USJHS class finally walks the line 45 years later

Published 11:30 pm Friday, July 9, 2010

On Wednesday, more than 45 years after it graduated, the U.S. Jones High School Class of 1965 finally walked the graduation line.

The class was unable to walk the line the year that it graduated because it had walked out of school in protest two months before graduation day to bring awareness to the Civil Rights Movement.

Although class members were not in school for the last two months, it got a tremendous lesson in life as it marched downtown, was beaten, sprayed with water hoses and put in jail numerous times for their actions.

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“It was so emotional, and that was my thing,” said Ella Mae Thomas Jackson, who organized the reunion, the first-ever for the class. “I truly enjoyed it. I think we needed it.

“We just let it out, because it is so hard holding in stuff for 45 years, and we always felt like we missed out. Even though we got our real, official diplomas in the mail, it just felt like we were kids again, and that is so wonderful.

“I truly enjoy seeing my classmates again, and seeing them happy. When you go to school for 12 years, and you are right there (at graduation, and you walk out to better yourself — we truly needed this.”

Demopolis City Council member Mitchell Congress called the graduates by name, one by one, and each came up, received his diploma and returned to his seat.

The reunion was the first for the class, many of whom had not seen each other since 1965. Of the 42 class members, 19 had passed prior to the reunion and five others were unable to attend the reunion.

Living members of the U.S. Jones Class of 1965 included Jackson, Bennie Avery, Eli Birl, Mary Ann Boykins, Dennis Bridges, Jesse Charles Brown, Ephraim Byrd, Eddie C. Cohen, Earnest Hughes, Willie Jackson, Sandra F. Kennard, Sidney King, Clinton Mullen, Abraham Murdock, Audrey Norman, Beatrice M. Phillips, Dave Phillips, Martha Saulsberry, Hannah Williams Scott, John T. Scott, Barbara Walters, Jesse Ware, Willie McCoy Whatley and Fred Williams.

Deceased members of the class are George Biggs, Leroy Burrell, Roosevelt Cade, Sally B. Coats, Patricia Ann Davis, Johnson Hawkins, Sandy Hinton, Eddie Jones, Emma Jones, Joseph Jones, David King, Frank King, Robert Lewis, Robert Moore, Eliza Ann Smith, James Taylor, Beatrice Turner and Barbara Williams.

“We are happy today,” Jackson said. “We are graduates, and that is the important thing.”