William H. McIntyre Jr., of Georgetown, along with Billy F. Williams and his wife, Charlotte C. Williams, of New Zion, came together Thursday to talk about the beloved Georgetown segregated school they had graduated from more than 60 years before.
They sat in the Ed Davis Learning Center about 50 yards from the spot where their classrooms once stood, recreating memories of the academic success, nurturing and camaraderie they experienced within the walls of the Ed Davis School.
Billy Williams, 78, was the quarterback of the school's football team, the Mud Turtles, during his junior year. He came to Ed Davis in the ninth grade because his school in New Zion stopped at the eighth grade. Ed Davis was the only school in Scott County certified to teach black students through 12th grade.
His wife, Charlotte Williams, 77, rode a bus to Ed Davis from Great Crossing for the same reason. She became the salutatorian of the Class of 1954.
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And McIntyre, 83, a native of Georgetown who graduated in 1950, was the only one who actually remembered seeing professor Ed Davis himself, the former principal of the school, walking through the black community known as Boston, and being greeted with shouts of 'Hello, 'fess Davis!"
All three have been honored as Living Legends of Ed Davis School in previous years at the annual Ed Davis Ball for their dedication and financial support in keeping the memory alive.
The learning center, where they sat, was built to continue the school's tradition of teaching academics as well as moral and spiritual values. And the annual ball is a fundraiser that helps the center's board, along with the Georgetown-Scott County Parks and Recreation department, fund ongoing programs.
"I want to let the kids be reminded of where we came from," Charlotte Williams said, "And how we struggled to come through. It wasn't so easy."
Billy Williams said, "Black people think we have got it made. We don't have it made. We have gone backwards. Blacks have not gained what they think they have gained."
McIntyre remembered a time when he and friends would sneak down to the courthouse at night to drink from the water fountain designated for white people. To his surprise, it was as warm as the colored fountain.
But despite what the outside world was doing, inside that school seemed safe.
"Ed Davis was a good school," McIntyre said. "Any time we needed some new tables and desks, the white schools would get the new tables and desks and we would get the hand-me-downs."
But despite that, "we had good camaraderie and we had a good time at the Ed Davis School," he said. "We had one kid who became a professor at Harvard (University)."
In 1908, Ed Davis was named the school's second principal, and the one who added a four-year high school curriculum in 1924. When he died in 1934, his wife, Betty Webb Davis, was named principal serving until 1943. The school closed because of desegregation in May 1956.
In 1983, a reporter asked one alum about the teachers at the school, and she replied, "They taught everybody. You could have put a rock in the classroom and by the end of the year, they would have had that rock talking."
That nurturing is what the Williamses and McIntyre want to continue.
After several attempts by former students and more than six years of trying by Ed Davis Community Inc., the center's board, government officials were persuaded to build a community center in Ed Davis Park. The 3,600 square-foot learning center opened in January 2003.
Willie Gossey, president of the board, said the center started out with only basic classes and tutoring, but now offers more than 16 classes ranging from black history to basic law, taught by lawyers and judges, to basic electrical wiring and plumbing techniques. About 45 youth participate in the Boys and Girls Club.
"In the last computer class we had, the oldest student was 62," he said.
The center's staff and the board work together to offer programs and classes, charging fees for only about five percent of them. "And those are the adult classes," Gossey said. "The rest are free. Everyone is welcome."
More than 180 black, white and Hispanic kids participate in the summer basketball games and clinics, some coming from outside Scott County, Gossey said.
But all that costs money. Each of the classes takes at least $150 to produce, he said.
"Over the years, budgets have declined," said Robbi Barber, vice president of the board. "The city used to give us money, the county used to give us money. Those monies that used to be there are not there anymore, so we have to find ways to recoup those funds that we have lost."
That is the reason for the 10th Annual Ed Davis Ball. Colmon Elridge III, executive assistant to Gov. Steve Beshear, will be the guest speaker. The evening features dinner, live music, dancing, and acknowledging former students.
"It is a big celebration for us," Barber said.
"The building is gone now," McIntyre said, "but the memories are still there. I loved Ed Davis School."