LCSD considers historic marker

A request for a historical marker at the former John Jefferson High School site in Purvis is being considered by the Lamar County School District Board of Trustees after the proposal was presented to the board last week.

The trustees, which met March 9 at the district’s boardroom in the former Jefferson High School, received the request from Phyllis Hogan, who said the local communities were united in asking for the historical marker.

“We, the people from the five communities that were once villages, stand united to preserve John Jefferson High School history and to have the building registered as a historical site with a permanent marker,” she said. “The people of the five communities of Purvis, Sumrall, Yawn, Oak Grove and Lumberton are once again united with a common goal.”

Hogan said preserving the school’s history is her passion.

“I started with a hand-written manuscript, which has grown into a book publication,” she said. “Before it is lost forever, the history of a Mississippi high school was captured in the book title – ‘The Beginning and End of John Jefferson High School,’ preserving the history of success despite desegregation. It all began with a vision and a desire, a determination and willpower to preserve the important story about the education of African-Americans. It is both a personal story and a broad segment of political history.”

Hogan said Jefferson students and teachers are spread throughout the country.

They live in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Washington, D.C.; Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, California and even Canada.

“Conserving the history of John Jefferson High School is an urgent matter,” Hogan said.

“The history is in danger of disappearing. Many people who know its history have passed on and that includes the principals of the school. People got educated and moved throughout the world, sharing their knowledge they learned at John Jefferson High School. They have been successful in many careers by coming medical and military personnel, politicians, musical stars, university professors and more.”

Hogan presented signatures, letters, names and addresses of many former Jefferson students and community members who supported preserving the building as a historical site with a permanent marker. Included in the materials were almost 300 permission slips, letters from different people across the state, more signatures for the historical marker and a tablet containing all of the Jefferson students who participate, addresses, names and telephone numbers.

Board President Buddy Morris said Board Attorney Rick Norton would investigate the possibility of obtaining a historical marker.

“We are going to investigate what it entails and also if it would be detrimental in any way to the building,” he said.

“Sometimes, when they are made historical buildings, they don’t allow you to do certain things to keep up the building. That’s one thing that we will have to find out.”

Board member Mike Pruitt told Hogan that the board is concerned about the building.

“I hope you understand and our community understands that we value this building,” he said. “Many years ago, we were spending money to turn this building into what it is today. It is very functional for us because our teachers meet in this room and our board meets in this room. … We value this building and its history very much.”

The next scheduled meeting of the Lamar County School Board will be at 6 p.m. Monday, April 10, at the Purvis High School Library.