Oak Lawn School

Wyatt Street

Waxahachie, Texas

 

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HISTORY OF OAK LAWN SCHOOL

by VICTOR L. POINTER

July 19, 1984

Oak Lawn's

Principals   Trustees   Teachers   Important Graduates

Oak Lawn began as an elementary school for blacks in Waxahachie, Texas. The school's first building was located on North Aiken Street across from Joshua Chapel A.M.E. Church. This one-story white, wood frame building served as Oak Lawn Elementary School from 1887 – 1893 with Mr. W. J. Truelove as principal of the school and two other teachers.

Oak Lawn faculty members, circa 1910. L to R: Robert Davis, Corine Burnett, Anita Richard, unknown, Mrs. Goldthwaite, P.E. Goldthwaite. It appears the faculty is standing before the two story frame schoolhouse on Wyatt Street.

 

In 1893, the school was moved to another one-story white wood frame building located on Block 180, South side of Wyatt Street in the Waxahachie Town Addition which was later renamed the Oak Lawn Addition. During this particular time, Oak Lawn was going through a transitional period; J. W. Tilden became principal of the school and during his administration several high school courses were added to the curriculum.

In July of 1896 F. P. Powell sold a plot of land on the south side of Wyatt to the Waxahachie Independent School District for $500.00 out of the A. M. Keen Survey. Presently this property is lot number 179 of the Keen Survey. Also, after this land was purchased the first class graduated from Oak Lawn High School. This class was made up of two boys and two girls. The two young men were Prince Goldthwaite and Robert Davis, who later attended college and returned to Waxahachie to become principals of the school.

By early 1918, School Trustees began the consideration of a new colored high school on property recently acquired. On April 2, 1918 trustees formed a committee to go before the Waxahachie City Council to call a bond election for the erection of a "substantial" public school building. In May of 1918, the Domestic Science Department of the colored school held a dinner for the school trustees and at the meetings the trustees looked over the property next to and adjacent to the existing school. As a result of this meeting, a committee of trustees drafted a resolution to the city council for a bond issue for the colored school. It was presented to the council on May 20, 1918, and on June 3 the city council ordered the bond election to be held on July 2. The Waxahachie Daily Light reminded the white voters that the bond election demanded action. Also, the Daily Light reminded the black voters of the promise made by white voters to support a new colored school if the black voters supported the 1918 bond election for the new white Waxahachie High School.

The newspaper also made reference to the colored school as a "disgrace to the city". The election results were 299 votes in favor of construction of the two schools as opposed to 11 votes against the bond issue. Superintendent Winn registered the bonds in August the week following the election.

The trustees met again and chose Page Brothers Architecture Firm to draw up the plans for the new colored school. On July 30, 1918 the bids were opened with three contractors making the following bids:

Trinity Construction Co. of Austin, Texas $ 24,945.00

C. W. Burkhart of Corsicana, Texas $ 17,628.75

A. A. Few of Waxahachie, Texas $ 16,988.20

The trustees awarded the contract to the lowest bidder, A. A. Few Construction Co. The construction company was to immediately start on the colored school. The school was to be a brick two-story building and completion date was set for September, 1919.

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Oak Lawn faculty, circa 1925. 1st row L to R: Ola May Goldthwaite, Robert Davis, Lucille Davis. 2nd row, L to R: Mary "Miss Doll" Porter, Lessie Blanton, unknown, unknown. 3rd row, L to R: unknown, unknown, Ed Lee Gibson, unknown, unknown.

 

Classes resumed under Prince Goldthwaite’s administration. New courses in homemaking for the young ladies, and manual training for the young men were added to the curriculum. Also, during Robert Davis and R. B. White's tenure, more classes were added which meant more teachers and an improvement in the school. In 1932, M. Z. Hicks became the principal of the school and under his guidance, a new wing and restroom were added to the original building in 1941. Addition of the new wing was needed to meet the increasing

 

Sewing class, Oak Lawn School, circa 1920. Oak Lawn offered homemaking classes for the young ladies and manual training classes for the young men. These were added to the curriculum after the "new" school was built in 1919.

 

number of black students. More rooms meant more teachers and new courses, which led to Oak Lawn becoming accredited by the state for the first time. The growth of the school continued until a need came for the separation of the high school from the elementary school. A new high school was built in 1952 and only grades one through seven remained at Oak Lawn by 1968. During the total integration of Waxahachie schools, Oak Lawn was closed permanently in May, 1970.

The students that attended Oak Lawn took great pride in the school. Although there were no recreational facilities, the students’ main focus was to obtain the best education possible. Many of the students started school around the age of 6 or 7 and the students that did not live close by had to walk several miles on unpaved roads to get to school.

Oak Lawn student body, circa 1915. Photograph was taken from a window of the Oak Lawn school located on Wyatt St. in Waxahachie. Tall building, background left horizon, is the Ellis County Courthouse.

 

Despite the hardships, the average attendance of black students was 70-80%. Because it was necessary for the remaining 20-30% of the students to hoe cotton in the spring and pick cotton in the fall, they were unable to attend as regularly. When school started, all the students met in a large classroom where chapel was held every morning. Then each student went to his respective classes in English, Basic Math, Algebra, Geometry, American History, Health, Geography, Book Science and Reading. The students used second hand books received from the other schools. Mrs. Mattie Borders stated, "They had to bring their books home daily and study; however, if the students did not learn the material, they were not promoted to the next grade".

The teachers also had a lot invested in the school because many of the graduates of Oak Lawn attended college and later returned to become teachers and principals of the school. Mr. Prince Goldthwaite and Mr. Robert Davis were just the first of several who returned. Mrs. Robbie Howard stated, "The teachers were very strict and they knew their material so well that they had no use for a teacher edition of the textbook".

Oak Lawn School, Wyatt Street, Waxahachie, circa 1947.

 

Oak Lawn High School has produced over 500 graduates; not only from Waxahachie, but from surrounding communities such as Boyce, Forreston and Midlothian. Many of the graduates became a vital part of Waxahachie and other cities in the United States. For example, Eddie Finley, Sr., retired School Administrator for the Waxahachie Independent School District; Dr. Bob A. Haley, Head of Mathematics and Science Department at Paul Quinn College in Waco; Erma Newton and Mattie Borders, Civil Right Leaders, NAACP and Citizens for Progress of Waxahachie, and Naomi Hughes, retired Procedurement Clerk for Ordinance Tank Automotive Command of Detroit, Michigan, NAACP and Citizens for Progress.

Oak Lawn has been a vital part of educating many of the black people of Waxahachie and other surrounding communities. The one major motivating factor that kept Oak Lawn school going strong for over 83 years can be summed up as Pride - Pride generated by the students, teachers, Black Community, and Waxahachie as a whole. Waxahachie citizens would like to honor this school for its valuable service rendered to the Black Community and Waxahachie. They hope and dream of placing in front of Oak Lawn School a Texas Historical Marker, but their vision does not stop with that goal.

A recent proposal has been made to the Waxahachie School Board to allow development of the building as a community cultural center. It is hoped that this historic building will be the site of a local archives and research center, art class seminars, senior citizen programs, and tutorial services.11 The many uses proposed for Oak Lawn School will make it once more the center of cultural growth of the black community and Waxahachie.

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LEGAL DESCRIPTION

Oak Lawn School, Waxahachie, Town Addition, Block 179, all that certain tract or parcel of land situated in Waxahachie, Ellis County, Texas, and out of the A. M. Keen Survey described by field notes as follows:

Beginning at a stake on the south side of Wyatt Street opposite the East Corner of Meeks Lot 128 vrs. N. 82-1/2 E. from B. P. Wyatt's N. corner. Thence, N. 82-1/2 E. 144 vrs. to the center of Rock Branch a stake below the Tank Dam about 5 varas above a small elm. Thence, down said branch with its meanders in the center of same. ? S. 17 W. and S. 47 W. a stake in center of branch. Thence, N. 27-1/2 W. 150 vrs. to the beginning.


PRINCIPALS OF OAK LAWN

W. G. TRUELOVE

J. W. TILDEN

P. E. GOLDTHWAITE

ROBERT DAVIS

R. B. WHITE

M. Z. HICKS

E. B. WEDGEWORTH


TRUSTEES ON CORNER STONES

1919

Mark Smith

C. W. Gibson

Jas. W. Harrison

J. G. Cornwell

D. G. Fudge

U. T. Buckner

1941

Paul L. Bird

V. C. Carlisle

Mrs. Frank 0. Martin

John W. Arden

Oscar M. Landers

T. E. Burleson

Mrs. Ross Moss

T. C. Wilemon

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TEACHERS OF OAK LAWN

Robbie Howard, Mattie Borders, P. E. Goldthwaite, Ola Mae Goldthwaite, Robert Davis, Corine Burnett, Anita Richard, G. W. Tilden, Eddie Lee Gibson, Mary Porter, Louella Champion, Maude Davenport, C. C. Stevenson, Mr. Maxwell, Mr. Henderson, Mr. Valley, Johnnie Lee Taylor, Ann Maxwell, Blynthia Davis, Martin Van Davis, Stella Taylor, Eddie Finley, Sr., Teresa Hicks, Lesse Herndon, Mrs. E. B. Wedgeworth, E. S. Tatum, Berlyn McKnight, Nola Echols, Mr. Pinkard, Willetta Bernett, Geneva Sam, Paul Hackett, Florence Morgan, Kosa Lee, Mary English, Mrs. Weaver, Betty Turner, Mr. Ashberry, Leola King, Mrs. M. Hunter, T. Cooley, Laura English, Ollie Posey, Mrs. L. Harten, Mrs. Bryant, Charles E. Willis, Ann Robertson, Melinda William, Lucille Davis, and others who are deceased or cannot be remembered.


IMPORTANT GRADUATES

 

ANN MAXWELL - FORMER OAK LAWN TEACHER & WISD TEACHER

MAUDE DAVENPORT - FORMER OAK LAWN TEACHER & WISD TEACHER

ROBERT DAVIS - PRINCIPAL AND TEACHER AT OAK LAWN

P. E. GOLDTHWAITHE - PRINCIPAL AND TEACHER AT OAK LAWN

MATTIE BORDER - RETIRED TEACHER - WISD AND OAK LAWN

ROBBIE HOWARD - RETIRED TEACHER - WISD AND OAK LAWN

D. R. BUTLER - LIEUTENANT IN U. S. ARMY

C. C. STEVENSON - REAL ESTATE BROKER AND TEACHER OF OAK LAWN

MABLE LORD - OAK LAWN TEACHER

MABLE STEVENSON - RETIRED TEACHER OF MICHIGAN ISD

MR. MUNCHUS - WAXHACHIE DOCTOR

EDDIE FINLEY , SR. - RETIRED WISD ADMINISTRATOR & BOOKKEEPER -TAX PREPARER

CARROLL DAVIS - CONTRACTOR

CLARENCE DAVIS - CONTRACTOR

EDWARD GIBSON - MINISTER IN HOUSTON

JULIE JORDAN - SCHOOL COUNSEL IN DISD

RAYFORD SIMMONS - ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL AT EL CAMPO

WARDELL HOWARD - DEPUTY SHERIFF OF WAXAHACHIE

GEORGE BROWN - CITY COUNCIL AND FORMER MAYOR OF WAXAHACHIE

SIMMIE REAGOR - CHEMIST FOR NASA

AUDRY PRUITT - PUBLISHER OF LOCAL BLACK NEWSPAPER

LEON ENGLISH - INSTRUCTOR AT PRAIRIE VIEW A & M

REV. J. T. REAGOR - MINISTER

REV. ROBERT REED - MINISTER

 

These Oak Lawn graduates demonstrated to the Waxahachie Community that education, dedication and hard work can lead to success in whatever profession one chooses to undertake. Waxahachie should be very proud of these graduates; they unknowingly became prime examples for black generations to come and are an inspiration to the young black people of Waxahachie.

 

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