Bobo Senior High School Building, Clarksdale Mississippi

Date added: July 08, 2022 Categories: Mississippi School
Second floor classroom, View to the North (2007)

Completed in 1930, Bobo Senior High School served the Clarksdale community and its surrounding communities from 1930 until its closing in 1999. The land was originally owned by the Bobo family, some of the first settlers in Coahoma County back in the early 1800s. Like many early settlers, the Bobo family understood how important education was to any civilized society, so they donated the land for construction of a school. The Bobo Senior High School stands as a monument to the pioneers who settled Coahoma County.

The Bobo Senior High School Building was erected as a result of efforts to unify and establish a complete and centralized education program in Clarksdale. The first public school in Clarksdale opened in 1884. A two-room school building, later expanded to six rooms, served the community until 1907. In 1905, the school board hired Harvey B. Heidelberg as the first superintendent of public schools. Heidelberg, who was superintendent for fifty years, began a long term effort to improve the quality of public instruction and introduced many innovations to the school system, including initiating a kindergarten program, and instituting policies for the retention of qualified faculty. Clarksdale was the first city in Mississippi to have all of its schools, elementary and secondary, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, beginning with Clarksdale High School, which was accredited on October 22, 1914.

Among Heidelberg's accomplishments was the construction of new school buildings, including an elementary school, junior high school and high school for white children, and a school for black students. Bobo Senior High School is the last surviving building from the era. The first elementary school was built in 1907. In March 1918, the school board retained architect R.H. Hunt to design and build a new high school: the Elizabeth G. Dorr School was completed in 1919. The school, with its large auditorium, indoor swimming pool, and manual training facilities rated one of the most modern and best equipped in Mississippi.

Due to increasing population, the district required a new school by 1928. Initially the plan was to construct a new junior high school. However, the plan soon changed. The Elizabeth Dorr School would be converted to a junior high school, and a new high school would be built. The board unanimously selected Meridian architect P.J. Krouse to design the new building. The school was completed in the summer of 1930, in time for the 1930-1931 school year.

The opening of the new Bobo High School was marked by a gala open house, attended by more than 3000 people. The Clarksdale Press Register described the facilities shortly before the grand opening:

The Bobo School has two large science departments, biology and chemistry, a library, a reading room with three separate rooms for group study, or private counsel with the instructors, one of the best equipped gymnasiums with plenty of seating space, sufficient classrooms, and a little theater that would be a pleasure to any group. The theater is equipped for motion pictures and has a seating capacity of about 250. On the level of the gymnasium, off the boy's locker room is an added advantage to the varsity teams, a room locked off from the big locker rooms where the teams can keep their uniforms and street clothes away from other classes. This room is over the colonnade that is on Cherokee Street and at the far end from the washrooms there is a small room...where the varsity uniforms can be sunned, away from prying eyes. The entire building is utilized to the best use, with no wasted space, by using the top of the colonnade for dressing rooms.

A full page advertisement in the Clarksdale Press Register on September 10, 1930 announced the grand opening of the Bobo Senior High School, describing the school as "the crystallization of the dreams of Superintendent Heidelberg as well as the general public for the final unit of physical equipment that makes Clarksdale City Schools second to none in the South." In a story reporting the school opening, the reporter concluded that "All over the country, this city's school system is recognized as of exceptionally high standard in all phases."

Beginning in 1905, Heidelberg introduced effective and progressive school administration policies to Clarksdale and oversaw a significant expansion of the Clarksdale school system. With the opening of Bobo Senior High School in 1930, the district completed a program for construction of modern buildings employing state of the art pedagogical principles. The old Oakhurst School (1908) and Elizabeth G. Dorr School (1918) are both gone, with only the Bobo Senior High School surviving to reflect the period.