Jordan School reunion planned

Published 9:04 pm Friday, March 6, 2009

Alumni and former teachers from the Jordan School are forging ahead with their plans for a reunion, set for the weekend of Sept. 4-6.

The Jordan School served blacks in Suffolk and Nansemond County for 90 years, beginning in 1894. Joseph Fletcher Jordan, a Unitarian Universalist minister, ran the school for about 20 years, and lent his name to the institution. After Jordan died in 1925, his daughter, Annie B. Willis, took over the day-to-day operations of the school. The school served about 300 students at its peak.

After schools integrated in the 20th century and many blacks began attending public schools, the Jordan School became a part of the S.T.O.P. Organization, which is now headed by Lorraine Skeeter, a former teacher at the Jordan School and current chairwoman of the Suffolk School Board.

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A group of the school’s alumni, together with some of Jordan’s descendants, are planning the reunion on Labor Day weekend this year, and trying to find as many alumni, former staff and friends of the school as possible.

“We intend for this to be a celebration not just for those who attended the school, but a salute to Negro education in Suffolk,” said Katrina Watford Gamble, a descendant of Jordan and a 1960 graduate of the school. “We want to get out to people in the community that we are having it.”

On Sept. 4, the reunion will kick off with a reception at the Hilton Garden Inn, where a block of hotel rooms has been reserved for attendees, Gamble said. The following day, a cookout will be held at the former school site, at the corner of Tynes and Johnson streets in downtown. Saturday night, a banquet honoring the legacy of the school will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn.

On Sunday, attendees will worship with the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Norfolk.

“We’re really just so excited about doing this,” Watford said.

A meeting to plan more details about the reunion will be held March 15 at 4 p.m. at Liberty Baptist Church, 116 Romans Road, in Suffolk.

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