05/25/08 — Hundreds celebrate Dillard-Goldsboro homecoming

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Hundreds celebrate Dillard-Goldsboro homecoming

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on May 25, 2008 2:01 AM

The original Dillard High School first opened its doors on West Elm Street in 1923 -- a merging of private "colored" schools into one facility.

But not until the 1966 school year did Dillard's faculty become integrated, a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1954 ruling that "separate but equal" schools -- separated by race -- violated the U.S. constitution.

On Saturday, the graduates of Dillard and Goldsboro High schools, plus others from far away places, got together to celebrate memories of the schools and their own legacies as students and citizens.

The Dillard-Goldsboro Alumni & Friends reunion has taken place since 1956.

The long-running gathering, grads say, is emulated by other historically-black high schools near and far.

In fact, graduates of Hubbard High School, an institution of Forsyth, Ga. participate in what could almost be described as a reunion exchange program.

About 35 people from Hubbard attended Saturday's Dillard-Goldsboro alumni event.

In return, Goldsboro and Dillard alumni will also attend a similar reunion in Forsyth, graduates said.

Hubbard graduate John Lyons said reunions like this one are about communication.

"We're connecting with friends, and we've met some new faces," Lyons said. "Faces from New Jersey, New York."

Others took comfort in the company of their spouses, like Annette Fullen, president of her Dillard High School class graduating in 1967.

Although Mrs. Fullen said she had visited with many friends, when it came time to eat she and husband Allen sat at a picnic table under a shelter outside the Poplar Street alumni building.

Goldsboro resident Mrs. Fullen -- maiden name Simmons -- remembered that in the days before everyone had a vehicle, students feet were their means of travel.

"We had to walk everywhere," Mrs. Fullen said. "Our closest friends lived on the west end of town -- when we think about it, it's so silly. We would go visit one of them, and they would walk us half-way home, and we would walk half-way back."

But the gathering at the alumni building was just part of the day's festivities.

Rain tried to dampen the spirit of Saturday's reunion parade, but the smiling faces of participants seemed to show a little foul weather could not deter them.

Despite the raindrops, the reunion parade made its way down Center Street without hesitation.

Classmates asked about the precipitation showed their resolve:

"We aren't going to let the rain get in the way," said Deborah Tuckson.

Added Anjanette Langston Reid, "It doesn't matter," as she stood with classmates in the drizzle, laughing.

Others said their high school experiences toughened them up for such experiences.

"We've got Cougar pride and Tiger pride," said Sandra Butler, the president of the class of 1978.

More than 100 floats, dignitaries, musical groups and marching units made their way downtown, with onlookers exchanging greeting with those in the ride.

The annual four-day event that started with scholarship presentations Thursday night was to culminate today with worship services at several churches, followed by a number of cookouts and picnics. Dances last night were held at several locations, with individual classes holding parties and picnics all day Saturday and again today.

Classmates hailed from states north and south, east and west. The theme was "A Western Roundup."

Almost every high school class holds reunions, sometimes every year, but few schools hold reunions en masse in the manner of this celebration.

The chief goal of the association is to raise money for scholarships for current students.

Over the years, the association has raised more than $500,000 in scholarships to deserving students.

Curtis Meadows earned the title of "king" of this year's event by raising the most money for scholarships, more than $20,000.

Meadows said he feels the need to continue the tradition set by those who went before him. He added that the teachers and administrators at the schools instilled a pride in the students that last a lifetime.

A strong religious faith also strengthens the class ties, he said.

Margaret Davis is a member of the Class of 1948. She said the reason behind the enthusiasm is a closeness the former student share.

"It's the annual fellowship and the fact that we can continue to make a difference in our youth," she said. That's what holds us together."