Every community has its center. For many African American communities before integration, their schools became the center of community life. In Diboll, H.G. Temple High School provided an education to the town’s black children, but also became the community’s focal point. Former students and teachers remember the school with fondness and actively work to keep the school’s memory alive.
Although records are scarce, it is clear from anecdotal and photographic evidence, like the American Lumberman photographs from 1903 and 1907, that Diboll had a school for African American children almost from its beginnings. In 1942, teachers and administrators began the process of gaining accreditation for the school as a high school, instead of a standardized elementary. The school needed several pieces of equipment to complete the process, and the African-American community raised $500 towards this goal. Southern Pine Lumber Company, through Henry Gresham Temple, matched the community donations dollar for dollar.
The newly accredited school needed a name, and school officials and community leaders decided to honor their benefactor H.G. Temple. In addition to helping the school financially, Mr. Temple was described as being an “…ethical character, a liberal and cooperative spirit, a giver for and a believer in education,” in a 1947 article in the Buzz Saw by Temple teacher Edna Mae Bradley.
In 1952, Diboll Independent School District broke off from the county school system, and the following year, Diboll built two new schools. One school became the new white junior high and high school, and the other became the new H.G. Temple School. In most segregated towns, when the white students moved into new schools, the black students would move into the old building, not into a new building of their own. Both new buildings were built in a similar style.
During the decade of the 1950’s, the civil rights movement was slowly gaining steam in the United States, and in 1954, the United States Supreme Court, in Brown vs. Board of Education, ruled that laws mandating the “separate but equal” way of life, particularly in education, were unconstitutional. This didn’t automatically desegregate schools anywhere in the U.S., but it moved the process forward.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act, signed on July 2, stepped up the process of integration across the country. By law, schools would have to begin the desegregation process. In 1965, the Diboll School Board unanimously voted to begin desegregation in Diboll that fall by implementing a “Freedom of Choice” plan. Under this plan, all children could attend whichever school they wanted to attend, regardless of race. One black child attended the white school that year.
In 1966, the school board voted to end athletic programs at H.G. Temple High School, and all of the male seniors chose to attend Diboll High School so that they could continue playing sports. Additionally, H.G. Temple teacher Odeysa Wallace transferred to Diboll’s white elementary school, where she taught 5th grade.
The following year, 1967, Diboll’s high schools were fully integrated. Black elementary and junior high students continued to attend classes in the H.G. Temple building for one more year, unless they took advantage of the freedom of choice program. By the start of school in 1968, all of Diboll’s schools were integrated, and the district had fulfilled its requirements under the U.S. Department of Education’s desegregation mandates.
Although the integration process was not perfectly smooth, Diboll did not have many of the problems that characterized desegregation in many parts of the South, especially during the first year of high school integration. Integrating the athletic programs at the beginning of the process probably helped in this regard, since cheering for the high school football team united the town with a common cause. Diboll’s status as a company town also probably contributed to the non-violent success of integration, since most townsfolk, white and black, worked for the same company.
With the final closure of H.G. Temple High School and the building’s conversion into an elementary school that would house students of all races, Diboll’s African-American children had access to the same books, equipment, and teachers as the white children. The African-American community, however, lost some things as well. For instance, the only sport available for girls at the newly integrated high school was volleyball, and H.G. Temple’s award-winning girls basketball players no longer had a team. The black community also lost one of its most important focal points when H.G. Temple closed, although additions such as Walter Allen Park helped keep the community spirit alive, as have school reunions. The H.G. Temple Alumni Association sponsors reunions and helps to keep the memory of the school and its teachers and students from fading into history. The History Center hopes this exhibit will spark memories and serve as a reminder of this important community institution.
Early H.G. Temple Senior Class
Early H. G. Temple High School senior class. Left to right: Isabella Odom, Vera King, C. B. Fulghum, Martha Cosey and Louise Cade. The photo was labeled Class of 1944 in a 1967 H.G Temple publication, "Memories of H.G. Temple High School," but other sources indicate that this was the class of 1945.
Forest Festival Parade
Queen Esther Taylor represented H.G. Temple High School at the Texas Forest Festival parade in Lufkin in October 1947. She rode on a prize winning float decorated in school colors of purple and white.
Charles O'Neal Bradley
Charles O’Neal Bradley came to Diboll in 1940 to serve as principal of the Diboll Colored School. In 1942 with the assistance of the school board and superintendent he was instrumental in the school gaining high school accreditation. The new high school was named for Henry Gresham Temple, general manager of Southern Pine Lumber Company, who assisted the school in obtaining equipment for a homemaking program, one of the last obstacles to achieving accreditation. Professor Bradley also coached baseball, football and both boys and girls basketball. In 1948 The Temple Tigers basketball team had the best record of any colored high school team in East Texas. They won 40 games out of 44 and earned the title of Southeast Texas Conference Champions. Professor Bradley served as principal until 1949, leaving Diboll for Livingston.
1955 Baseball Team
The 1955 H. G. Temple High School Tigers baseball team. Standing, left to right are Raymon Lacy, coach; Jessie Harris; Homer Sippio; Vernon Mark; John W. Jones; Melvin Spencer; George Crain, coach. Kneeling, left to right are Leon Denning; Charlie Adair; Jennis Mathies; Leroy Spencer.
1960 Temple Tigers Football Team
The record setting 1960 Temple Tigers football team poses for a team photo during practice. Front row, from left to right: Vernard Ligon, James Hardy, Ardy Spencer, J.W. Covington, Charles Hardy, Jerry Teal, and Charles Mack. Second Row, from left to right: Raymond Hubbard, Charlie Burks, Robert Davis, Charles Mink, Jack Mark, Roy Davis, Robert King, Joe Deason, and Freddie Overstreet. Third Row, from left to right: Fred Conaway, Jeff Jackson, Don DeBerry, F.E. Goldman, Carl Smith, Bennie Scott, and Jerry DeBerry.
In October of the 1960 season, the team would beat Trinity 58-6, gaining a school record 744 yards while keeping Trinity to only 87 yards for the entire game.
New Farmers of America
Officers of H.G. Temple High School's New Farmers of America pose beside the entrance to their second-year improved forestry plot in Diboll in 1964. Left to right are James Ligon, president; Johnny Jones, vice president; Charles Spencer, secretary; Maurice Jones, acting treasurer; and Godfrey Mark, reporter. A segregated version of Future Farmers of America (FFA), the New Farmers of America (NFA) was a national vocational agriculture education organization for African Americans. NFA and FFA merged in 1965
Temple Tigerettes, January 1965
Here is a photo of the 1965 H.G. Temple High School girls basketball team as it appeared at the top of page 2 in the January 14, 1965 issue of the Diboll Free Press. The occasion marked the team's recent victory over Groveton, 111 to 5. Left to right are Thelma Holmes, Evelyn Calhoun, Betty Jackson, Barbara Gipson, Ocie Grant, Burine Hines, Evelyn Moore, Mary Whitmill, Minnie Jones, and Irma Mitchell. In front are Cora Mae Nash and coach and principal Willie Massey. Minnie Jones, only a freshman, scored 73 points in the Groveton game.
H.G. Temple Faculty, 1965-1966
Faculty of H. G. Temple School for the Class of 1965-1966, the last year of full segregation. From left are Willie Massey, principal; Ruby Simmons, 3rd grade teacher; Earlie Overstreet, science teacher and assistant coach; Louise Maxey, 1st grade teacher; Hughie Allen, 4th grade and music teacher; Archie Seals, 7th and 8th grade teacher and coach; E. A. Gilbert, homemaking teacher; Inez Sibley, 2nd grade teacher; Odeysa Wallace, social science teacher; A. M. Jeffero, agriculture teacher; Lillie Simmons, 5th grade teacher; Jo Ann Barlow, English teacher and secretary.
Class of 1967, H.G. Temple High SChool
The Class of 1967, H. G. Temple High School's last graduating class. Left to right are Joyce Phipps, Cora M. Nash, Burine Hines, Linda S. Ward, Barbara Gipson and Ocie B. Grant. There were no males in this graduating class because they integrated Diboll High School the previous fall through an integrated athletic program. Six African-American males graduated in 1967 from Diboll High School. They were Vertice Hardy, Johnny Jones, Charles Moses, Harold Phipps, Otis Scott Jr., and Zachry Smith. By fall 1967 all high school students in Diboll were integrated.
H.G. Temple School 1953 and 2009
Photographs of the exterior of H.G. Temple School in 1953 and Temple Elementary in February 2009.
The H. G. Temple School Alumni Association posed for this photo when visiting the History Center in 2004. The members viewed historic photos and newspapers in the collections and enjoyed reminiscing.
Dorothy Taylor Rich viewed the photo of her sister, Queen Esther Taylor, while visiting The History Center during the H. G. Temple School reunion in 2004.
Front row left to right: Joseph Harris, Lionel Spencer, Charles Mack, J.W. Covington, Eric Rivers, Richard Gordon, R.B. Williams, Charles Hardy, Clarence Davis, Jerry Teal, Joe M. Deason, Troy L. Spencer. Back row left to right: Coach Ross, Tommy Covington, R.D. Davis, Robert E. King, Roy Davis, Jeff Jackson, F.E. Goldman, Carl Smith, Don DeBerry, Charlie Burks, Solomon Moses, James Hardy, Ben Deason, Herbert Allen.
First row left to right: unidentified, unidentified, Ruthie Taylor, Equilla Hubbard, Pearlie Clark. Second row left to right: Artie King Spencer, unidentified, unidentified, unidentified, Arthur Ray Conway, Doris Covington, Johnnie Mae Cauley, unidentified, unidentified. Third row left to right: unidentified, Bernard Blunt, Little Charles Hamilton, unidentified, unidentified, unidentified, Delois Hardy, unidentified, Fred Conway. Fourth row left to right: unidentified, unidentified, F. E. Goldman, unidentified, unidentified, Viola Jones, Maxine Jackson, unidentified, unidentified, Zerlena Mark.
Students at H. G. Temple School show off their classroom science materials circa 1966. Their exhibit proudly proclaims “Our Next Goal: Man on the Moon” and showcases photos of astronauts John Glenn, Gordon Cooper, and Alan Shepard, President John F. Kennedy, and other teaching materials about space.
Willie H. Massey, fondly known as “The Fess,” was principal of H. G. Temple School from 1953 until all Diboll schools were integrated in 1968. Massey then taught math for one year at Diboll High School and became vice-principal in 1969. He held that position until retirement in 1976. Massey received his A.B. Degree from Texas College in Tyler and then attended Prairie View A&M College for his M.A. Degree. Before coming to Diboll, Massey served as principal for two years at Long Branch High School, in Panola County, eight years as principal at Nigton High School, in Trinity County, and two years as assistant principal at Lufkin’s Dunbar School. Massey served Diboll Independent School District for 23 years. Upon his retirement he received a citation from the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals “for distinguished service to the children and youth of this state for dedication and professional leadership in the field of education for 38 years, 30 years as a principal.”
H. G. Temple Tigerette basketball team proudly displayed their new letter jackets in April 1965. The Tigerettes won Regional honors that year, losing only one game the entire season (1964-1965). Left to right are Irma Mitchell, Mary Ann Whitmill, Evelyn Jewel Moore, Minnie Faye Jones, Ocie B. Grant, Burine Hines, Barbara Gibson, Betty Jackson and Evelyn Calhoun. Minnie Jones, a freshman, averaged 70 points per game during the season.
Temple High School Choir performed “Profiles In Song” on May 6, 1965. The girl choir members performed in their new green and white gowns and the boys in traditional black suits. Choir was directed by H. J. Allen. Front row left to right: Lula Harris, Joyce Calhoun, Barbara Ligon, unidentified, Thelma Scott, unidentified, unidentified, unidentified, Zenova Scott, Vertie Mae Deason, unidentified, Lottie Mae White. Middle row left to right: Alice Faye Fordon, unidentified, Delois Grant, Barbara Gordon, unidentified, unidentified, Willie B. Mark, unidentified, Evelyn J. Moore, Maxine Davis, Minnie Jones. Back row left to right: Cynthia Rodgers, unidentified, unidentified, Maxine Ligon, Annie Pearl Daniels, unidentified, Darlene Phipps, unidentified, Beryl Moses, Patricia Moore.
Students at Diboll’s H. G. Temple School play on playground swings in the late 1940’s.
A welding course was sponsored by Temple High School Vocational Agriculture Department in September 1964. Standing: Charles Jones, B.L. Blount, H.W. Reagon, A. Seals, Henry Ligon and Principal Willie Massey. Kneeling: N. D. Blount, Joel R. Barton, Samuel Harvey, Homer Zelle Wheeler and Vocational Ag Teacher A. M. Jeffero.