Central High School, 1919-1944

CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL 1919-1944 was located on the west
side of North Maple Street where the MTEMC (ed. 1986 this was the location of the Middle Tennessee Electric Membership, 2020 current location of Murfreesboro Housing Authority) building now stands.

On February 9, 1917, the city and county jointly bought the old SOULE COLLEGE property from Martha A. Hopkins and Ada Hyde and from SOULE COLLEGE Trustees J. T. Rather , P. A. Lyon, W. A. Ransom, and W. H. Woods. Until the college building could be torn down and a new building erected in its place, the old MOONEY SCHOOL on East Main Street would continue to be used for the high school.

J. C. Mitchell became city superintendent in 1918. City Board members in 1919 were J. H. Crichiow, A. L. Smith, W. E. Hudson, John M. Butler, N. C. Maney, J. H. Clayton, and James D. Richardson. County Board members were W. 0. Baird, W. N. Elrod, A. B. Mitchell, J. P. Gordon, J. L. Barker, Dr. W. J. Engle, W. P. Elrod, and Dr. E. L. Williams.

An announcement sent out in July 1919 for the 1919-1920 term read: “it is our purpose to make this high school one of the leaders among those of its kind throughout the state, and no pains and effort will be spared to reach this worthy end.”

Classes were scheduled to open September 2, 1919 and graduation was to be May 9, 1920 at 11AM. The announcement further read: “The building and equipment for the school were provided by the city of Murfreesboro and turned over to the County High School Board of Education.”

‘The building, modern and commodious throughout is being built of brick with concrete foundations, has two stories and basement and is 155 feet long by 100 feet in width. There are sixteen classrooms. In addition, there are cloakrooms, library, bicycle room, music room, superintendent’s office,
ladies’ rest room, auditorium with a seating capacity of 800, a large gymnasium, shower baths, and wide corridors throughout the building.

Bubbling sanitary drinking fountains are conveniently located on each floor. . . . In the basement are the furnaces . . . and an electrically driven fan which distributes the heat to each room – . . and makes a complete change of air every twenty minutes.”

Those on the first faculty were: Mr. Mitchell; Roy E. Bruner, agriculture; Agnes G. Little, home economics; George N. Duncan, mathematics; Clarence V. Bruner, history; Florence Brinkley , English; Eloise Charlton, Latin and French; Eva Lewis Smith, piano; Leonora Stockard, junior high, English, and
geography.

Later teachers were Baxter Hobgood, Frances Allen Hobgood, Catherine Clark, Ross Romine, Josephine Ralston Binns, Jennie Nimmo Baekler, Mr. Jobe, Kruger Wallen, Ida Byrns Evans, C. L. “Pap” Cummins, James Davis, Buist Smythe, Leoma Smotherman, Sara McCord Jackson, Perry Williamson, Irene Morton, Sara Reeves, and Ethel Womack.

The equipment was regarded as among the best in the state. Chemistry, biology, physics, domestic science, sewing, and manual training were laboratory subjects taught. The library by 1924 contained 2,000 volumes.

In 1924, CENTRAL was one of the five schools in the state’s five hundred schools to be graded A-l by the State Board of Education. In this year the school had a fifteen piece orchestra and won the girls’ basketball championship of the MTAA under the coaching of W. R. Romine.

Students became further involved in two competitive Societies, in The Hi-Lights newspaper, The Craddock school annual, the National Honor Society, and debating teams. It was here, too, that the Apple game with Clarksville became traditional.

The school was destroyed by fire on March 30, 1944. It is said that Superintendent J. C. Mitchell in a decisive tone announced, “There will be no school tomorrow.”

CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL students completed their studies for the year after McFADDEN SCHOOL closed. For the following two years, 1944-1946, the ninth grade attended CRICHLOW, and the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades were housed at MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE COLLEGE.

On October 18, 1946, after TENNESSEE COLLEGE FOR WOMEN had moved to Cumberland University at Lebanon, the Tennessee Baptist Foundation sold to Rutherford County 24.48 acres of land constituting the building and grounds on the north side of East Main Street. The building was used until the students and faculty moved into a new CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL building on the same property in November 1950. Even after that time, some classes used the old TENNESSEE COLLEGE FOR WOMEN building Until it was condemned.

CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL 1950-1972 was located in Central Memorial Park on the north side of East Main Street. The building was just east of the TENNESSEE COLLEGE FOR WOMEN building where classes were held from 1946 to 1950. On October 18, 1946, the Tennessee Baptist Foundation had sold to Rutherford County the 24.48 acres of the college property.

The $700,000 building planned by Hart, Freeland, and Roberts of Nashville for 650 students was a two-story structure of yellow brick and concrete blocks, 334 feet long and 165 feet deep. It was E-shaped with the gymnasium and its two basketball courts in the west wing, the auditorium with 938 seats in the middle wing, and the cafeteria accommodating 650 in the east wing. There were fifteen classrooms, a suite of offices for the principal and assistant principal, a clinic, a library with two workrooms, and a home economics department with kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, crafts room, and sewing room. The building was equipped with an intercommunication system. Vocational classes were still housed in the old college building.

By 1964, there had been built an extension to both the east and west ends of the new building and a separate vocational building to make a total of 85 rooms that would accommodate 1,800 students. The cafeteria had been enlarged, but the gymnasium, the auditorium, and the library remained their original sizes.

Principals were: Baxter Hobgood, 1945-1952; Homer Pittard, 1952-1956; Burns Phillips, 1956-1957; Mr. R. M. Blair, 1957-1963, Louis Bandy, 1963-1967; and John Swafford, 1968-1972. Assistants under John Swafford were Betty Hamilton, James Faulkner, and Collier Woods.

Leoma Smotherman Adkins, with a service of 28 years, 1948-1972, was the teacher of longest tenure. Those who also started in the Maple Street building were Ross Romine, 23 years 1921-1933 and 1952-1963; Sara Reeves, 18 years, 1943-1962; Buist Smythe, 18+; Frances Hobgood, 17, 1943-1961; Ethel Womack, 14, 1943-1958; and Perry Williamson, 10, 1943-1954.

Others who started in the TENNESSEE COLLEGE building were Sara Murray, 25 years, 1947-1972; Lee Pate, 24, 1948-1972; Sarah Young, 22, 1949-1971; Charlotte Smotherman, 17, 1949-1966.

Those only in the new building were Charley Vene Jordan, 22 years; Jere Warner, 20; Nettie Laura Vaught, Helen Jaggers, Louise Wiser, and John Swafford, all with 18; Wordna Black, 17; Betty Hamilton, John Scott, Rebecca Clark, 16; Elizabeth Wikie, 15; Fred Rogers and Lewis Bandy, 14; Myers Parsons, 13; Ray Donnell, Gene Marie Black McFarlin, Opal Jackson, Edna
Windrow, Dorothy Taylor, and Florence Sublett, 12; Thomas Tenpenny, Mrs. Nile McCrary, Oma McNabb, Alice Mitchell, Ethel Herron, Eugene Neal, and Bobby Modrall, 11; Donald O’Brien, Mary Miller, Eloise Womack, arid Mrs. R. M. Blair, 10 years.

In 1964, members of the ninth grade of HOLLOWAY HIGH SCHOOL were voluntarily integrated with the ninth grade of CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL. By
1968, all grades 9-12 had been integrated and the HOLLOWAY HIGH SCHOOL teachers had been assigned to previously all-white schools. HOLLOWAY HIGH SCHOOL became the CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL annex for elective vocational subjects with Collier Woods as its head. Students were bused from one campus to the other.

CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL was outstanding in many areas. In athletics, the boys’ basketball team, the “Tigers,” went to the State Tournament ten times under Lee Pate and were champions in 1965, at which time Dickie Thomas, Jerry Helton, Charlie Jordan, and Bill Weldon made All-State Tournament Team. The football teams won state championships in 1950 under Lee Pate
and in 1970 under Gene Windham.

Among other honors, the band under Betty Hamilton represented Tennessee at the International Lion’s Club Convention in New York City in 1959, at President Kennedy’s Inaugural Parade in 1961, and at the Miami Bowl Parade in Miami. In 1971-72 under Bob Lee, the band was Grand Champion at the MTSU Contest of Champions and was awarded the Governor’s Cup.

The Central Hi-Lights placed Superior and Excellent in state competition and was one year All-American. The Key Club had three Lieutenant Governors and Larry Tolbert won the state oratorical award twice.

Scholastically, in the period between 1961 and 1972 there were 45 Merit Scholar finalists plus 28 who received Certificates of Merit. In 1961 and 1963 alone there were seven finalists each year and in 1965, five finalists and six with Certificates. Among state-wide and national winners, Sherry Maxwell, David Scarlett, and Rhonda McMillion had National Council of English Teacher Awards in 1970. In the Ability Counts Writing Contest sponsored by the President’s Committee, Carolyn Cates in 1962 won first place in the state competition; and Judy Sikes, first in the nation in 1963 and
first in the state in 1964. Eldred H. Wiser in 1960 won second place in an international Science Fair sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

It is impossible to list the many graduates who have become leaders in professional, business, and political fields.

John Bragg, legislator, and Bart Gordon, congressman, have national recognition. Probably the most famous international celebrity CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL will ever have is Rhea Seddon Gibson who, a graduate of the class of 1965, in April 1985 flew as an astronaut on the shuttle The Discovery.

The announcement of 1919 has been fulfilled: “It is our purpose to make this high school one of the leaders among those of its kind throughout the state.”

SOURCES: Deed Book 59, p. 204; Book 98, p. 551. “Plans Under Way for School,” The Daily News Journal, November 7, 1949, p. 1. “Central High School Has Had Several Homes since Formation,” The Daily News Journal, April 6, 1952, p. 26. “Central High School Began with 16 Rooms; Now Has 70,” The Daily News Journal, November 13, 1963, p. 22. “Announcement
Central High School of Rutherford County” 1919-1920 . The Postscript, 1947-1972. *Catherine Clark, * Ross Romine. *Sara Murray. *Collier Woods. *Sarah Young. *Lee Pate. *Charley Vene Jordan. *Baxter Hobgood.

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