By Paige Nash
Alumni from Webster High School traveled far and wide to the Minden Civic Center Saturday, July 9, to share their personal testimonies and to reflect on memories with friends, family and fellow graduates.
Project Reclaim Youth of Minden and the Webster Legacy Project partnered with Janetta Robinson, History Archivist with Webster Parish Libraries, Anne Easley with Easley Photography Studios and Meriwether Wealth and Planning and more than 60 donors to host this event.
“We didn’t sell tickets for this event, we raised money and many of you donated. We only asked that we cover the expenses of having this event. This is the reason why: this history should not be sold; it should be shared,” said Ron Anderson, Director of Project Reclaim. “If we were to sell this history that would mean that only the people who could learn it would be people who could afford it and that would be a disservice to our youth and these young persons who are going to march off into the future to represent us.”
The legacy of the Webster High School was reclaimed, and the history was shared, detailing the numerous hurdles that were overcome by many citizens in the parish in order to provide a better school facility for the children of color within the community.
“That school saved my life,” said Anderson.
The event presented multiple guest speakers, a delicious dinner and surprise unveiling.
Darrell Hampton, Con L. Flournoy and Reverend Terry Combs pulled back the curtain on stage to reveal a grand, 10-foot by 7-foot display titled, “Webster High School: Cradle of Champions.” The display portrayed 12 pictures and descriptions of African Americans, honoring their contributions to the parish and more specifically to the high school.
Among these people were W. Leon Hayes, who served as a beloved Principal at Webster High School. It was under his leadership the school made such progress that it would go on to be recognized as the most progressive school in the entire state of Louisiana. Hayes is also the father of Minden local Yvette Hayes Edwards who graduated from Webster High in 1972. Yvette is married to Minden’s current mayor pro tem, Wayne Edwards.
Alumnus of the class of 1971, Dorothy Rabb Brown Cook, was also one of the 12 recognized on the display. Just last year Cook was inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame in the field of law. She served as the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook, County, Illinois and continued to hold this office an additional four terms, which made her the longest-serving person in that position and the longest-serving African American to serve in a county-wide executive office in the country. Cook was a guest speaker Saturday, sharing her testimony.
“It is so important that we make sure that our young people understand what our forefathers went through to ensure that we have a quality education,” Cook said. “As African Americans we knew struggle and we still know struggle, but we are not deterred by simple obstacles we just simply fight on.”
This grand display will be making its first of many stops at the Webster Parish Libraries Minden location and will be available for public viewing, beginning as early as Monday, July 11. It will then begin its travels to various locations within the parish. Be sure to catch this traveling memorial honoring the Webster High School legacy and support this important piece of history and heritage.