The Mobile County Training School history!
When it all begin…
The first school was begun in the summer of 1880 at the Old Baptist Church (known as the praying grounds). That church is now as Union Baptist Church on Bay Bridge Road in Magazine Point. It is the oldest church in the Plateau/ Magazine Community and was started in 1872.
Keep in mind that slaves from the ship Clotilda were members that help start that church. Cudjo Lewis, the last known survival of the Coltilda was responsible for the ringing of the Old Baptist church’s bell. Cudjo died in 1935.
It is said that Professor William (Billy) Gleason was the first teacher. We have not determine how much education that Professor Gleason my have had but we believe he had a strong commitment to learning as all the persons in the Plateau Magazine communities wanted for their children.
In 1898 , Mrs. Lizzie Cook O’Neal became a pioneer for women teachers in Mobile County. Her work was began in a one-room structure on the property of Mr. Fred Green, which was also used as a church. Mrs. O’Neal taught for seven years during which time the school was moved to Booman’s Union Hall on (Center Street in Plateau).
The continual growth of the school necessitated the securing of another building. Permission to use the Yorktown Baptist Church was granted.
By 1906, an eight month school session had been begun with Mrs. Charles Hill and Mrs. Katie Willis as teachers. The following year, Messieurs Nelson L. Adams, L.D. Findley. L.J. Moorer, and Charles Johnson asked the Mobile County School Board for a permanent eight month school session. The request was granted, as a result, Mr. Walter Woodyard became the schools’ principal. Later, a new feature known as “Night School” was added to the school. In 1909, Mrs. Alethia Young became the school’s principal.
Professor I.J. Whitley, a disciple of the great Booker T. Washington, was appointed as principal in 1910. Under his leadership the school grew rapidly. As a result of his dauntless efforts, monetary aid from the State of Alabama was secured. And he was successful in establishing a County Training School in Mobile.
Please note the name of Mobile County Training school when Mr. Whitley arrived in 1910 was called “The Plateau Normal and Industrial Institute for the education of the Head, Heart and Hands of the Colored Youth.”
On March 25, 1915, this growing school was destroyed by fire. Professor Whitley searched to find new quarters for the school. Besides an academic building, he also wanted to secure a cottage that would be used as an industrial building, a canning outfit for classes in domestic science, and as a teacher’s home.
Whitley’s colorful career ended with his death in 1923. Afterwards, Professor Leonard F. Morse became principal. Under his leadership, Mobile County Training School was accredited by the Alabama State Department of Education.
In 1926, a very young and energetic man by the name of Professor Benjamin F. Baker was appointed principal of County. Being endowed with a keen sense of perception and foresight, Professor Baker set about to make County one of the most renowned institutions in Mobile and to create an institution which would service the needs of people in the Plateau Community.
Among the many achievements accomplished was the accreditation of Mobile County Training School by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1934. The school has been successfully complied with accreditation standards throughout the years to the present time. Therefore, Mobile County Training School holds the honor of being one of the first schools in Mobile County to be accredited by SACS. Dr. Baker faithfully served as principal of MCTS for twenty-two years before being assigned to the most recently organized Negro high school in Mobile, Central High School.
Mr. J.T. Gaines, a former teacher and vice principal, became the new principal of MCTS in 1947. He, too, had a determination to see the good spirit of progress and achievement continued under his leadership. During his tenure, the new science building known as the “C” building was opened for use and plans for a new gymnasium were materialized. Mr. Gaines tenured ended at MCTS after the principal of Central High School Dr. Baker became ill and he was called upon to assume the leadership at Central High School.
Finding one to fill the shoes of such outstanding leaders was not an easy task. However, MR. A. B. Williams served as principal of Mobile County Training School from 1953-1957, during which time many favorable things were realized. Thereafter, in September of 1957 Mr. Richard A. Holt became the principal. During his administration, he made his leadership “felt” in the total pulse of “County”. A new Administration building and classrooms were constructed in 1967. Many traditional activities changed and new challenges were faced.
In 1970, Mobile County Training School was changed from being a high school to a middle school. This change was part of a countywide transition that was brought about by a court order handed down to eliminate segregation. Students were compelled to enroll in the school of their district as assigned by the Mobile County School Board’s Central Office. Along with other factors, this restructuring caused a steady drop in the school’s enrollment.
Beginning December 8, 1975, the facilities of MCTS had to be shared with Whitley Elementary School which needed new quarters due to the deterioration of their buildings. The Whitley Campus was integrated into the Mobile County Training School campus and assumed half of the office space, half of the library, joint use of the cafeteria, and the entire Vigor Building. Mr. Richard Holt devotedly served for twenty-three years as principal of MCTS until his retirement in 1980.
With the opening od school in August of 1980, Mobile County Training School was once again blessed with a new principal endowed with the spirit of progress. Mr. Charles Sellers came to MCTS from Scarborough Middle School where he had served as the Vice Principal for six years. During his thirteen years as principal, the entire physical campus was renovated. Also, strategies were developed to address areas of weakness at Mobile County Training School. This was done by the school actively participating in the ‘Effective School Program”; as a result, the ‘Model Middle School Program” was successfully implemented.
Mobile County Training Middle School has undergone many transitions in leadership since then. Other principals at the helm included James Brooks, Spencer Merriweather, Beverly Turner, Lionel Smith, Aaron Guyton, Grace Wyatt, C. Jerome Woods, E. Deonne Johnson Wilson, Dr. Yolanda Clinton, and presently Douglas L. July, Sr. All have contributed immensely to the historical report of County.