After 50 years, Bowman grads have held on to health, looks|[05/24/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 24, 2008

Twenty of Bowman High’s graduating class of 1958 – the school’s last – are gathering this weekend to share stories and old photos in celebration of their 50-year class reunion.

“It means more each time we get together, just to see how blessed we really are,” said Ruby Smith as she laughed and glanced down at the yearbook photo attached to her name tag. “We still have our health, and we all look pretty good, too.”

A welcome breakfast and evening gathering at the Jacqueline House Museum kicked off the events Friday, to be followed by a banquet this evening at Monsour’s Restaurant and a memorial service Sunday morning at Pleasant Green Church.

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Bowman High School was opened for black students in 1923 as Magnolia High School. The 86 students comprising the class of 1958 were the last to graduate. The school closed in 1959 with the opening of Rosa A. Temple High School, which is now Vicksburg Junior High. Desegregation began in the local schools in the early 1970s, and city and county school systems were combined in 1987.

Judith Hodge said 30 of her classmates are no longer alive, which makes it all the more important to celebrate their memory as well as the achievements of those still alive.

“Not many people get to celebrate their 50th class reunion. This is it. We’ve got to do these things while we can,” said Hodge, who joined the Army at the age of 35, was deployed on active duty in Operation Desert Storm and retired from the military as a master sergeant.

Marjorie Hopkins has lived in Denver for 44 years. But she came home for the reunion. Now retired, Hopkins earned a master’s degree following high school and worked as a student adviser, teacher and assistant principal in the Denver area.

“This trip is special,” she said, noting she comes to Vicksburg often to visit family.

Smith remained in Vicksburg following graduation, and retired as a certified nurse’s assistant. A member of the basketball and track team while at Bowman, she said some of her best memories are from her high school years.

“I’ve never missed a reunion, and I have always tried to keep in touch with my classmates,” she said. “We spent some great years together.”