Booker T. Washington High School
Texarkana Arkansas had other black learning institutions long before Booker T. Washington High School was established. Orr School, College Hill School, and Ash Street High School were forerunners of this institution and played an important part in the community life of Texarkana.
Funds for the first Orr School were donated to the Black Community by a prominent Texarkana family to help Black Children master the skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. A two-story building was erected. This building was badly damaged by fire and rebuilt as a single floor building. Some of the principals included Mrs. Virgie Goree Jones, Mrs. Iola Washington, Rev. Matthews, Mr. William Alexander, Rev. W.H. Hilliard, Mr. H.A. Caldwell, Rev Mott H. Mosley and Mrs. A. Sisco Finn.
College Hill School, another of the institutions, was first known as Downing School, located near the heart of the College Hill section of Texarkana, Arkansas. In 1908 this school was moved to Draughn Avenue where a frame building was erected to house four grades. Mr. Sam E. Edwards was the first principal in its new location. Rev. A.M. Plant also served as principal. Teachers included Sadie and Jettie Runnels, Mrs. L.C. Deloney, Mrs. Sadie Sawyer, Mrs. Essie Davis and Mrs. Randall.
In 1923 school was being held on Ash Street in the U.B.of F. Hall. This school was located at 816 Ash Street and was called Ash Street School. Mr. C.A. Barrett was the first principal. Miss Jennie Elliott and Mrs. Aires assisted him. The facility was a two-story building and school was held on the first floor only. There were eleven grades.
In 1924, the board purchased land in what was then rural Texarkana and is now the present site of the school located on the corner of Preston and Pinehurst. The board moved the school to this site and classes were taught in an old three-room shotgun house, which was already on the grounds. The house had evidently been previously used for a residence and had greasy walls and a general appearance of untidiness. No changes were made in the construction of the house nor was any attempt made to improve its untidy appearance. School desks were moved from the U.B.of F. Hall and fastened to the floors of the dirty rooms. The only redeeming feature was a very nice pear orchard located on a very pretty campus that was well drained and spacious. After a few months, a mysterious fire destroyed the old three-room shotgun house. Having no place to go, students were allowed to hold classes in the basement of St. James Baptist Church. At that time the basement had dirt floors.
About 1925 a drive was launched by the principal and a few interested patrons to raise money to erect a building. The effort was great, but the funds were insufficient. Fortunately, the school board was able to get additional funds from the Rosenwald Fund to erect the building. The Julius Rosenwald Fund was established in 1917 and was a fund set up to contribute to the building of rural Negro Schools. Thus, the first construction of Booker T. Washington High School was started. Mr. Barrett was still the principal and taught perhaps a year in the new school. He then resigned and Mr. Jettie Weaver was the next principal and served in that capacity for three years. Mrs. A.M. Grant, then a mathematics teacher, came into the system. During the school year of 1928 and 1929, Mrs. S.W. Ingram and Mrs. L. P. Jones came to the school as the history and home economics teachers, respectively. Mrs. Jones started her home economics classes in a bare room with some park benches, which were used for seats with one or two tables. The school had no water and the students took turns going to the neighbor’s well to get water, so that Mrs. Jones might at least make an effort to institute the principles of cleanliness.
The next year, Mr. G.R. Flournoy came to the school as principal. With him came other added features, the drama club, choral club, and debating club. Mr. Patrick L. Jackson came as bandmaster. Mr. Flournoy started the first football team in 1930 and was the coach. Some members of that team included Jamie Jones, Nathan Jones, Theodore Wheeler and Bob White. They also had a basketball team.
The next principal was Mr. Mott H. Mosley, beginning his tenure as principal in 1944. At this time he was promoted to the position of supervising principal of the Black Elementary and High school, which were in the same building. The elementary faculty helped to supervise all extracurricular activities. Both schools held their faculty meetings together. The first football queen coronation was held in 1944-45. The participants were second through eleventh grades. One PTA served both schools. The first PTA officers were Mrs. Mildred Allen, Mrs. Beatrice Gaines, Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Helen Diamond. This PTA purchased the first electrical audio visual aids set in Texarkana, Arkansas and Texarkana, Texas. It was an 8mm Bell and Howell Projector and an opaque projector. This equipment was carried to and from Washington School, Arkansas High, Texas High and Dunbar High Schools by truck and by car. Mr. Nathan E. Jones was hired as science teacher and football and basketball coach in 1940. He was Booker T. Washington’s own product and brought fame and recognition to the sports program. In 1946, guidance and counseling programs were brought to the schools by Mrs. Dorothy H. Jones, bringing statewide recognition as one of the first black schools to have a program.
In 1950, the schools were separated and Mr. Porter L. Eastland became the principal of the elementary school and Mr. Mott H. Mosley remained principal of the high school serving for 27 years. After he retired Mr. Clinton P. Caldwell became principal until Booker T. Washington High School was consolidated into Arkansas High School in the fall of 1986.