Rosa A. Temple High School alums dedicate new marker at school

Published 6:35 pm Saturday, September 1, 2018

They came from across Mississippi and across the country to recall old times and see their former school receive an honor few buildings in the state receive.

From 1959 to 1973, Rosa A. Temple High School was known across Mississippi for academic and athletic excellence. Saturday, under the glare of the sun and with the temperature in the upper 80s and a heat index near 100, the alumni of Rosa A. Temple gathered down the hill from their old school for a ceremony unveiling a state historic marker honoring the school.

The ceremony was a highlight of the school’s all classes reunion.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“This is the day the Lord has made, so let us rejoice and be glad again,” Sherry Green Fisher, a 1959 graduate and speech teacher at the school, told the crowd of more than 100. “I’m glad today, because they’re talking about my school.”

The marker was the work of a committee of alumni who researched and worked to prepare the application and paperwork to submit to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to get state approval. The alums received additional help from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which approved the money for the marker.

“We mark this hallowed ground today because someone told me we couldn’t,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “And because I surrounded myself with good people who said we could — the (marker) committee — and I want to thank those people on the committee who said we could and made it happen.”

He called the ceremony “a moment in time.”

“It is our honor to mark this hallowed ground, where we were one of the prestigious high schools in the state of Mississippi and the first accredited African American high school in the state of Mississippi. In recognizing this school, we pay tribute its namesake, Mrs. Rosa A. Temple, a highly respected educator. Hail Temple High! Hail Temple High!”

Vicksburg School District Trustee Alonzo Stevens, who graduated from Temple, said Superintendent Chad Shealy is always ready to recognize Rosa A. Temple, adding, “This is my high school.”

Recognition long over due

Brother Rogers, director of programs and communication for Archives & History, said acquiring a historic marker “is not easy. You’ve got to prove your history is significant, and your history is significant.

“For far too long in Mississippi, we did not fully recognize African American history like we should. Thank you for helping the state rectify that problem by acknowledging your history today,” he said.

“It is our pleasure to recognize Rosa A. Temple High School and your illustrious graduates and your contribution not only to local history, but to our state’s history.”

Robert Major Walker, a 1962 Temple graduate and former Vicksburg Mayor and Warren County supervisor, said Temple graduates “went on to influence individuals, institutions, cities, towns, states and nations, making them better than they were before their contact with those who had been educated at Temple.”

He said the alumni need to be vigilant and preserve the marker so future generations would recognize its significance and continue to learn about Temple’s legacy.

Rosa A. Temple opened its doors in January 1959, replacing J.G.H. Bowman High School, which had been built in 1954.

“We were so happy going back to school after Christmas because were going to a new school,” Fisher said. “And we had pride.”

Gertrude Young, who graduated in 1973, said the alumni “had something we hope and pray our children have. The respect for your teachers and your elders, but the teachers had respect for us, too. They didn’t talk to us in any kind of (bad) way. If they couldn’t help us, they sure wouldn’t hurt us.”

Young recalled when she was turned down for the nursing program at then-Hinds Junior College, and the Temple school secretary helped her go to nursing school at Mississippi Valley State.

“When others told me ‘no,’ Temple High told me ‘yes.’ It’s always a blessing and an honor to stand before this school; to think about all the teachers who loved us; truly loved us. They were willing to give us what they learned.”

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.

email author More by John