A golden moment for Moton graduates

Class of 1952 to donate $1,100 to fund for Carroll's African-American students

`We have such fond memories'

May 24, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Class of 1952 from Robert Moton School in Westminster, once Carroll County's only school for black students, celebrates its 50th reunion today with an investment in the future.

Ten of the original 18 members of the class plan to attend the annual dinner sponsored by Friends of Robert Moton School, and they are donating $1,100 to a scholarship fund established 30 years ago for the county's African-American students.

The organization has raised nearly $70,000, money that has helped pay college tuition for about 100 students.

Nearly all of the surviving classmates from 1952 are retired and for many, the gift is a sacrifice, but one that is worthwhile, said Leah Hill Wright, 67.

"We all see the need, and we all wanted to contribute," said Wright, who 50 years ago was the class valedictorian. "We were one of the larger classes, but we got that one-on-one attention and a great foundation all through Moton."

Wright remembers telling her classmates a half-century ago "to go for your dreams."

"We weren't all that confident because of the times, but we all knew we wanted to go far and we knew our lessons at Moton would help us," she said.

Wright continued her education at what is now Morgan State University, earning a degree in sociology with a minor in music. She retired recently after 35 years in social work in Baltimore.

Virginia Hill Henderson, Wright's cousin and classmate, said graduates have an unwavering devotion to the school. She traveled around the world while her husband served in the Army, but she never lost the graduation photograph of 18 students posing solemnly in caps and gowns on the steps of the school. Wright is at the far left in the front row and Henderson is second from the right on the second row.

"We have such fond memories and there was such a closeness among kids who came from all over the county, and the teachers were so dedicated," said Henderson, 67. "It was as though we left home and went to another home, when we went to school. That is what Moton was all about."

Henderson lived outside Taneytown in the 1950s, 12 miles from the only high school she could attend because of her race. She had to walk a mile into town and catch a bus as far as a country store in Mayberry.

"We had to get off there because the bus would take a group of white children from Mayberry to a school in Taneytown," she said.

From Mayberry, a friend all the students called Mr. Waller picked them up and drove them in his car the rest of the way to Center Street in Westminster and then, he would drive them back to the store for the trip home - every day for the four years.

"The scholarship fund shows children today how important it is to get an education," Henderson said. "Maybe, they will stand back and see how far we have gone with limited opportunities.

"We want to keep the memories of Robert Moton alive and maybe inspire others."

The dinner has sold out of more than 300 seats and will be held at Martin's Westminster.

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