May 6, 2010 12:04:00 PM
Alumni of the former Stephen D. Lee High School will get one final chance to see the school in full effect next week before it''s decommissioned by the Columbus Municipal School District.
The current Lee Middle School will host a Memory Walk May 14 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. as students play outside during field day. The walk is open to all Lee alums. Concessions and t-shirts will be available.
After serving as a school since 1953, Lee, located at the corner of Military Road and 18th Avenue North, will be closed by the CMSD after the first semester of the 2010-2011 school year as students move on to the new Columbus Middle School.
Bob Williford, current headmaster at Immanuel Center for Christian Education, has seen Lee from almost every possible perspective. He graduated as a student in 1969, returned as a teacher and a coach three years later and eventually worked his way up to principal.
"It was a real special place. We had all kinds of great teachers and coaches. All those people had great influence on my life professionally and personally," said Williford.
He credits English teacher Evelyn Rogers with sparking his interest in education. Physics teacher Mac Egger "just put out outstanding students year in and out."
As an athlete, Williford recalls how Lee, Meridian High and Tupelo High jockeyed for the top spot in the Big Eight conference in football. Lee also finished third in the state in basketball during his senior year.
Williford also saw discipline from every perspective.
"I remember my high school principal J.B. Carr. I got a paddling in his office one day just for horseplay. When the tide turned some 15 years later, I still remember paddling that first person in my office," he said.
Apparently Williford didn''t get up to too much trouble at Lee, as he refused to disclose the best spots to sneak away from class undetected.
"I eventually became principal there, so I never was about cutting class," he said.
Roselynn Rainey, CMSD preschool teacher and a 1991 graduate of Lee High, also refuses to spill the beans. She recalls when one of the temporary buildings behind the school caught fire one year. She wouldn''t say how it happened but remembered the TV news arriving on the scene before the fire department. Nor would she share any other "incriminating" stories.
Williford was Rainey''s principal and driver''s ed teacher, and like Williford, she recalls academics being a priority.
Standout teachers included Ron Locke, the Advanced Placement English teacher, who taught Rainey about work ethic, and marketing teacher Penny Coleman, who got Rainey her first job at Party and Paper as a sophomore.
Academics were a priority at Lee, but they weren''t the only priority. The school''s annual games with crosstown rivals Caldwell High were highly anticipated.
"We didn''t care if we won or lost any other game. Just beat Caldwell," she said.
She recalls how Williford would dress as the mascot General for athletic events.
As a member of the annual staff, Rainey had free run of the school at times. One of her favorite locations was a mural, now covered, which depicted the mascot General playing each sport.
The best part of life at Lee, she says, was the concern from the staff.
"It was like a big family. All the teachers knew you, regardless if you had their class or not," she said.
Thom Geiger commented at 5/6/2010 1:24:00 PM:
Does anybody know what happened to the murals with the photos of each year's graduating class? I've heard some disturbing rumors about why they were taken down at CHS and where they were at one time. The one and only time I've been allowed to enter the main school building the murals were stacked in an open closet. I hope somebody was able to save some of them. Maybe the principal or Del can tell alumni where they are.
Lori Fry commented at 5/7/2010 1:03:00 PM:
I would love to make it back for May 14 but won't be able to. Is there a way to get a t-shirt without being there?
Angela West commented at 5/8/2010 2:01:00 PM:
Thom, I have heard that the pictures are in a vault and the district office which is the onld Brandon Elementary building by K-Mart
what work commented at 5/8/2010 9:09:00 PM:
I wouldnt brag about being accountable for Roselynn Rainey's work ethic. Seems to me its almost nonexistent.
glenda commented at 5/9/2010 7:34:00 PM:
Thom, check with the Public Library. There is a large mural on the wall in the Historical Records that looks like the one that was on the wall in the entry.
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