Tuesday, February 28, 2012


February 28, 2012
1:30 - 6:00 p.m.
Week 3 Day 3

 Caldwell High School Yearbooks

Previously, research of newspaper clippings revealed that Caldwell High School began in the 1970-1971 school year, in Columbus, Mississippi. The Robert S. Caldwell school had been an all-white junior high school since 1963, and changed to an integrated high school after court ordered desegregation in 1970. At this time there was currently an all-white high school in Columbus, which had been in existence since 1918, called the Stephen D. Lee High School. Articles indicated that Caldwell became the Columbus West Campus high school, with grades 11 and 12 and the Stephen D. Lee became the integrated Columbus East Campus High School, with grades 9 and 10.

A search of Caldwell High School yearbooks in the collection of the Billups-Garth Archives, in the Local History department of the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, told a slightly different story than the newspaper articles.

  "Brothers are we all
—the black and white—
The 1971 Excalibur yearbook began with a poem on page 4, of which the author was not given. A class poet was named on page 150, who was Cheryl Rappe. There was no indication found  verifying who wrote the following, which was on a page with a photograph of two arms reaching to touch in a peak over a church steeple in the background. The words were indicative of the circumstances of desegregation of the public schools in Columbus, Mississippi during this time.

  “Yesterday we said it wouldn’t happen.
Today it’s here.
  Brothers are we all—the black and white—together.
  We strive for the future, our future, a better future.
  Here we are, facing each other, opposing each other, working with each other.
The future…What does it hold?” (1971 Excalibur, p. 4)

The Homecoming festivities showed an all-white homecoming court, which was described as the first homecoming court for the new Caldwell High School, held on October 30. In fact, it was a double homecoming for both Caldwell and Stephen D. Lee High Schools. This year, the two schools combined football players and the “Generals” defeated the Tuscaloosa Black Bears 20 to 7. The 1970 football season had ended with a winning record of 9 and 0 (p. 25).

The examination of the remainder of the 1971 Excalibur Yearbook for the Caldwell High School specified that the mascots of the Caldwell basketball and baseball teams were the "Bobcats". The previous paragraph noted that the combined football team was called the “Generals”, which was the Stephen D. Lee High School mascot.

The 1972 Robert S. Caldwell High School yearbook (Volume II), noted that this was “Caldwell’s first Homecoming”, on October 22, 1971. The 1970 football season was featured in the 1971 Caldwell yearbook and the 1971 football season was in the 1972 yearbook. Although Caldwell’s first “combined” homecoming was in 1970, the next year was also considered a first homecoming, because it was not combined with Lee High School.

Eugene Bailey is on the left
Each consecutive yearbook was looked at for additional clues about Caldwell High School. The 1976 Excalibur featured an outdoor brick sign, with the name of R.S. Caldwell Senior High. Yearbooks continued to feature high school teams for football, basketball, baseball, etc. The 1977 Volume VII of Excalibur was dedicated to Mr. Eugene Bailey (p.3), who was described as a counselor, National Honor Society sponsor, and the Annual and Newspaper Staff photographer. Since the slides that are being accessioned into the Archives, are dated from 1975 – 1981, it is possible that Mr. Bailey could be the photographer responsible for the slides. Another probability is that some of the students on the slides could be from the Honor Society. So far, there has not been a connection made between the people in the slides and those in the yearbooks, but all of the slides have not been processed at this point.

1978 Excalibur yearbook
inside front and back cover
The 1978 Caldwell yearbook indicated that the name Excalibur described the Arthurian Legend, where the sword, Excalibur, was created to serve. The yearbook was created for “preserving memories of this past year”. This text was found inside the front and back covers of the 1978 yearbook. The R.S. Caldwell Gymnasium was also noted as being erected during this same year.

The Caldwell High School newspaper staff had an unusual group photo in the 1979 yearbook. It was a “Bonnie and Clyde” styled two-page photograph, with costumes, an old car, and guns (p. 120). Each yearbook featured some unique themes of photography for the staff of the newspaper, which was known as the      Kaleidoscope.

1979 Caldwell H.S. newspaper staff

There were twenty-one years that Robert S. Caldwell High School existed. The Billups-Garth Archives have all of their yearbooks from 1971 through 1992, with the exception of four years. The missing four years of Caldwell High School yearbooks are 1984, 1985, 1990, and 1991.

The 1992 Caldwell yearbook was the last yearbook of Caldwell High School, in Columbus Mississippi. Some additional notes were: their school colors were red and white, they were referred to as “Big Red” and “Topcats”. All of the other Caldwell High School yearbooks were prominently named Excalibur, but the last one was titled, “The Final Chapter.1992”. Excalibur was featured below that.
Student Journal Reflections

Researching the Archives’ collection of Caldwell High School yearbooks was a continuation in seeking information to complete the “Historical Note” section of the inventory for the Caldwell High School Slides. Previous information from newspaper articles was contradictory and confusing. The yearbooks were an excellent source for more specific and credible information about the history of the school. The next area of research will be the yearbooks for the Stephen D. Lee High School, which should verify the findings from the Caldwell High School yearbooks.

1 comment:

  1. This is fabulous and intriguing work Mona and Donna! Keep up the good work!

    Nicole Clinkscales
    Class of 1992
    Caldwell High School