BTW alumni celebrate reunion

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2011

By Evelyn Wall
Special to the News-Herald

Former Booker T. Washington students from 1937 through 1969 came from far and near on the weekend of July 8-10 to celebrate the school’s 12th bi-annual reunion.

At the dinner-dance, George Richards was recognized as being the oldest student present from the class of 1940.

Included in this celebration was the class of 1961 celebrating its 50th reunion.


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Former teachers attending portions of the reunion were Elizabeth Christian, Leon Patton, Barbara Darden, Paul Bellamy and Maddie Vann.

The dinner-dance was held on July 8 at the Hilton Garden Inn on Constance Road. The theme was “An Evening of Elegance.” This was the main event of the weekend. The class of 1961 was recognized with a toast, class history, reflections and tributes. Julia Bradley conducted a Candlelight Memorial Service for the 24 teachers and students who have died since the last reunion in July 2009. A plaque was presented to Elizabeth Christian in memory of her husband, coach and teacher, Charles O. Christian.

Attendees received gifts from the class of 1961 for the following titles: farthest traveled, Sylvia Sugars (Minnesota); most grandchildren, James Sugars (16); oldest graduates, George Richards (class of 1940) and Mary Goode (class of 1941); longest married, Evelyn Goodman (55 years); perfect attendance in high school, Wilma Chambliss Jones.

Outstanding alumni receiving gifts from the class were Ronald Hart, Maurice Biggs, Clyde Fisher and Melvin Byrd. Earlene Lee Davis was guest soloist.

The 14 students attending from the class of 1961 were Evelyn Edwards Anderson, Linwood O. Beamon, Brenda Whitney Broadnax, McOlzer Brown, Casper Cheeks, Evelyn Byrd Edwards, Essie Garris Edwards, Evangeline Miller Mercer, Faye LaVerne Nicholson, Bettie Barnes Parker, Douglas L. Parker, Vanese Chambliss Swan, Brenda Williams Toyer and Carolyn Jones White. The class presented $500 to the First Baptist Church Mahan Street Scholarship Fund in the memory of their homeroom teachers Lucille Williams and the late Walter Parker, respectively a member and a former member of the church.

The remainder of the events were held at BTW Elementary School on Walnut Street. On July 9, a breakfast and business meeting were held in the cafeteria. Vivian Peele Pruden, daughter of J. Fenton Peele Jr., gave a brief history of his life as principal, and Gail Hinton-Copeland presented a plaque to her from the Booker T. Washington Alumni Association in his memory. A plaque was also presented to Vivian Turner from the association for a job well done as treasurer. Marshe’ Dunnaway and Torey Davis were guest musicians.

During the business meeting, the following officers were elected to serve for the 2011-2013 term: president, Roland Wilson; vice president, Ronald Hart; treasurer, Ted Vincent; financial secretary, Florine Cooper; recording secretary, Evelyn Wall; and assistant secretary, Rita Fleetwood.

During the evening of July 9 in the auditorium, a showcase of talent was presented from members of the association and the Sunset Drummers, Vivian Jack, Ophelia Russell, John Holly, the Hampton Roads Soul Steppers and guest performer Rick Elliot, jazz artist, on the soprano saxophone. Steven Alexander, comedian and radio announcer, did a wonderful job telling jokes, impersonating celebrities and interacting with performers and people in the audience.

On July 10, a morning worship service was held in the auditorium. The Rev. Edward Lee Gardner, an alumnus from BTW from Brooklyn, N.Y., delivered the message titled, “Are You Ready For the Rapture?” His message was taken from 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The Second Chance Gospel Ensemble under the direction of Earlene Davis Lee was the guest group and rendered special gospel selections.

The Alma Mater was sung by members of the association after each event.

The souvenir booklet was printed in the honor of the first three principals at the school: Andrew J. Brown, Edward D. Howe and J. Fenton Peele Jr.

Special appreciation goes to disc jockeys Benford Hunter and Allen Picot for providing music throughout the entire occasion, and Frances Almond Catering Services for catering the breakfast and picnic. Special appreciation also goes to Larry Almond, janitor at BTW Elementary, and his crew for their services throughout the event, the principal Mrs. Temesha Dabney for the use of the school and the Suffolk School Board for its permission to do so.