BEDFORD COUNTY AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATION

Link to the Shelbyville Times-Gazette
The following information from the Shelbyville Times-Gazette Sesqui-Centennial
Historical Edition (1819-1969) dated October 7, 1969.

HISTORY OF NEGRO EDUCATION
IN BEDFORD COUNTY

The published information below, although official, is incomplete. It fails to mention three important grammar schools instrumental in the early education of the Terry and Hix families. The first of these schools was Saint Mark's School located a bit further down the road from Saint Mark's AME Church, a one room school with a teacher named Gladys Jones. After this school, came the Sulphur Springs School in the Cedar Town area. This was another one room school variously taught by Misses Muller, Coleman and finally Jewel Couch. Finally, there was Flat Creek School with Sam Davis as the teacher in this one room school. Elma Denton also taught in Flat Creek for a time. I suspect that the information below is also sorely deficient for other areas of Bedford County, Tennessee where non-white citizens lived and were educated. Is this any less than is commonly expected?

The following article was compiled and written by Mrs. J.O. Shofner for the Shelbyville Times-Gazette and published March 13, 1951. Mrs. Shofner was attendance teacher in the school system at the time this article appeared. It was originally written in connection with a course on the history of American Education.

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Who remembers "Slip-up?"

This was the name of a one-teacher school located about two miles from Shelbyville on the Fayetteville pike during the early years of Negro education in Bedford County.

In 1889 Prof. R.P. Purdy , in the second of his 55 years of teaching, was principal of the school. He recalls that he was paid for his first month's work with a $20 gold piece, and that Supt. J.H. Allen told him that there were 39 teaching positions in the Negro group at that time. In most of the schools the teaching load was less than 40, bur Warm Corner -- now Pleasant Grove -- did have 60 pupils and one teacher in 1891,

Probably the earliest record of Negro education in Bedford County is found in the first report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Tennessee for the two-year period ending Oct. 7, 1869. This report gives the information that Bedford County under the leadership of Mr. William Houston, Superintendent of Education had enrolled 1330 pupils in 36 schools.

According to a history published by the Goodspeed Publishing Co., the number of Negro pupils enrolled in Bedford County schools in Bedford County in 1885 was 2,901. The number of men teachers employed in that year was 21; the number of women teachers was 16. Of the 31 schools in operation 27 were one-teacher schools; three, Bellbuckle, Wartrace and Mullins Chapel, had two teachers; and the other school, located on N. Brittain St. in Shelbyville employed four teachers.

Institutes lasting from one week to three weeks were held during that period, and teachers were required to attend them. Prof. Tom Talley, who was later at Fisk University, directed an institute in Bedford County in 1887 in the old public school building in Shelbyville. At these institutes classes were held in orthography, reading, arithmetic, writing, grammar, rhetoric, geography, history, geology, and other subjects that were taught in the schools. After a review of the high points in these classes, the directory of the institute or the superintendent of education held examinations to determine whether the teachers were sufficiently grounded in these subjects to be allowed to instruct the young.

Early in the summer of 1891 a state institute was held in Lewisburg Marshall County. Bedford County teachers attended it. Also, they took advantage of the opportunities offered by the Peabody Institute, one of which was held in Maury County at Columbia, with Bedford teachers participating.

From these institutes came the organization of the Bedford County Negro Education association. Although the exact date of the first meeting could not be ascertained, it is known that the late Miss Minnie Dean, one of the pioneer teachers of Bedford Co., was president of the association in 1900.

The organization has continued to be active, The present officers (1951) are Mrs. Elma Pitts, president; Prof. Sidney Harris, vice-president; Mrs. Katie Brame, secretary; Mrs. Margaret Terry, assistant secretary; Mrs. Willie Smith, treasurer; Prof. Richard Brittain, chaplain; and Mrs. Christine Smith, chairman of the planning committee.

An early school that eventually was to be known as Turner College owes its existence to the Tennessee Annual Conference of the A.M.E. Church in session at Pulaski in 1885. At that meeting a resolution to improve a small school located in Shelbyville was adopted, and the Rev. C.S. Bowan was appointed principal. Ten years later during the administration of the Rev. J.H. Turner the school was chartered under the name of "The Turner Normal and Industrial Institute" the name it bore until 1908, when it was called Turner Normal College.

Dr. J.A. Jones was the first presiding officer to the school to be known as the president. During his second term, in 1905, a 20 acre tract of land that had been used as a county fair ground was purchased by the board of trustees. The schools had occupied a rented building in the heart of Shelbyville, but the increase in pupils made it necessary to expand. The first building of the new site was a two-story frame house erected in 1906 at a cost of $3,000. It was not until 1912 that the cornerstone of the four-story brick building of recent years was laid. Three years later it was ready for occupancy. By that time the name of the school had been changed by amendment of its charter to Turner College.

Boarding pupils were accommodated in the dormitories; quarters for some 50 or 60 girls and as many boys were available. Day pupils were accepted also.

An old catalogue of the school sets forth the aim and object of the school to be the preparation of men and women for usefulness in life through moral, intellectual, and industrial training, with special emphasis on character building. This catalogue states that Prof. R.P. Purdy was head of the mathematics and physical science departments. Other subjects offered were mental science, pedagogy, systematic theology, ancient languages, domestic science, music, commercial work, physiology and hygiene, and human anatomy. In addition the school had a superintendent of farm and industries and a resident physician. A regular grammar school was available for younger students.

Prizes for high scholarship were offered by two prominent white men. The H.H. Cowan prize of ten dollars was to be awarded for the highest scholarship average in the high school department. The Richard Sandusky prize for the same amount was to be given for the highest mark in mathematics. The faculty of the school offered a gold medal for excellence in oratory.

Financial difficulties made it necessary to close the school in 1927. The building and grounds were sold to the Musgrave Pencil Co.

The first class to graduate from the Shelbyville Public School received its diplomas on May 16, 1890. Four of the 24 members of the class were married, and several other members were more than 21 years of age. The four-room school building was located on N. Brittain St. The principal was Rev B.A.J. Nixon. His assistants were T.T. Ransom, Mrs. H.B. McChristian, and Miss Maggie Davis.

Prof. John McAdams became principal of the school in 1894 or 1895. For approximately 40 years thereafter he rendered valuable service to his community as an educational leader. During this period a two-year high school was in operation for a few years, but not until 1923 was a four-year school established. It was known as the McAdams school.

The present 12-grande school, Bedford County Training School in Shelbyville, is operated by the cooperation of the City and County Boards of Education. The City Board maintains the elementary department, and the high school department is supported by the County Board. The school is housed in a handsome brick building, with an auditorium, an office, a library, and a well-equipped cafeteria serving hot lunches. The classrooms are attractively arranged with their softly tinted walls and harmonizing drapes. In each classroom there is a drinking fountain of refrigerated water, and a lavatory with a soap dispenser for washing hands. In addition the first three grades have two private rest rooms.

Prof. Sidney Harris, the principal of the school, and his faculty offer a modern curriculum, which includes public school music, commercial work, and home economics. The outstanding feature of the physical education department is the football team; the school won 78 consecutive games.

Including the supervisor, Mrs. Delphia Doddy Smith, there are at present 28 teachers in the city and county systems. In addition, Homer Wheaten directs a class of G. I. farm trainees. Nineteen of these teachers have undergraduate degrees, one has a master of degree, and several others are doing graduate work. Only two of the group have less than three years of college work, but both of these have earned permanent certificates. A. and I. State College as conferred most of these degrees, but credit has been earned at Fisk University, Roger Williams, University of Iowa, Talledegra College, and other important institutions of learning.

Although one teacher has taught for 29 years, and one is teaching for the first time, the average number of years of experience is around 12 years. Many of these teachers have remained in the same position for most or for all of their experience. Teachers are paid according to their training and experience regardless of where they teach. In addition the boards of educations pays a supplement over the minimum state salary schedule.

At present (1951) approximately 670 pupils are enrolled in the twelve schools supported by the city and county systems. Of these schools, seven are one-teacher; four, Bell Buckle, Bellview, Mullins Chapel, and Wartrace have two teachers; and the Bedford County Training School has 12 teachers.

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BCTS GRID RECORD OF 82 GAMES
WITHOUT DEFEAT STILL STANDS

Bedford County's most illustrious sports record is the national high school record of 82 games without a defeat by the Bedford County Training School Tigers, a school and team no longer on the scene, but fondly remembered by many local football fans.

That record still stands today. It started in 1943 and extended into early November 1950 before the first mark was put in the loss column.

In that eight-year period, BCTS won 78 games and tied four. Included within that record winning streak were 31 straight games in which the Fighting Tigers were not scored on and an enviable 54 games won before the first tie game was recorded.

Those were the days of the annual Cedar Bucket clashes with Holloway High School of Murfreesboro, the Tennessee State Marching Band making an annual appearance and going through difficult march routines with the stadium lights out and the growing amazement of fans as the win string just growing.

Actually, it took more than just a football team to end the Tigers unbeaten string. BCTS approached the 1950 season with a team small in numbers, but big in spirit.

Many students left school that year to join the armed forces with the Korean War on.

Still, the Tigers easily won their first five games. Then it happened. On Nov 3, 1950, the Tigers played Fayetteville on a cold, muddy, windswept night ... and lost 6-2.

Outstanding players were numerous. To name a few would slight many. Each BCTS victory was a team victory.

The Tigers were basically a single wing offensive team and played a style of defense that consisted of tackling anyone who seemed as if might have the football.

Edward C. Finley was coach of the team during most of the prolonged win streak. Hes is still active in athletics, serving as coach of a Nashville junior high school and as a member of the Shelbyville Recreation Board.

Ray Whitmon become coach during the latter stages of the winning streak. Whitmon, a star back on some of the teams in the early stages of the record skein and later an All-American at Tennessee State where he served for 16 years as backfield coach, was in August named head coach of Fisk University.

The BCTS Tigers

Bedford County Training School was later renamed Harris School, then Elm Street Junior High School and is now know as Central Junior High School ... but the BCST Tigers live on if only in the record books and hearts of the graduates.

The 82 games record is threatened practically every season, but never reached.

Perhaps the most serious threat cam in 1966 when Jefferson City High School in Missouri won 71 straight games (no ties) before being beaten 27-6 by Hickman High of Columbia, MO.