C.B. Dansby Historical Marker Narritive

This article post is the proposed application  to the Gregg County Historical Commission and the State of Texas for a Historical Marker for the Kilgore Colored School and the C. B. Dansby campus.

I. Context

Kilgore, Texas was founded in 1872 when the International-Great Northern Railroad completed the initial phase of rail line between Palestine and Longview. The rail company chose to bypass New Danville, a small community about 10 miles southeast of Longview, in lieu of a new town site platted on 174 acres sold to the railroad by Constantine Buckley Kilgore, the town’s namesake.

From The Handbook of Texas Online, Kilgore, TX (Gregg County) (*http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hek02)

Public education in Kilgore traces its history to classes held in private homes and the establishment of private institutions, most notably the Alexander Institute. Operated by Isaac Alexander, the school moved to Kilgore in 1873. It continued to serve the children of the town until 1894, when it was relocated to Jacksonville. It was later renamed Lon Morris College. The building which housed the Alexander Institute was converted into a public school. The Kilgore Independent School district, established in 1906, continued to use the facility until 1913, when a new two-story red brick school building was erected on Longview Street. (*From the Historical Markers of Gregg County, http://www.co.gregg.tx.us/departments/
HistoricalCommission/Markers.pdf, Alexander Institute Texas Historical Marker)

In 1910 blacks comprised 55 percent of the county population, and in 1930, 52 percent. (*From The Handbook of Texas Online, Gregg County, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hcg10)
The African American residents felt it was important to provide a decent education for their children. Throughout the County, schools were established, primarily through churches. In the early years of the 18th Century, a formal network of Black schools, known as Rosenwald schools was established throughout the County and Region through the partnership of Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald,. According to records created by Tuskegee College in Tuskegee, AL and maintained and archived by Fisk University in Nashville, TN, from Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Card File Database, (*http://rosenwald.fisk.edu). Gregg County had built 22 Rosenwald schools, 6 of which were in the Kilgore vicinity. These schools educated the youth of the community along with several other schools that were not designated as Rosenwald schools. According to information from local residents, Kilgore Baptist Church and Mt. Pleasant Church housed schools for Kilgore Students as early as 1873. From “Tracing Our Roots 1873-1978” by Ivy Davis Jordan, 1991 Reunion Souvenir Journal.

In August of 1934, as stated in the attached Gregg County Warranty Deed, the Kilgore School District purchased a five-acre tract of land from P. M. Bates for the price of $600. The land was located at the intersection of Bates St. and Wells St.

II. Overview
An interview with prominent Kilgore citizens John A. Douglas (now deceased), a student from 1912 to 1918 and Mrs. Lorene McAfee Taylor, (now deceased), a former student and teacher at the school supplied important information about the early history of the school. This information was presented in a summery written by Ms. Ivy Davis Jordan who chaired the 1991 school reunion committee which was titled “Tracing Our Roots, 1873-1978”. Much of this narrative is constructed from Ms. Jordan’s report. . From “Tracing Our Roots 1873-1978” by Ivy Davis Jordan, 1991 Reunion Souvenir Journal.

Mr. Douglas recalled that one of the first schools for Negros was opened as early as 1873 at Kilgore Baptist Church. Mr. Douglas stated that when the Odd Fellows Lodge constructed a two story building on South Commerce Street and a school was established.

Mrs. Taylor also noted that a story was passed down to her that in 1885 a group of colored citizens met under a pin oak tree on land south of Kilgore that belonged to Mr. John Reynolds. From that meeting, a one-acre plot of land was given to construct a one-room school building. The first teacher was Mr. Morten Walker and approximately 20 students were enrolled in the school. A few years later enrollment increased creating a need for more space and another teacher. A new site was purchased on what is now know as Martin Luther King Street, (formally South Street), and Fritz Swanson Road. Classes were held there for several years.

Teachers at that time were Mr. Walker, Mr. M.E. Alexander, Mr. W.R. Pentecost, Ms. Dora Wells and Ms. Mary Courtly. In 1932 the school was enlarged to four rooms and four additional teachers were hired, Mr. Cuny Bruce Dansby, Ms. Abner Henry, Ms. Frankie Cheeves and Ms. Sodonia Thomas. The next year, students from the adjoining Kilgore communities of Mt. Comfort and Pirtle were consolidated into Kilgore Colored School. (*From “Tracing Our Roots 1873-1978” by Ivy Davis Jordan, 1991 Reunion Souvenir Journal).

In August of 1934, the Kilgore Independent School District purchased a five acre tract of land from P. M. Bates which was adjacent to the intersection of Bates Street and Wells Street, a mile north of downtown Kilgore. A red-brick building was erected and included furniture and equipment. The first building constructed consisted of seven classrooms accessed by a hall, a principal’s office, a book room and an auditorium seating four hundred students. The campus was spacious with outdoor pit toilets on the lower edge of the campus. Each toilet housed eight compartments. Two sets of swing sets and see-saws adorned the campus. The new school consisted of first through twelfth grades and was accredited by the Sothern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools the same year.

The faculty included: Mr. C. B. Dansby, who served as principal, Mr. A. L. King, athletics coach, Mrs. Lois Towles McNeely, music teacher, Ms. Josephine Jones, junior high department, Ms. Mary Ann Butts, primary school, Mrs. Allie B. White, elementary department, and Ms. Frankie Cheeves, primary school.

In 1936, a brick elementary building was added to the high school building. It consisted of four classrooms, a hall and two indoor lavatories. In 1939, the Science and Agriculture building was added. This building housed the Home Economics Department, the Manual Arts Departments, a Science room, a supply room and an office. Two more teachers were added, Mrs. Florence Tillman Keys, home economics and Mrs. T. A. Butts, manual training. The school’s mascot was the Tigers and the band which was directed by Mr. Jackson, was wearing red-and-white uniforms handed down from the all white Kilgore High School.

A Gymnasium was constructed in 1949. Buildings were constructed with red brick except for the boy’s club house and a cannery which were both one room frame buildings, each painted white. By this time the faculty consisted of seventeen teachers. Around 1954, a new Band Hall and Cafeteria was constructed.

The attendance of Kilgore Colored Schools increased to over five hundred students by 1948. Mr. Rufus B. Anderson was hired to direct the band program, the used red and white uniforms were dropped. Purple and gold was adopted as the schools colors along with new uniforms. In 1951 the schools enrollment increased due to the consolidation of the London Colored High School and Star Bailey High School. One third of the total enrollment lived in rural communities and was transported by bus to the main campus. By 1954, the school’s enrollment had doubled.

During the 1955 graduation ceremony in the auditorium, Mr. C. B. Dansby, the school’s principal collapsed on the stage and was later pronounced dead. Subsequently, the school’s name was changed in his honor. Mr. Odis H. Turner was chosen as his successor. In 1956 an additional wing, consisting of two classrooms, was added. Four additional elementary classrooms and an office were constructed in 1958. Mr. Eunice Daniels was selected as principal of the C.B. Dansby Elementary School. From “Tracing Our Roots 1873-1978” by Ivy Davis Jordan, 1991 Reunion Souvenir Journal.

In 1959, the community schools of Fredonia and New Hope were consolidated into C. B. Dansby School along with several of those school’s teachers. Kilgore schools experienced growth and in 1961, the Kilgore School District built Chandler Elementary School for White students and turned over Elder Elementary school, on West Highway 31, to the C. B. Dansby school to be used as an elementary facility for Black students in the first through the sixth grades.

In 1966, the Kilgore School District participated in a voluntary desegregation program offering C. B. Dansby students who chose to do so the opportunity to attend any of the all white Kilgore Schools. After desegregation, the Dansby and Elder campus’s continued to serve as the educational facilities for Black children until 1972. At that time the school was closed and all students were intergrated into the Kilgore Independent School District (KISD). Many of the C. B. Dansby teachers and administrators were transferred to other KISD schools. The C. B. Dansby campus was eventually sold to a private owner who converted into community service facilities and apartments. Consequently the campus suffered disrepair and deterioration and in 2013 the remaining structures were demolished. The property is now owned by the City of Kilgore.

The original narrative written by Ms. Davis estimated that more than five hundred students received diplomas between 1956 and 1968. Coincidently, I, Greg Muckelroy, compiler of this historical report, attended C. B. Dansby between those years. In addition, my immediate family were students in Kilgore schools as early as 1910. I, directly and indirectly, knew most of the people mentioned in this report. Kilgore Colored Schools and C. B. Dansby was a quality institution of learning and subsequently produced many productive citizens who have contributed much to our community. Many of the students who attended the Kilgore school graduated from college and were successful professionals of high achievement.

Kilgore Colored Schools / C. B. Dansby graduates included Mr. Lincoln Hilburn a 1941 graduate, who attended Hampton Institute in Hampton, VA and eventually the University of Southern California. He became an acclaimed radio and TV broadcaster in the Los Angeles area. Ms. Marjay Anderson, a 1962 graduate attended Prairie View College and continued in higher education receiving her PhD from Howard University in Washington, DC. She served as a University Dean and is currently Chairman of the Comprehensive Sciences Department. Mr. Richard Scott graduated C. B. Dansby in 1964. Mr. Scott received his undergraduate degree from Prairie View College and was awarded a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Texas in 1972. He was sworn in as the first Black Judicial official in Travis County, TX where he served in the Justice of the Peace Court. The graduating class of 1963 produced Mr. Alvin Reed , an outstanding football player at Prairie View College, and played professional football with the Houston Oilers and the Washington Redskins where he became an all star tight end in the National Football League.

III. Significance
Since the inception of instruction for Black children and the construction of black schools in Kilgore since 1874, Black citizens were intent on providing educational opportunities to give their children a fair chance to participate and compete in the American economy. In spite of the many barriers they faced, they overwhelmingly succeeded and their efforts have echoed through many generations.

In spite of the fact that African Americans at one time comprised over fifty percent of the area’s population, of the approximately twenty two historical designations in Kilgore, only one has been placed that recognizes Black American history. Kilgore Colored School / C. B. Dansby served as the focal point of education for African American children for many, many years and should be duly recognized in our community for its contributions.

IV. Documentation
Ms Ivy Jean Davis Jordan, (2/1940 – 3/1999) C. B. Dansby Cass of 1957, KCH-CBD Reunion Committee Chairperson and founder, author of the 1991 Reunion Souvenir Journal.
John A. Douglas, (11/1904 – 5/1992) Lifelong resident and Kilgore Colored Schools student, 1912-1918, interviewed by Ms Ivy Davis Jordan for the 1991 Reunion Souvenir Journal.
Mrs. Lorene McAfee Taylor, 1/1922 – 3/2012, lifelong resident and Kilgore Colored Schools student and teacher, interviewed by Ivy Davis Jordan for the 1991 Reunion Souvenir Journal.
The Handbook of Texas Online, (www.thsaonline.org)
Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Card File Database, (http://rosenwald.fisk.edu
Historical Markers of Gregg County, http://www.co.gregg.tx.us/departments/HistoricalCommission/Markers.pdf)

Additional information and verification was obtained in oral interviews by Mr. Greg Muckelroy with the following Kilgore Colored

School / C. B. Dansby School graduates and employees:
Mr. Greg Muckelroy, student 1956 – 1967 Kilgore, TX
Mr. Ron Hammonds, graduate 1963, Houston, TX
Mrs. Cleo Morgan, graduate 1945, Kilgore, TX
Mr. Erby Muckelroy, graduate, 1942, Kilgore, TX
Mrs. Clara Bradford, teacher, 1955 – 1972, Kilgore, TX
Mr. Larry Harvey, graduate, 1966, Kilgore, TX
Mrs. Willie Mae Griffith, graduate, 1955, Los Angeles, CA

1934 Gregg County Warranty Deed – Kilgore School District Land purchase
Campus Photos (3)
Photo of Mr. C. B. Dansby