'Scotties' Look Back, Celebrate New Site Marker
By JACQUE HILBURN-SIMMONS
School bells at Tyler's Emmett J. Scott High School are silent, but those who planned their day around them have never forgotten.
Almost 60 people, mostly alumni, gathered Saturday to celebrate the dedication of a Tyler Reflections Marker that recalls the site of their old campus.
The school, a symbol of Tyler's earlier days of segregation, was originally situated at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Englewood Avenue, before federal authorities ordered it closed.
Today, its former location, now a vacant lot, b
elongs to Texas College.
Donnie Gaines, of Tyler, Class of 1966, remembers the high school well.
"This is the place that grew us," she said. "It was a wonderful school. When you came to Scott, you belonged to your family, but you also belonged to this family. We were disciplined and encouraged and told we could be whatever we wanted to be. ... I love this school, I hated to see it go."
Ms. Gaines and Tyler City Councilman Ralph Caraway were credited with helping arrange for the marker and its dedication, which coincides with the 11th All-School Reunion.
About 400 "Scotties" as they came to be known were expected to participate in the weekend festivities, organizers said.
Caraway said the school was an educational cornerstone of the community and it's appropriate to recognize it as such.
"Every time people pass by this corner, they can remember" and pass their stories on to future generations, the councilman said.
Tyler Planning Director Heather Nick said the city is committed to preserving its past, especially in the north end, by designating certain historic properties or areas as Tyler Historic Landmarks, Tyler Historic Subject Markers or Half Mile of History markers.
Emmett J. Scott High School is the eighth recipient of a Reflections marker, officials said.
The original school was established in 1888 as a four-room structure on South Herndon and later expanded, city records show.
It burned in 1921, forcing the school to hold classes in churches across the city, and was rebuilt in 1923 on Border Street as Emmett Scott Junior High School, records show.
In 1949, Emmett Scott Senior High School on West Lincoln was created.
It featured 26 classrooms, an administrative suite, library, cafeteria, shop, auditorium, gymnasium and band hall, Tyler Historic Preservation Chairman Mike Patterson said.
Scotties said it was a vibrant school filled with passionate educators, but the school was forced to close in 1970 to comply with federal integration policies.
As the years passed, the building, filled with asbestos, slowly fell into disrepair.
Attempts were made in recent years to generate funding to carry out a complete renovation, but the estimated $10 million price tag proved too costly in the end.
The facility was torn down in 2006 after it was deemed unsafe and a potential public hazard.
People who attended school there have never forgotten it.
Doris Jackson, of Tyler, was part of the graduating class of 1967.
"It still means so much to me, to my whole family," she said. "I've been a deputy sheriff for 23 years ... it (career) had to come from the good teaching we got at this school. We can't go back, but we can remember."
The new plaque near the site of the old school commemorates its history.
On Saturday, current and former community members gathered to celebrate the memories associated with "The Cut," an area that once housed a small drugstore owned by Noble Earnest "Doc" Young, born in 1902.
The store, the first for African-Americans in Tyler, was in operation for almost 40 years, providing free medicine and interest-free loans to families in need.
Young, who worked first as a teacher and principal before becoming a pharmacist, had no children of his own, but provided class rings, caps, gowns and senior memorabilia to Emmett Scott grads whose families were unable to afford them, city records state.
His generous spirit was recalled Saturday with the city's seventh Reflections marker.
Caraway said it was good to see the community's legacies brought back to life.
Ms. Gaines agreed.
"This place holds a lot of memories for all of us," she said.
Staff Writer Emily Guevara contributed to this report.