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Easom's final graduating class plans 50th reunion

Mary Helen Ratliff Brock, Daniel Finger, Brenda Finger, Walter Lawhorn, Jimmy Ray Patterson and Donald Lawhorn are getting ready to celebrate their 50th class reunion.

Staff photo by Gabby Boyd

By Gabby Boyd

gboyd@dailycorinthian.com

It was nearly 50 years ago when the last group of students graduated from Easom High School. On Friday a handful of classmates took a trip down memory lane while planning their class reunion.

Daniel Finger stood in the old cafeteria of his high school reminiscing about the spaghetti and fish which was served during lunch time. Finger is one of the 31 seniors to graduate from Easom High School on May 28, 1969.

"I was here 12 years of my life. I started in the first grade and was there until I graduated. It was all I knew," said Finger, who retired from Columbia Gulf.

Easom High School was for African Americans students during the segregated Jim Crowe era. Black students from across Alcorn County and Tishomingo County attended the school. In 1970 integration flooded throughout the county and everyone began attending the same school in whichever district they resided in.

"The interesting thing about our class is the fact we were the last African American class to graduate from Easom. After we left the school was shut down," said Finger, a Corinth native.

Since Finger was graduating in 1969 integration was voluntary, therefore, he and several of his classmates were given the opportunity to attend Corinth High School.

"Some of us went and some of us decided to stay. We were seniors and there was no sense in us jumping up and moving when we only had one year left. I believe it would have also been kind of a culture shock," said Donald Lawhorn, a 1969 Easom graduate.

Finger agreed with him.

"I felt it would have been a disadvantage for me to leave. I was almost done. I was comfortable and had known everyone since I was in elementary school. If you take a kid out of an environment they've known for so long, its going to take them a while to adapt," said Finger, who married his high school sweetheart, Brenda, who is also one of the graduates.

A total of 31 students graduated in the 1969 class. According to some of the students, they had the same opportunity as anyone else, it was just segregated.

"Our teachers were wonderful. They inspired us and persistently told us we had the same potential as anyone else and that we were all the same. Most importantly, they made us get our lesson," said Finger, who is proud to be one of the last people to graduate from Easom.

According to the students they were never left out of any extracurricular activities. Some of them participated in sports such as basketball and football. Some were band members.

"I had so much fun attending Easom. We had so many things to do just like any other school. We marched in every Christmas parade and even other parts of the state. We were an all black band," said Walter Lawhorn, who was a member of the Easom High School Band.

The former students want the children of Corinth to know their history.

"Many of them know nothing about the Easom school system. All they know is Corinth. I don't want to take anything away from today's school system, but I just want them to know the where their grandparents went to school," said Finger, who has remained close to his classmates throughout the years.

Donald Lawhorn said if he could do it all over again he would.

"We are proud of where we came from and this school is part of me. When people look back at school life, the younger generations see Corinth, but we see Easom," said Lawhorn, who retired from Kimberly Clark.

After graduation some of the students went to Northeast and others joined the workforce. 15 of the classmates still live in the area. Seven of the 31 students are deceased.

Most of them are retired, but a few are still working.

According to Donald Lawhorn, Easom was a focal point for the community.

"Even after school kids hung out at the school. They played sports and attended events. There was so much to do," said the 68-year-old, Lawhorn.

After the school shutdown, several years later the school opened its doors again and became South Corinth Elementary School. The school closed once again once a new elementary school was built.

The former school was transformed into the Easom Outreach Foundation. The foundation holds community events and meetings. The building is still a major focal point for the black community in Alcorn County.

The classmates are getting ready to celebrate their 50th reunion on July 5-7. Plans are being finalized for the location.