Abandoned school in Lockhart Texas

Lockhart Vocational High School - Carver High School, Lockhart Texas
Date added: August 17, 2022 Categories:
Front and east-side facades camera facing southwest (1997)

Lockhart Vocational High (LVH) is the last extant example of two six-teacher type schools constructed in Texas in 1923 with funds from the Julius Rosenwald School Building Program. The Rosenwald Fund was established in 1917 for the advancement of African American education through the erection of modern schoolhouses in the rural South. There were 527 Rosenwald buildings constructed in Texas and over 5000 school buildings constructed throughout the South.

Lockhart Vocational High School is a six-teacher Rosenwald School. According to local lore, LVH was constructed in 1923 from the salvaged materials of Ross Institute, the old school for Lockhart's white children. The total cost of construction was $22,000. The school is one of 32 rare masonry-type Rosenwald schools documented in Texas. The archival records of the Julius Rosenwald Foundation indicate that the contribution of funds break down as follows:

African Americans $2500
Whites $0
District $18,000
Rosenwald $1500

According to a 1922 article in the Post Register, the school was originally to be located on Trinity Street where the homes of several prominent white families still lived during that time. However, when Lockhart's white citizens voiced their objections the location was changed to where it stands today. The construction of LVH provided an alternative to the several doled out buildings that functioned as classrooms within the African American community. Before the construction of LVH, elementary aged children in the 1920s attended the Sunset School located on what was then Alton Court (Sabine St.). Other buildings serving as classrooms for elementary aged children during that time were Mt. Salem Methodist Episcopal Church on Live Oak St. and Trinity Place (Pedernales St.), and the 2-story Masonic lodge that once stood on Sanchez Place (Sycamore St.) (San Born Fire Map, 1922). High School aged children attended classes in the funeral parlor/domino shack that was located on Live Oak St. and San Jose Ave. (Neches St.).

In 1926, Lockhart Vocational met the qualifications of the State Committee on Classification and Affiliation to be designated a Third Class high school. Third Class status meant that the school offered two years of high school work and maintained a term of at least 7 months. LVH was one of 39 Third Class high schools in Texas in 1926. In 1932-33 Caldwell was one of 27 counties offering three years of high school work; and LVH was one of 119 black schools in the state offering 3 years of work. By the 1950s, LVH still had not received First Class accreditation (Students desiring to complete the 12th grade had to attend Luling's Negro High, also a Rosenwald School).

There were five teachers and a principal listed in the 1924 school board minutes for LVH. Those first appointees were: R.A. Atkinson, Principal, MM. Atkinson, Bertha Braden, T.A. Smith, Drucie Aldridge, Carrie Hancock. Principal Atkinson, in addition to his duties as principal, was the agricultural instructor and census taker for Lockhart's African American scholastic population. As principal, he often went before the School Board to make requests for LVH's many needs. At the 28 January 1924 school board meeting he made a request for a flagpole and electric lights for his school. In most instances, actions on requests for money or improvements for the black school were put off "until another time." For example, Principal Atkinson's request for lights was turned over to the Building and Grounds Committee who were authorized to investigate the prices of the requested improvements, and the flagpole was purchased and erected almost thirty years later.

Many requests for financial assistance were denied. At the 30 September 1924 meeting, the Board read a letter from principal Atkinson requesting a janitor for LVH and "other things incidental to his school," but "upon motion of Dr. A.A. Ross, the secretary was instructed to tell Atkinson that his 'Burrheads' would be expected to sweep the building" (Board minutes 30 September 1924). To compensate for not having a janitor, the principal and the students helped keep the school and grounds clean.

The school day began with the ringing of the bell, which was among the salvaged items from Ross Institute, one of the city's early schools for whites. The bell stood on the roof behind the pediment of the front facade. At some point after the closing of the school in 1964, the bell was removed and sold to a Lockhart citizen. It remained in that person's yard for years before it was sold to a local antique dealer who in turn sold it to a Caldwell County citizen (Interview with Ronnie Royal, antique dealer, 1995). The bell now hangs in a church somewhere in Caldwell County. After the children assembled into two lines according to gender, they then entered the school and dispersed to their respective classrooms. The first floor classrooms contained the elementary grades, while the upstairs contained the high school grades. Girls and boys were required to use separate staircases to get to their classes on the second floor.

Even though Third Class status required that a seven-month school term be maintained, most times, the term was shorter. The Lockhart school board set the school term to start in august for white children and in September or as late as October for black. Black students could not begin classes until after cotton-picking season was over. However, it must be noted that prior to World War II, all children in rural areas where cotton was a staple crop typically began school late.

The decade of the 1940s introduced the second most important factor affecting the administration of Lockhart Vocational High School. The Lockhart Independent School District had put LVH on its tax rolls just as the Fund had intended. But the unequal distribution of funds to the black school made it nearly impossible to make improvements. However, the situation was about to change for the better. LVH had already boarded the bandwagon of change when a request was made, in the 10 October 1946 board meeting, to change the name of the school to Carver High School. But it was the passing of the Gilmer-Aikin Laws (1949) that brought about an appreciable change to the status quo. The laws reorganized the public school system in Caldwell County by requiring a nine-month school term for all school-aged children, a minimum training standard for all teachers, the improvement of educational facilities, and the establishment of a formula for minimum teachers' salaries that included shared funding between the state and the local school districts.

The State Board of Education (Texas Education Agency) sent a representative to meet with the Lockhart Board of Trustees in June of 1947 to "explain how State Aid worked." The Board agreed to comply with all State Aid laws in the August meeting. Also, motion prevailed that a survey be conducted of the outlying school districts. The Board understood that times were changing and that resistance would be futile. At the Board meeting on 11 July 1949, it was ordered that the ". . . school buy around eight to ten acres of ground off of the Scheh track of land for [a] colored school . . ." By August, the McMahan, Elm Grove, Tilmon, High Point, Glenvoir, Oak Ridge, Polonia, Harmony Grove, Glendale, Oakland, Lytton Springs, Maxwell, and Dale were already being referred to as "former school districts" in the board minutes. And in January of 1950, the board agreed "to advertise and sell all school buildings owned by the school district except for Tilmon and Brownsboro." School consolidation had begun in earnest and the new "colored" elementary school would have to absorb the influx of black students from the former districts. One by one the common schools were brought into the Lockhart School System. Finally, the Board ordered on January 11 that all "outlaying colored schools" be made a part of the Lockhart School System. The school buildings in the former districts were systematically sold to private individuals and communities throughout Caldwell County.

Black teachers in the Lockhart School System, whose salaries heretofore were averaging 47% of white teachers incomes, benefited from the Equalization Funds provided for in the Gilmer-Aikin Laws. As early as June of 1947, a motion prevailed that "Lockhart Independent School District pay equalization salaries for the term 1947-48." In 1956, the board ordered that those black teachers at Carver be hired at $120 over the Gilmer-Aikin Salary Schedule. Additionally, black as well as white teachers were now required to receive training to meet the minimum standards set forth in the new Laws. This was indicated in the board minutes by placing a check beside each name a statement as to whether that teacher needed to qualify before a contract was signed for a new year.

Lockhart Vocational High's name change is perhaps a reaction to the up surge in African American pride that was sweeping the nation in the 1940s. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) led the cry for resistance at the 1940 convention in which goals of equal suffrage and African American education were outlined. The fruits of resistance were harvested in 1944 when the white primary system was abolished. And again in 1950 in the Sweatt v. Painter decision that called for the integration of the University of Texas' law school. However, the single most important event in African American history since the abolition of slavery would take place in 1954.

The final event in Texas history affecting the administration of Carver High was the demise of the Age of Segregation. By this time, Lockhart ISD had already undergone several attitude-altering events. Black teachers were being paid salaries equal to those of their white colleagues, rural school consolidation was complete, and in 1951 all Lockhart ISD teachers were required to sign non-communist oaths. So when the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education was render in 1954 abolishing dual educational systems, the ISD Board of Trustees in 1955 did what they had to do. The board formed a committee to determine how best to implement the Supreme Court mandate to desegregate schools with "all deliberate speed." However, the answer to how best to implement the mandate was not obtained until ten years later in 1964. The school Board met to deliberate the question. It was the consensus of board members that "It would not be economically feasible to build another school for black students." And like other towns and cities in Texas, the students from Carver integrated in 1964 without incident.