January 1969: Segregated schools close, local survives carrier blast

Posted 1/18/19

The "biggest shift of students in county history" occurred on Jan. 16, 1969, as African American students transferred from Layton Davis High School and Terrell S. Boyd High School.The local school …

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January 1969: Segregated schools close, local survives carrier blast

Posted

The "biggest shift of students in county history" occurred on Jan. 16, 1969, as African American students transferred from Layton Davis High School and Terrell S. Boyd High School.

The local school systems were forced to find room for the students at Walker County High School and Dora High School respectively after a federal court determined that the county's "freedom of choice" plan was inadequate.

The number of students relocated included 105 from Davis and between 90 and 100 from T.S. Boyd. 

Thirty-nine black teachers also moved to predominantly white schools, and 31 white teachers whose certificates were not in order were expected to be let go at the end of the school year.

Boyd remained open as 140 students in the seventh and eighth grades at Dora High were transferred there. Davis continued to teach grades one through six.

Dora Elementary was scheduled to close at the end of the semester. All elementary and junior high students would then go to Boyd.

Walker Principal Felix Smallwood told the Daily Mountain Eagle that overcrowding was going to be a problem. A second homeroom would be held in the auditorium, and a storage room had been converted into a classroom.

The school's total enrollment after the shift was over 1,050.

Jasper Superintendent of Education Bob Songer reported that the teacher to student ratio stood at 1 to 190, which meant the loss of accreditation for the rest of the year.

In Parrish, approximately 65 students in grades one through four were transferred from S.J. Hembrick to Parrish Elementary and an additional 30 students were moved to Parrish High School. The shift brought the high school's enrollment to over 400.

In spite of concerns about overcrowding, the Eagle reported that "the final stage of all-out integration" had gone smoothly.

We have no idea how the students felt about any of this because the Eagle only included the viewpoint of school officials.

The big news that week was not the last gasp of segregation, however, but the series of explosions that had occurred on the nuclear carrier USS Enterprise while it was at sea Jan. 14.

The Navy reported that 24 men had been killed, 17 were missing and 85 were injured. 

Roy Alan Lafoy of Cordova was aboard the ship, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Lafoy, had not heard from him when the news was announced in the Jan. 15 edition. The Eagle ran a photo of the charred carrier tied up at Pearl Harbor. 

The ship and crew of 5,400 were preparing for their fourth tour of duty off Vietnam at the time of the incident, which occurred at the onset of a practice bombing mission.

The blasts and blazes ripped three large holes from the flight deck to compartments three levels below.

The Lafoys received welcome news when their son called at 1 a.m. on Jan. 16 and reported, "I'm alright, Mom."

Roy Lafoy reported that he had just gotten off duty and was on the top deck when the explosions occurred. 

"The good Lord took care of me from the most awful thing I have ever seen in my life," Lafoy told his mother.

The airman had lost several of his friends as well as his boss in the tragedy.


Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.