Alumni from both the Oak Lawn School and Turner High School gathered Saturday morning on the grounds of the former Oak Lawn campus to celebrate the memories and the accomplishments of each student that attended either school.
The reunion, honoring the city’s schools for black students prior to integration, brings both former students and teachers together every two years.
“Today is the Turner Oak Lawn Reunion. All of the people that went to Turner or Oak Lawn are back in town today for this occasion to go back down memory lane and celebrate,” said Waxahachie City Councilman Chuck Beatty. “Oak Lawn was kindergarten through the 12th grade until they built Turner (High School). I remember going to school here at Oak Lawn from first to seventh and then we went over to Turner at that point. When you left from Oak Lawn and went to Turner, there was always a softball game. It was kind of a right of passage.”
Beatty said today’s event provides people with the opportunity to connect with old friends, examine their roots, share memories and create new ones.
Former student Tommy Loyd said the main reason he attends the reunion every two years to see some of the people that he grew up with. Loyd who now lives in El Paso is surprised by how much change has taken place in the city.
“Every time I come home I marvel at how much change is going on. From the time that I actually lived here ‘till now it is a thousand fold,” Loyd said. “Waxahachie has expanded and the eastside is getting much better. It is all that you can hope for. I get lost coming home — I can hardly believe that.”
Former student Raymond Finley said the reunion is something that he looks forward to but it is sad in a way because of how many people have passed away since the last time they were able to get together. One of the things that Finley remembers as a student is how the teachers were very involved in seeing their students be successful in the classroom and in life.
The group gathered at the former Oak Lawn School campus for a short ceremony to kick off the reunion. A state historical marker and a small masonry wall, along with the school’s corner stone, mark the school’s location on Wyatt Street.
Beatty welcomed the group to city on behalf of the city council. The group then honored each school by singing the school songs. The names of fellow graduates who had passed away since the last reunion were read aloud. Once the last name was read a moment of silence was held.
After the ceremony the parade of alumni proceeded down Wyatt Street and wound its way to the Freedman Memorial Plaza on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Opening the ceremony in prayer was Don Edwards. In his prayer, Edwards expressed thanks for the ones who came before who passed down a legacy for future generations. He prayed for continued blessing on the organizers of this event and all that were gathered in attendance.
At the Freedman Memorial an induction ceremony was held to recognize individuals who had made an impact in the community. This year the names added to the memorial included Henry Gray, Ely Green, Josie Hall, Alfred Mims Jr., George Pointer and the Sweatt family.
The memorial not only serves as a fitting acknowledgment of the service and contributions made by the people inscribed on the wall but it also serves an inspiration to future generations.
During the ceremony Beatty explained the different pieces that make up the plaza. The first element was the individual rows that symbolize cotton rows. The broken chains symbolized emancipation and the end of slavery and the black granite that make up the monument came from South Africa.
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