Remembering Clarke AcademyBy ELISA MAYO,
In 1969 a group of parents and teachers came together to make a unique school in Pachuta, Mississippi. The school was named Clarke Academy and would later go on to educate children for seventeen years. Traveling through Pachuta today, you can still see the gym, which also housed classrooms and office space. The original brick buildings have since been demolished. Though the buildings are gone and the gym was later gutted to make room for a box factory, the memories of this school still live vivid in the minds of those who attended school there.
Collectively, they were the Clarke Academy Tigers and they enjoyed sports, cheer, annual staff, newspaper, beta club, and student council. The 1971 annual proclaimed, “With the spirit, determination, and hard work of over 350 students and teachers, we have succeeded in making Clarke Academy a fine school with high standards.” In the 1972 annual, the Tigers finished second in their division and placed four members on the All-Conference team and one on the All-Star team. In the 1985 annual, the all-conference players are photographed wearing their letterman jackets with CA on the right side. The colors were maroon and white. The CA Tigers had class favorites, hosted a halloween carnival, and held homecoming festivities complete with a parade. Some years books included snippets of life from the student’s perspective with inside jokes and memories only the students could tell. Senior prophecies in the 1985 annual included one from Ricky Graham, “married, no kids, working offshore.” The saying for that same year was, “Alright Hush! Hey Hoss I’ve Been There.”
Advertisers in the yearbooks included Standard Cotten Gin (Quitman), Gus’ Bake Shop (Quitman), T. F. Johnston (Heidelberg), Bank of Quitman (Quitman), Sears Roebuck (Quitman), West Bros. Service Station Grocery (Vossburg), H.T. Allen’s Service Station (Stonewall), J.T. Lewis Grocery and Market (Pachuta), Pittman’s Garage (Pachuta), and Crumbley Drug Store (Enterprise).
Classes at the school included science, English, shorthand, typing, home economics, Bible, p.e., history, math, and driver’s education. The 1981 annual was dedicated to Mae Donald. Mae’s granddaughter and former teacher at CA, Kathy Watkins, remembers Mae’s undeterred determination to keep the school thriving, “Nanny loved the school and it was so important to her. She worked hard, we all did. It was an important place to us. We were a family.” The feeling of family is mentioned again and again from those who attended Clarke Academy. Jan Johnston Beavers recalls the selflessness of the parents, teachers and staff. She says, “We had opportunity to be involved, to learn and to compete. There was a pride in the school and it showed in the student’s work and conduct.” Rita Whitley-Stanley continues the sentiment, “CA was a family. It was personal. I had lots of big brothers and lots of sisters.” Many of the students realize the sacrifice made by their parents to send them to CA. Rosemary Hutcherson Gipson recalls, “We were all one big family and I’m so grateful to my parents for sacrificing and doing without for us to go to school there. The staff really cared about us and our education. Donald Cooley, Kathy Watkins, Helen Strickland, Billy Boy & Donna Dabbs, to name a few and I can’t leave out Mr. Zachery from Stonewall…. such a precious man!”
Lifelong friends were made at CA and Beth Sisson recalls her time there fondly, “There are people that I went to school with who I believe will be friends for the duration of my life. It’s a place that I now reflect on with a smile and greatly appreciate.” Dewayne Buckman acknowledges the small size of the academy had its benefits, “Our small size made us great. It meant athletic opportunities. It meant academic scrutiny. It made us appreciate things we earned and accomplished.”
The 1973 annual staff message ended with, “Keep this book and treasure it for always because it holds a time in your life that can never be relived--only remembered.” The school closed in 1986, but those who attended have kept their memories alive and plan to share them in the first ever school-wide reunion.
On Saturday, April 13th, former students, teachers, and parents will gather for the 50th anniversary founding reunion at Quitman Multi-Purpose Building. Advance tickets are required and can be purchased through PayPal or Venmo, or by check made payable to Jenny Brady % of the CA Reunion, 301 South Archusa Avenue, Quitman, MS 39355. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org. All students who ever attended CA are invited to attend, as well as, faculty, board members, and parents. Attendees do not have to be graduates of CA. Ticket cost is $25, with the event to kick off at 5 p.m. with dinner and live music provided by the Old House Band.