In 1917, the state of Alabama gave authorization for the construction and operation of the Randolph County Training School (RCTS). Before 1917, state supported high school education was not available to African American students in Randolph County. With the support of the Black community, the Julius Rosenwald Fund and the state, RCTS opened in 1919 and operated for 51 years until May of 1970. A building was closed, but the RCTS legacy continued. The year 2017 marks RCTS’ 100th anniversary. In 2005, RCTS alumni and supporters created the RCTS Scholarship Fund and began awarding annually scholarships to RCTS descendant students at the county’s four high schools (Handley, Wadley, Woodland, and the Randolph County High School). Fifty-one (51) RCTS scholarships have been awarded since 2005. On May 22, 2017, nine (9) RCTS scholarships were awarded at Handley HS to: Aliyah Dean, Joshua Hatcher, Dre Watkins, Demarcus Joiner, Essence Jones, Alexis Nelson, Shakira Owensby, Jordan Trammell, and Tiara Williams. At RCHS and Wadley HS, Xavier Dozier and Tyrese J. Sheppard, respectively, earned scholarships.
The HHS recipients are pictured here with Mr. Chuck Marcum (Superintendent, Roanoke City Schools) and Mr. Gregory Foster (HHS Principal). Also pictured in the collage are Ms. Countess Chapman (’38), Ms. Antonia Watson Bell, and Gene A. Thornton (’62) presenting the initial RCTS Scholarship in 2005, Rufus Watts (’61) presenting a scholarship contribution, and Rev. Alfred Hills’ RCTS class in front of the original RCTS building in 1940. The 2017 scholarship recipients will be recognized at our July 22nd Reunion Maroon and Gold Banquet.
Remember to register early for the 2017 reunion and support our scholarship initiative, which ensures the continuation of the RCTS legacy. “The RCTS Legacy: 100 Years and Continuing – Sharing the Past to Shape the Future”
Dr. Alvin Thornton recently acknowledged a substantial donation from a friend of RCTS, Dr. C.M. Lee. Over the years Dr. Lee's annual donations have made it possible for the Foundation to award several scholarships to deserving Randolph County high schools graduates. Dr. Thornton's message to Dr. Lee reads:
"Subject: RCTS Scholarship Contribution
Dear Dr. Lee:
Thank you for your recent generous contribution to the RCTS scholarship initiative. It is deeply appreciated. A thank you letter is attached. In 2016, we awarded scholarships to six students at the county's four high schools. Four of the impressive students are pictured in the letter. I am very encouraged by the support that we are receiving for our children in the face of new efforts to undermine equal educational opportunity for them. We appreciate you and your support!
A. Thornton, Chairman RCTS Scholarship Foundation"
Dr. Thornton recently posted on the RCTS Facebook page a call for donations from RCTS Alumni and Friends of RCTS as we get ready to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the chartering of RCTS. Donations in any amount are appreciated and should be sent to: RCTS Scholarship Foundation, P.O. Box 1411, Roanoke, AL 36274. Thanks.
"My father, King George Thornton, drove the school bus that carried Roy Lee Clark and other Rock Mills and Bacon Level children to RCTS. Roy graduated from RCTS in 1957 with my brother Calvin Thornton. Roy is pictured here with his wife, Bonnie, and at a RCTS reunion picnic viewing classic RCTS photos. I thank Bonnie and Roy for their recent generous contribution to the RCTS Scholarship Fund. Their generosity and that of many others enabled us to award 11 RCTS scholarships to Randolph County students. We will recognize the recipients at our July 22nd Maroon and Gold banquet. Only 20 days remain. Remember to register and remind others to do so." "The RCTS Legacy: 100 Years and Continuing - Sharing the Past to Enrich the Future." Alvin Thornton
All RCTS Bulldogs, friends and supporters should have already received information regarding the 2017 reunion recently mailed to addresses on record by the 2017 Reunion Organizing Committee headed by Sidney Johnson. You can download a copy of the letter and associated forms by clicking here. Pass the information on to people you know that might have moved to a new address. See everyone in July 2017.
A U.S. Dept. of Agriculture scholarship program aimed at high school and college students interested in majoring in agriculture-related fields is now accepting applications. Apply NOW!. The deadline on this one was December 31, 2016. See details here. If you missed the deadline, please let high school juniors you know they should be prepared to apply later this year for 2018 USDA scholarships.
On Friday, July 21, 2017, alumni and friends of RCTS will gather in reunion to celebrate and reflect on our school's 100th anniversary. Our school was conceived in 1917, closed in 1970, and has continued through the work of its alumni and supporters. We like to say that we gather in reunion for a purpose, one part of which is the recognition of recipients of our RCTS scholarship recipients. Robert Royston is among the 57 RCTS scholarship recipients; awarded in 2007. He is pictured here with his parents and sister (Marian - also a scholarship recipient). Robert's thank you letter captures the sentiment that we associate with the purpose of our scholarship initiative. We thank him for his acknowledgment of our support and his collegiate and personal success. A copy of his letter is attached. Looking forward to seeing everyone on Friday (July 21st).
Photo: Courtesy of Gene Thornton
The long-anticipated National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)was officially opened by President Barack Obama on September 24, 2016. Pre-opening viewing by select citizens, including major donors and VIPs, toured the museum on September 23rd. Among them was Dr. Alvin Thornton and his grandson, Alex. They report the museum is very impressive and will ensure the history and culture of African Americans will be presented in a manner they richly deserve. He did say the role of Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Rosenwald Schools played in America has not yet been fully presented at the museum. Hopefully, the impact the HBCUs and the Rosenwald Schools had and continue to have on the education of African Americans in America will be thoroughly researched, archived, and presented to the public at the NMAAHC. Read More Info
"Alexander, my grandson, and I enjoyed particularly the National Museum of African American History and Culture's History Galleries, which include sections depicting the ending of slavery and the coming of freedom, the end of segregation, and the changing of America. We are shown here before a collage of the periods. I reminded him that Rosa Parks' husband, Raymond, was a barber in Randolph County, Alabama (Wedowee community) before meeting and marrying Rosa and joining her in the civil rights struggle. I had the honor or working with Ms. Parks on the Martin Luther King. Jr. national holiday legislation when we were on the staff of Congressman John Conyers (D-Mi.)
We are in the last phase (Changing America). Our children will be empowered as they participate in it to the degree that they are aware of what happened during the first two phases. Please consider making a contribution to the RCTS Scholarship Fund to assist us in awarding our 2017 scholarships. Please send your donations to: RCTS Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 1411, Roanoke, Alabama, ZIP 36274. The awards this year will be historic because we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of RCTS. Many thanks for your support." -------- Alvin Thornton, Ph.D.
In May 2016 six RCTS scholarships were awarded to high achieving and deserving graduates of Randolph County high schools. $500.00 scholarships were presented to Jeffery Henderson of Randolph County High School, Wyshakia Vermesia Sirveka Burton, Jabreka Foster, Jasmine Fuller and Ebony Pitts of Handley High School, and Megan Briskey of Wadley High School. Congratulations and best wishes to all of these great students.
We still need you to help us fund scholarships for our young folk. If you have not done so, please consider making a contribution to the scholarship fund in any amount. Mail your contribution to: RCTS Scholarship Foundation, P.O. Box 1411, Roanoke, Alabama 36274. We look forward to seeing the 2016 scholarship recipients at the June 11th RCTS Day event where we will be accepting contributions for RCTS styled T-shirts, DVDs, Caps, and Booklets. Thanks very much for showing Bulldogs take care of their own.
Keri Drake, LaShay Johnson, Raekwon Jones, Kierra Phillips, Ronda Radford, Kieauna Strickland, and Shanna Weaver were awarded $500.00 scholarships in 2015.
March is Women’s History Month; a time to give special attention to the contributions that women have and are making to our families and communities. It is true that the health of families and communities is directly correlated with the health of its girls and women and the extent to which they have equal access to educational, political and economic opportunities. The RCTS legacy includes trail-blazing women (teachers and graduates) that laid the foundation on which the current generation of Randolph County young women stand as they pursue higher education and other opportunities. This is a collage of Principal Thigpin and RCTS women teachers, Coach John Hoggs and the 1959 women’s basketball team, a gathering of RCTS graduates, and three of the 2015 RCTS scholarship recipients.
Dr. Alvin Thornton presents a Life-Time Achievement (LTA) Award to Mrs. Hassie Boozer-Taylor. She taught at Rock Mills Elementary School after graduating from RCTS in 1949.
Other RCTS teachers/administrators receiving LTA awards were Dr. Ben A. Outland, who served as a teacher and principal of RCTS in the 1950s and 1960s, Mrs. Jimmie Nell Staples-Thrift (teacher), Mrs. Mamie Smedley-Higgins (teacher), Mrs. Mable Heard-Holley (teacher), Mrs. Mary Sue Watson-Tatum ('52)/(teacher), Mr. Anderson Gooden (teacher), and Mrs. Clara Jane Ford-Poole ( '59)/teacher)).
Dorothy "Dot" Adams-Oliver accepts an award for outstanding work over the years on behalf of the RCTS Reunion from Gloria Jean Jordan ('70).
Mrs. Countess John Shealey-Chapman accepts a Lifetime Service Award from Dr. Alvin Thornton, 2015 Reunion chairman and chairman of the RCTS Scholarship Foundation board of directors.
Willie Mae Jones and Sidney Johnson accept awards for Outstanding Service to the RCTS Reunion from Dr. Alvin Thornton at the 2015 All-School Reunion's Maroon and Gold Bulldog banquet held in LaGrange, GA. Johnson will chair the 2017 All-School Reunion.
John Frank Houston and members of the Class of 1970 show a banner to be awarded to the class having the highest number of members attending future All-Class RCTS Reunions. Houston donated the money to pay for the banner.
Adamson, a 2008 Handley HS graduate and RCTS Scholarship Foundation Scholarship winner, received a master's degree in Biology in May 2015 with a concentration in Microbiology from Alabama A&M University located in Normal, AL. Congratulations for a job well done.
Our 2015 reunion took place on July 24-26, (Friday through Sunday). The primary location was the Lafayette Garden Inn in LaGrange, Georgia. Over 250 Bulldogs attended the Reunion.
We were able to maintain $80.00 as the individual Reunion registration fee. Saturday night Maroon and Gold Banquet tickets were purchased for $40.00. The full ($80.00) registration fee included all Reunion activities. The major components of the reunion included: (1) Convening Reception; (2) Peoples’ Picnic; (3) Business Meeting, (4) Individual Class Meetings, (5) Maroon & Gold Banquet, (6) Old School and New School Panel Discussion, and (7) Church Service. The official 2015 RCTS Reunion invitation letter and registration form were mailed to all bulldogs who attended the 2011 or 2013 Bulldog Reunion.
Two important developments have occurred since our 2013 RCTS Reunion that point to the significance of the Randolph County Training school. The Alabama Historical Society approved an historic site designation for the site on which RCTS stood for 51 years. With the assistance of the city and county, a Historic Maker was placed on the site. The Society also recently designated the Riley-Esters home as an historic site. These are major developments that will help preserve the history of the African American community in Randolph County and Alabama. James Riley, born in 1861 before the enslavement of Black people ended, was among Randolph County’s earliest and most able educators and his daughter, Louise Riley, was a RCTS librarian. Col. Lavada Esters, a clinical dietitian and 1955 RCTS graduate with a B.S. degree from Tuskegee University, and her family purchased the historic Riley home. With the assistance of Gene, Lonnie and Alvin Thornton, she successfully secured historic designation for the Riley-Esters home. She is in the process of securing a Historic Marker for the home site. Lavada is a member of the “New School” reunion panel, where she will share information about this initiative. The historic Riley-Esters house is among many places and events that remain behind “Silent Walls” waiting to be rediscovered and recognized.
At the 2015 RCTS Reunion, it was announced that the Alabama Historical Commission had designated the Riley-Esters house on Wilkie Clark Drive as an historic site. The Historic Marker for the house was presented in a formal ceremony July28th, beginning at 11:00 a.m. Members of the community were invited to attend. The Historic Marker is a footprint around which community and cultural enrichment can take place in the community. This historic development is the result of the sustained efforts of Col. Lavada Esters (RCTS class of 1955). The home is more than 110 years old and was built by Professor James A. Riley (born in 1860 and enslaved on the Heath Plantation in Randolph County) who was among the first educators in Randolph County, Alabama. He was married to Fannie Riley and they had one daughter, Louise Riley (1912-2011). Ms. Riley graduated from Alabama State University (1940) and the Atlanta University (1949). She was a RCTS and Tuskegee University Librarian. The Riley-Esters House designation will be added to the First Baptist Church (Main Street), the Randolph County Training School and the Lebanon Christian Church historic designations and others in Randolph County.
Dr. Alvin Thornton, Chairman of the RCTS Scholarship Foundation, presented a well-received presentation on the history and legacy of RCTS. He was joined by hundreds of former students, teachers, and other supporters of Rosenwald Schools across the U.S.
He reported the following from the conference site, "I am pictured here with Helen Rosenwald, a cousin of Julius Rosenwad. She was born in Germany and immigrated to the U.S. with the assistance of the Rosenwald Fund. Notice a slide from our RCTS wesite. I used the website to support my presentation. I am also pictured here with women from Alabama who attended Rosenwlad schools."
Dr. Alvin Thornton, RCTSSF Chairman, posted the following on RCTS' Facebook page: "Thanks Debra for informing the RCTS family of Marian's recent graduation from the Queen's University. We are very proud to claim Marian among the initial recipients of the RCTS Scholarship. She has made your family proud and represented the RCTS legacy at a very high level. My schoolmates and I recall her powerful speech at the 2013 RCTS Reunion in which she expressed thanks for the scholarship support. I hope we will be able to match the 8 scholarships that we awarded last year. We look forward to other students who will follow in the tradition of high academic and personal achievement that Marian and other students have established. Thanks to all for your support of our scholarship initiative."
Top-Left photo: Marian and Roanoke City Schools Superintendent Chuck Marcum, graduating with top honors from Handley HS, Roanoke, Top-Right photo: Marian with her proud parents Mayfield and Debra Royston, Lower-Left Photo: Marian at 2009 RCTS Reunion, Lower-Right Photo: Marian at the main gates to The Queens' University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Marian graduated from Auburn University with honors and received the prestigious George G. Mitchell Scholars Award to attend The Queen's University - Belfast. See more info at: Mitchell Scholars Program.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture, located on the Mall in Washington, DC. Photo, Courtesy Gene Thornton
Eight (8) $500.00 scholarships were awarded this year to outstanding students at Randolph County HS, Wadley HS, and Handley HS. The Board of Directors of RCTS Scholarship Foundation extends best wishes to scholarship recipients and to all Randolph County and Roanoke City high school 2014 graduates. Click here to see more information.
In every respect, we had a vey successful 2015 RCTS Reunion. Thanks to all who participated in the business meeting. It is never too early to begin planning for our 2017 Reunion when we will celebrate the 50th year anniversary of the classes of 1966 and 1967. This will be Sidney's second time serving as chairman of the Reunion Organizing Committee.
"Coach" Hoggs has died in Newnan, GA. He taught at RCTS during the late 1950s and coached boys and girls athletic teams. He later taught at schools in West Point, GA and in Troup County GA. He regularly attended RCTS all-school reunions and was very supportive of the school and his former students. He will be missed by all Bulldogs.
"Coach" Hoggs is shown here in front of the historic New Hope Rosenwald School in Fredonia, AL. He and other members of his family, including his brother, Lewis, RCTS' last principal, received their elementary education at the school. He was a deacon at the adjoining New Hope Baptist Church.
The historic New Hope Rosenwald School is being restored to serve as a museum and community center. See the website: www.newhoperosenwald.org for details and see how you can contribute to the restoration efforts.
The 2013 RCTS Reunion was held in LaGrange, Georgia, July 26-28. Alvin Thornton, Ph.D., Class of '67, headed the committee organizing the 2013 RCTS Reunion. Thornton reached out to a core group of volunteers who made sure that all Bulldogs had a great time at the Reunion. As in the past, the event was an opportunity for all RCTS Bulldogs to "Party with a Purpose." For more 2013 Reunion info, Click Here.
The 2013 RCTS Scholarship Foundation awards have been made. Congratulations to Terry O'Bryan Vines and Brittney Brianna Hambrick of Handley High School and Corey Ray Owens McGill of Wadley High School, this year's scholarship winners.
Applications for $500.00 scholarships were accepted until May 4th, 2012. Several graduating seniors from Handley, Wadley and Woodland High Schools submitted excellent essays. Four (4) scholarships were awarded this year.
Congratulations to Anthony Foster of Handley HS, Beaunka Staples and Kanechia Zachery of Wadley HS and Kanisha Mitchell of Woodland HS. They each received a $500 scholarship to attend the college/university of their choice.
To date, thirty (30) $500.00 scholarships have been awarded. Thanks to the generosity of RCTS Bulldogs and other supporters, more scholarships will be awarded in 2015. See the Scholarship Forms tab for information on how to apply.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation presented the National Rosenwald Schools Conference: 100 Years of Pride, Progress, and Preservation at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama. The conference was held June 14-16, 2012. RCTS was among the early schools built with the aid of the Rosenwald School Foundation in 1918. Information on this conference can be found at www.rosenwaldschools.com/
L.C. Thornton ('58) presents a Behind These Silent Walls DVD and Book to Alice Rosenwald, grand-daughter of Julius Rosenwald, at the Rosenwald Schools 100 Years Conference held at Tuskegee University. Rosenwald is director of the Alice Rosenwald Foundation, and like her grand-father is a philanthropist. Alvin Thornton, PhD, Class of 67, was a keynote speaker at the conference.
Sidney Johnson, Chairman of the 2011 RCTS Reunion Committee, addresses the Maroon and Gold Bulldog Banquet attendees at the Callaway Center in LaGrange, GA. Other committee members were: Agnes Watkins, Bobby Baker, Willie Mae Jones, Betty Joiner-Huffman, Gurtie Magby-Hill, Darnell Huffman-Rowell, Larry McFarland, Jeannette Clark-Watkins, and Dorothy Adams-Oliver (not pictured). Johnson said, "We want to thank the R. C. T. S. faculty, alumni and friends for giving us the opportunity to host the 2011 school reunion. We hope that it was a joyous and memorable one. Thanks again."
Several members of the RCTS Class of 1961 attended the 2011 Reunion. Rufus Watts, president of the 1961 class, accepted a prize on behalf of the class for the highest number of Reunion attendees for a class. The food was good and several Bulldogs showed they still know how to move on the dance floor.
A thoughtful "talk to encourage us" was given by Alvin Thornton, Ph.D., Class of 1967. He refreshed the memory of fellow Bulldogs and reminded them to never forget RCTS, its teachers, students, principals, parents, and supporters. A tribute was also made to Bulldogs who passed over since 2009.
Did you take photos at past RCTS Reunions? If so, we'd like to have digital copies of them. Send us the photos on a CD or DVD, preferably in the .jpg (JPEG) format. We will use them to construct a photo gallery. Send the CDs/DVDs to: RCTSSF, PO Box 1411, Roanoke, AL 36274.
2011 RCTS Scholarships were awarded to Four Randolph Co. Alabama High School Seniors
The Board of Directors of the RCTS Foundation awarded $500.00 scholarships to outstanding seniors in May. Vivian N. Story of Randolph County High School, and Simone Chilsom, Jaccobie Rhodes, and Wintika Treadwell, of Handley High School, received $500.00 scholarships. Interest in the scholarships was high this year. Dr. Alvin Thornton and the entire board of directors extend best wishes for continued academic and personal success to this year's scholarship recipients.
The 2009RCTS Reunion Organizing Committee headed by Chairperson, Mary Stitt Berry, put together another memorable Reunion. It was held in Atlanta, GAJuly 31 - August 1.
Other members of the 2009 RCTS Reunion Committee were: Mary Doris (Morgan) Baker, Sidney Johnson, Dorothy (Adams) Oliver, Merecia (Shealey) Joiner, Willie Mae Jones, and Christine Higgins. Special thanks to Earnestine Thornton for her coordination efforts.
Other Bulldogs also helped to make this year's Reunion one to remember.
Mary Stitt Berry and Mary Doris Morgan Baker are shown having fun at the Saturday night Maroon and Gold Bulldog Banquet along with other Bulldogs.