McReynolds High School
South Pittsburg, Tennessee
South Pittsburg Historic Preservation Society, Inc.
The census of 1860 revealed that about one-fifth of the adult white people of the state had never been inside a school house. After the Civil War the conditions were even worse. Many private schools in the state had been forced to close. There had been hardly any schools for four years. As gloomy as the conditions were, the fight for education was kept up. It was recommended that the schools be opened and that the friends of education see that no backward step be taken, that education meetings be held for the purpose of acquainting the people with the actual conditions.
September 6, 1920, the secretary of the county school board of education was authorized to pay A.V. Johnson the sum of $125.00 as rent for one year’s use of his store building at South Pittsburg, Tennessee, where the black elementary and high school was taught. A member of the board and the secretary were requested to procure a suitable house for the Negro school, and if possible to make arrangements with the city to have the county elementary and high school for the black students taught with the city black students under similar conditions to that which prevailed the last year. These facts should give some idea about the conditions that were prevalent concerning the schools of Negros in Marion County prior to 1920.
On May 3, 1919, a committee of black citizens came before the board of education in the interest of the Negro high school. Brown McReynolds stated to the board that the committee had been appointed by a large mass meeting of black citizens of the county. They had decided to recommend that the high school remain in South Pittsburg another year. The committee was composed of W.J. Astrapp (a Negro doctor), Dennis Martin, Arthur Haywood and Brown McReynolds. Astrapp suggested that the Negro high school be named McReynolds High School in honor of Brown McReynolds who, he said, had done more for the establishment of the school than any other man.
The Marion County school board agreed to build a school for Negros. This school was named McReynolds High School and completed in 1921.
S.W. Hogan came before the board of education on May 20, 1922. Hogan in his report to the board on the erection of the Negro school stated that extra work to the amount of $2,756.20 had been done on said building making total cost of construction $25,116.20. This report was accepted by the board and settlement was authorized.
McReynolds High School served the Negros of Marion County until it burned in the summer of 1965. After the fire, students moved to the high schools in South Pittsburg, Jasper and Whitwell. Professor M.M. Burnett served as principal for many years of McReynolds High School.
Additional notes below by Dennis Lambert:
McReynolds High School also served as high school for African-American students from nearby Bridgeport, Alabama where elementary grades had been taught as far back as 1891.
McReynolds High School burned in April 1965, and, according to former student, Ken Jordan, the gymnasium, built in 1949, was converted that summer to a makeshift school with the interior partitioned off into classrooms. This temporary school served black students for one-year with the final graduating class for McReynolds being the class of 1966. Afterwards, Marion County Schools were integrated. Today, the old McReynolds gymnasium stands at the foot of the mountain in front of the old City Cemetery and is a silent reminder to this historic school complex.
Professor Burnett’s McReynolds story was published in “The Story of Marion County; Its People and Places” published in 1990 and was transcribed here by the South Pittsburg Historic Preservation Society, for those interested in the history of McReynolds High School.
This page was last updated: April 20, 2009
Page Built April 18, 2009
South Pittsburg, Tennessee
By: Merzeller Moore Burnett
The Tennessee Legislature in 1867 provided a good school law even though the people were not prepared to make use of it. This was the first law passed in which anything was done about the education of Negros. The school law of 1867 established the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction which had been abolished in 1844. It also established the office of County Superintendent of Schools, the examination of teachers and the creation of schools for Negros.
Grade school classes were also taught at McReynolds. Picured above are grade school students and a teacher at McReynolds High School about 1948.
Courtesy, Tennessee State Archives