Central High Remembered
It was half a century ago, this year, a New Boston School Era Ended.
As 2016 nears an end, it brings back fifty years of the past. If you are old enough to remember the 1960’s and before, you know that the schools, like other public businesses, organizations, etc. were segregated because of race. There was only one school for black in New Boston. It bears the name Central High. It started under the leadership of the late Luther Ford McAfee, better known as L.F. McAfee, who served as principal of the black school system for 20 years.
Central High was a combination of all 12 grades, elementary and high. The school faced discrimination heavily, as blacks were used to all over America. The majority of the school books, supplies and equipment were used rejects that came from New Boston High, being the white school. Because of a job well done, principal L.F. McAfee and all the teachers who served, with the help of God Almighty, many girls and boys were educated and became graduates of Central High, despite the discrimination.
There have been many school reunions in recent years. The graduates of Central High, like a tree, grew, loom, and blossom, as they scatter near and far. They continued their education in colleges and universities. Many received their bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees. They became very fruitful in many careers, such as construction, mechanical, business administration, law enforcement, teachers, engineers, preachers, and ministers.
Some went into the military, and rose to high ranks. The late Tommie Barber joined the U.S. Air Force and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. The late Johnie Forte, Jr. joined the U.S. Army with the rank of Brigadier General. Berman Wade, Jr., of Killeen, Texas, retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of First Sergeant. These men, during their military career, was assigned to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. There they attended meetings and discussed military affairs with President Richard M. Nixon. They became known as Central High heroes.
Johnnie Helen Matthews and Catherine Lyles, of New Boston, started their career in teaching at Central High in the 1950’s. Dorthy Alley of New Boston was one of Central High's first graduating class in 1946. Booker Jones and Myrtle Sutton, of New Boston, were two of the last graduating class of Central High in May of 1966.
September of 1966 the New Boston Schools integrated. This caused fear to many citizens. They did not think it would work. The results forced black and white school kids to come together as one. In doing so, they did something that some adults had a problem with doing themselves. They forgot about the color of the skin, reaching out and accepting each other, becoming friends in the process.
The New Boston ISD still operates a school facility on the original ground campus that Central High existed, at North Bowie and Ardell Hubbard Dr.
From 1946 to 2016, a period of 70 years have past. There are over 70 students and teachers of Central High now deceased. There is also over 70 who are still surviving, many here in Bowie County, keeping the school days and memories of the Central High era alive and well.