Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Clifford Jones & Fletcher White Recall George Washington Carver High School

Each year hundreds of graduating seniors receive high school diplomas in Cecil County. But in June 1964, when nine students at the George Washington Carver in Elkton stepped forward to receive degrees, it was a particularly historic moment for it marked the end of segregated high schools in Cecil County. At the commencement five boys and four girls walked proudly across the stage to receive well-deserved diplomas from Principal Charles Caldwell. The final graduating class was made up of Edward Townley, Genevieve Jones, Bryant Wilson, Carolyn Clark, Robert Henson, Barbara Banks, William Calm, Dorothy Waters and Robert Owens. After all these years students at that school still glowingly recall experiences and some of the people who helped them meet the challenges.

While the old high school is long gone, 66-year-old Clifford Jones’ memories are as indelible as the ink on his diploma. For the class of 1960 graduate, there was the feeling of accomplishment at getting his diploma, but the friendships developed during those times in a tight-knitt school are important too. “We didn’t have a football team, but we competed in track and basketball. Our team was in the regional playoffs and we went to Hyattsville to play there. On the track we were good and we got to compete in Chestertown and other places.” Despite being out of school for almost a half-century, Cliff remembers the teachers who influenced his life and the lessons they instilled in him. “Mrs. Bessicks, my first grade teacher, I can never forget for she was a pillar in the community and her husband taught music. Mrs. Fitzgerald taught English. Our teachers were dedicated and set high standards. All of them lived right here in Elkton and we saw them in church on Sunday and wherever else we want. Mr. Caldwell, the principal, was fantastic but he was strict. If I got in trouble in school, he would spank me and then call my mommy”. Cliff went on to say that when he got home his mother, Margaret Coursey, would be waiting and he’d get another spanking. He also recalled that Mr. Caldwell helped him get his first job at Merrey’s Candy Store at the corner of High Street and North Street.

Fletcher White graduated in 1953 and he brought his yearbook to show us. He too echoes Cliff's observations as we recently walked around the property, while the two men recalled many good times. Fletcher's father built houses too and we had a chance to see some of his work and Fletcher recalled working on the school building.

Though it’s been over 40 years since students filled the classrooms and wandered the halls of the Board of Education’s Booth Street Center (the former high school), many pleasant memories are still alive after the passage of decades for that quick fleeting journey through the halls of George Washington Carver brought many valuable experiences, lessons, and knowledge to young scholars, as well as life-long recollections and friendships. We enjoyed spend a pleasant couple of hours with Cliff and Fletcher as they shared memories from decades ago.

Fletcher & Cliff stand outside the Board of Education maintenance building, recalling that this facility served as the high school until a newer building opened.


  1. My aunt, Harriet Fitzgerald, I believe was a teacher at Carver! She lived at 109 Booth St. and was married to Revie Fitzgerald. In fact, her maiden name was Milburn. Milburn Street was named after her dad I believe.

  2. I am the nephew of Harriet Fitzgerald, a teacher at Carver. My last name is Simpers. At one time (c.1900) my family was one of the largest black families in Elkton.

  3. Thanks for posting the comments. Just about everyone I talked to for the article mentioned Mrs. Fitzgerald.

  4. i know fletcher white he is a friend of my grandmothers and old friend of the family
    im currently doing a project on the school systems in maryalnd and how they changed slowed if any one has any information on george washington high and the first elkton high school class that had african americans graduate please send me information my email is i_get_money333@hotmail.com