Rosa A. Temple High School alums in town this weekend

Published 8:38 pm Thursday, August 30, 2018

Rosa A. Temple High School graduates from across the country are gathering Friday in Vicksburg for a three-day all-classes reunion involving the school’s graduating classes from 1959 to 1973.

The program features two social events Friday and Saturday at the Vicksburg Convention Center, and an 11 a.m. religious service Sunday at the former Rosa A. Temple High School, now Vicksburg Junior High School. The main event is the dedication ceremony of a historic marker at the school, 1533 Rosa A. Temple Drive, noon Saturday.

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“This is our third reunion of classes; the last one was in 2015,” said Johnnie B. Coleman-Johnson, one of the reunion coordinators. “This is a spinoff from the mural (of the school) that was done on the waterfront. The classes ‘68 through ‘73 all participated in the funding of that mural.”

The idea for the reunion, Johnson said, came in 2007 from James Stirgus Sr., a former principal of Rosa A. Temple.

“He was the inspiration and got all of us together to get this going,” she said. “Mary Logan Mayfield was the one who decided we should start this reunion of classes.”

Temple was the third high school in the city built in Vicksburg for African-American students.

“First was the old school of Magnolia, then it was Bowman High, then it was renamed Rosa A. Temple,” Johnson said.

When school opened in 1959, it replaced J.G.H. Bowman High School, which had been built in 1954.

“We moved to the new site in early 1959,” Johnson said. “The classes of ‘59, ‘60, ‘61 and ‘62 moved from Bowman High. The class of ‘59 was the first to graduate from there.”

Bowman, she said, was very inadequate, and lacked many amenities. “We didn’t have the room to do what we wanted to do.” Events like football, basketball and graduations, she said, were held away from the school campus.

“We outgrew it; Rosa A. Temple was a dream come true, and all the students worked hard to fulfill the aspirations of the teachers and parents to make something of their lives, and they have,” she said. “We were encouraged to be the best you could be, regardless of your background.”

Rosa A. Temple, the school’s namesake, was born Sept. 4, 1869. After attending Cherry Street High School and Jackson College, she began teaching in Vicksburg in 1885 when she was 16 years old.

In more than 60 years as an educator, Mrs. Temple taught all levels, but spent most of her years as a high school English teacher. She was known for exacting, uncompromising standards of excellence and for inspiring students and those who worked with her. She retired in 1947.

She died in 1972 at the age of 102 and is buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery.

From 1959 to 1973, Rosa A. Temple High School was well known across Mississippi for its academic achievements, football, basketball, baseball and track programs, and outstanding choirs.

Besides the mural on Levee Street, which was dedicated in 2008, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in 2015 renamed Baldwin Ferry Road, which runs in front of the school, Rosa A. Temple Drive. In 2011, a new wing at Vicksburg Junior High School — the school that once bore her name — was dedicated to Mrs. Temple.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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