-1968 classes during an unveiling of a historical marker at Graham High School.

Bill Cresenzo

GRAHAM — Although it operated as a school for black students for just seven years, Central High School made an indelible mark on Alamance County.

     Given that, almost 50 years after it closed and reopened as the integrated Graham High School, a historical marker to commemorate its influence was unveiled Saturday morning on the campus of Graham High School.

     But it wasn’t just the ceremony that made the event so important for many of those in attendance.

     Classmates who graduated from the school in the 1960s were reunited, some of whom haven’t seen each other since then, such as Eddie Ratliff and Billy Hadley, class of 1966.

     “That was the last time I saw him,” Hadley said of Ratliff. “I still recognized him even though his hair is white and I cut mine off!”

     “It’s amazing,” said Elaine Chavis Turner, who was there with her former classmate, friend and neighbor, JoAnn Holman.

      “It’s awesome,” Holman agreed.

     The school operated from August 1961 to June 1968, the result of a merger of Graham Negro High School and Pleasant Grove Union High School.

     It was the first black high school in the South to get accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

     In August 1968, it reopened as the newly integrated Graham High School.

     Speakers at the event included Graham High School Principal Charlotte Holmes, who said the marker will tell current students the story of the  foundation that was laid for them.

     Former state Sen. Tony Foriest reminded the crowd that for years after Brown v. Board of Education, southern states ignored the Supreme Court ruling that deemed public school segregation unconstitutional.
     “This is what we need to show the whole world that Central High School was one of the best schools in the whole world,” the Rev. Nellie Mann, class of 1962, said about the marker. “We need to come together in love. We are grateful for where we are now because we have come a long way. We have a long way to go.”