The Charles R. Drew High School Class of 1968, from Winter Garden, held its 50-year reunion June 22 and 23.
Fifty years ago, the country was experiencing turmoil — The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Attorney Gen. Robert F. Kennedy both were assassinated, Americans were still being thrust into the Vietnam War, and two U.S. athletes took a political stand at the Summer Olympics.
It also was the year that the Class of 1968 graduated from Charles R. Drew High School. Their graduation theme was “Bright Flame Burning,” and these graduates were about to show just how brightly they would shine.
Many of these students attended all 12 years of school at Drew High, the school for black children in Winter Garden, Oakland, Tildenville and Windermere from 1957 to 1969. The school was located on East Story Road, where Orange Technical College — Westside Campus operates.
More than 50 classmates received their Drew High diplomas from Principal Harry H. Morall during the graduation ceremony in the school auditorium June 3, 1968. Five honor students addressed their class.
Addie Lofton Grier and her longtime friend and classmate Clara “Sue” McMillian Davis are serving on the committee that has planned the class’ 50-year reunion for Friday and Saturday, June 22 and 23.
Davis wrote in a message to her classmates: “Nestled away in our own little world, in a segregated neighborhood and a segregated school, we moved freely about the business of getting an education. Sheltered and protected by those who loved and believed in us. We had dreams, dreams of going on to college for some, dreams of getting married or getting a job right away and enjoying the freedom of being on our own. All we had ever known, from first grade through 12th grade, was Charles R. Drew.
“We were young, full of energy, eager to be free of our parents and ready to conquer the world. … We left those hallowed grounds, fearless, bold and beaming with pride.”
So, where are they now? Grier and Davis provided updates on some of their classmates.
ADDIE LOFTON GRIER
Addie Lofton Grier was the class vice president and valedictorian. She graduated from Knoxville University, Tennessee and has retired after 38 years with Orange County Public Schools, the last 20 as a guidance counselor at Dr. Phillips High School
Grier works in various ministries at Ninth Street Church of Christ, in Winter Garden, and serves on the board of the East Winter Garden Community Development Corporation. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. She is married to Sugar Ray Grier.
The class salutatorian, Jimmy Turner, is a resident of Winter Garden. He graduated magna cum laude from Florida State University, Tallahassee with a degree in mathematics. He is retired from the United States Department of the Treasury and Defense and is now an OCPS math teacher.
Turner is an enrolled tax return agent and a member of West Orange Male Chorus. He is married to the former Elizabeth Keith and is the father of three children and nine grandchildren.
BEVERLY MASSEY MOUNT
Beverly Massey Mount was an honor student and was named Miss Basketball Queen. She graduated from Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, and earned her master’s degree from Rollins College, Orlando. She retired from OCPS in 2002 after 31 years as a classroom and curriculum resource teacher.
She and her husband, John, have one daughter. Mount is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and attends St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Winter Garden.
CLARA “SUE” McMILLIAN DAVIS
Clara “Sue” McMillian Davis was 1967-68 Miss Charles R. Drew High School. She retired after 40 years with the Harris Corporation as a certified project management professional. The Melbourne resident received an undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, and a Master of Business Administration from Florida Technology University, Melbourne.
She is married to Don Davis, and they have one daughter. Davis is a member of the Brevard County Chapter FAMU National Alumni Association and the Space Coast Project Management Institute. She serves on several boards, is past president of Iota Pi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and currently volunteers as an associate archivist at Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne.
JULIUS ONEAL THOMPSON
Julius Oneal Thompson was an honor student at Drew. He enrolled at Valencia Community College but was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the Vietnam War. Following his tour duty, he completed his Associate in Arts at Valencia and enrolled in the University of Central Florida.
Thompson, now retired, was an Orlando firefighter for 27 years.
ERNESTINE INGRAM LOCKETT
Ernestine Ingram Lockett was an honor student at Drew High. She lived in Boston for 14 years, got married and had three daughters. She relocated to Rochester, New York, and furthered her education. She retired in 2011 after 22 years of service with the Monroe County Department of Health.
W. D. MORRIS
W.D. “Willie” Morris, a former star high school basketball player, is the executive director of the Orange County Housing Finance Authority. From 1986 to 1996, he was director of the Orange County Housing and Community Development Department. Morris has more than 35 years of experience in the fields of executive management, housing finance, housing development, urban planning, economic development, neighborhood revitalization and community development.
He has a Bachelor of Science degree in urban planning and completed course work in urban planning and public administration at Florida State University and the University of Louisville.
The Rev. Henry LeVance Postell II is a native of Oakland. As a high-school student, he worked with Starks Funeral Home, where owner Max Starks Sr. was his mentor and fueled his passion for service in the funeral industry.
After graduation, Postell attended Miami-Dade Community College to pursue a degree in funeral service education. With his degree in hand, he returned to Orange County and opened Eastside Funeral Home, in Leesburg.
He has owned and operated Postell’s Mortuary LLC since 1991 and has been named Mortician of the Year.
He serves on several boards and civic organizations in the Central Florida community. He is the pastor of New Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Orlando. He is a former OCPS educator, where he taught for 14 years.
Postell is the son of Francine Postell. He and his wife, Beverly, have two daughters.
“I remember 1968 with mixed emotions. I was excited about going to college out of state and joining the world's oldest black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. I was a debutante, president of the Charmettes and class valedictorian. All was right with the world.
“In April, when Martin Luther King was assassinated, our world shifted. Riots broke out, cities burned, and I was afraid. The day after graduation, Robert Kennedy was shot, and 24 hours later he was dead.
“I remember still being in bed when I heard the news and covering my head trying, at least temporarily, to shut out the world. But the world kept on turning, and so did we. Out into the world we went, hoping to make a good life for ourselves and find our place in the world.
“Growing up in Winter Garden, we lived a sheltered life. The harsh realities of segregation did not deter us from having dreams and goals. Our teachers taught us and taught us well. Beyond book learning, they educated us about life, how to behave, how dress, how to think for ourselves and how a good education would affect our future. Our parents worked hard to give us the best life they could and to protect us from the ugliness of racism.
Our lives centered around church and school.
We never thought of attending Charles R. Drew as "having to attend a black school." It was our school in our community, and we were proud to be Wildcats. The opportunity to attend Lakeview (High School) came before we graduated, but only two of our classmates chose that option. We were sad, and still are, that we lost our community school.
“Charles R. Drew High School included grades one through 12 so, for most of us, it was the only school we ever attended. … In high school my favorite classes were English and science. One of my English teachers, Miss Betty Baskins … sparked my interest in writing and composition and poetry. Mr. George Saulsby and Mrs. Charlie Jean Salters, both science teachers, helped me develop critical-thinking skills.
“My best memories of Drew High: Friday night football, traveling with the basketball team as a statistician and singing Supremes songs before homeroom with my girls.
“I left school with the goal of becoming a guidance counselor hoping to continue the work of steering children in the right direction. I did eventually become a counselor after spending 15 years in the classroom.
“I'd like to think that my career has been like the man at the seashore throwing washed-up starfish back into the ocean. When someone told him it was useless because he couldn't save them all, he threw one back and said, ‘I saved that one.’”
“1968 was bittersweet. My final year of high school and the senior prom. We all lived through the sad day of the assassination of our beloved (the) Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4. One of the worst days of my young life. Time stood still for a moment. Two months later another heartfelt tragedy on June 6 — the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, another loss beyond belief. It all seemed like a bad dream. We knew moving on was all we could do. Prayers got us all through.
“My life was pretty quiet back then. We did a lot of church in those days. Families looked out for each other. There was plenty of love and guidance in our neighborhoods. It never dawned on us that we were poor.
“I knew we had adults with us every day that cared about us. I also noticed our supplies were limited and our books were recycled. Sometimes we had to share, but we learned to make the best of our unfair situation. We were taught to strive for the best. Failure was not an option.
“The teachers that impacted my life were Mrs. Ernestine Roberts, Ms. Johnnie Mae Anderson, Ms. Melva Gaines, Mrs. E.D. Rose, Mr. William McKinney, Mrs. Juanita Maxey, Ms. Margaret Potter, Mrs. Elizabeth Ann Terry Mack, whom we lost tragically during a medical procedure, and last, but certainly not least, our beloved principal, Mr. Harry Morall.
“We had an outstanding sports program in both basketball and football. The marching band was incredible in the early years. We did a lot of things as families in those days. One person that stands out in my mind is a kindly senior gentleman by the name of Mr. Wilcox, head of the Deacon Board at the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church. He attended all of our sports functions.
“One thing that has stayed with me throughout all these years is exercising my right to vote. That is very important to me. Primary, special elections, national, no matter what; I’m there. I encourage my family, neighbors and friends not to sleep on this right. Forefathers lost a lot of blood, sweat and tears to secure this right.
“Our little town has a rich history. I look forward to annual visits back. My children and grandchildren can’t believe the dirt roads and not-so-great homes once existed here. Orange groves have disappeared. Progress has been made for most who remain here. I am very proud to have been a part of the great and not-so-great South.
“I hope I have made a difference in being able to exist, work and thrive in a sea of all different races with a variation of ethnic backgrounds. Looking back over my life, I hope I have left a mark that matters. God, family and friends have been the center of my universe.
“Winter Garden, Florida, will always be home.”
“It was the best of times for me and my friends, in most part. I guess you might say I/we were somewhat naive; overly protected and shunned as much as possible from the harsh reality of segregation. In the year 1968, despite the turmoil in America and Vietnam war, I was college-bound. Going to college had been instilled in me at an early age.
“In the end, I was told by my mother that I had to go to Florida A&M University.
“(Growing up in Winter Garden during a time of segregation), we knew there were certain boundaries and things we could not do. As a child and young adult, we had to sit at the back of the bus to travel to Orlando. I remember having the colored and white-only water fountain and the colored and white-only entrance to certain places. I remember having to go into the back door of the doctor offices with separate sitting rooms: Dr. Gleason, drs. Godbold and Mitchell; and Dr. Watson was the eye doctor. My mom used to work for Dr. Watson, and she would bring home books to add to our mini library of books in my home. My stepfather was a short-order cook/porter at the old drug store, originally Liggett on Dillard Street. … We could not sit at the counter when we went to the drug store. He could talk to us or provide us with a sandwich from the end of the counter. We could not eat in the store.
“We had our own theater on Klondike Street so we did not attend, rather, we were not allowed to attend, the theater "up town" Winter Garden.
“Having attended a black high school, free from the world of prejudice or injustices of the day, allowed me to concentrate on my studies. It was like attending a private school with your peers and people who looked like you. It was just like a boarding school, except we got to go home each day. Our circle of influences was impactful and memorable. We were surrounded by positive role models; many of them worked 24/7 and for minimal pay to elevate and motivate us toward being the best we could be. We were positive and optimistic.
“Our teacher-to-student ratio was small enough to receive much-needed face time and teacher mentoring. The teachers/principals lived in the community with us, attended the same churches and knew our parents. Our parents were very supportive of our teachers. We were groomed and afforded the opportunity to serve in leadership roles within our classes (and) in extracurricular activities such as Future Homemakers of America, Honor Society, band, sports. Our home economic teachers took interest in teaching us how to be respectable adults, ladylike and gentlemen.
“I was ‘volun-told’ to come to the band room because the band teacher needed a flute player. I was only 11 years old; however, he saw in me and my finger structure a flute player. I will never forget him: Mr. Earnest "Pete" Boyd. I developed a love for all types of music because he planted that seed early on.
“Lela B. Amos Andrews was my first- and third-grade teacher. She left such an impressive and unforgettable impact on me. Those formative years shaped and molded me into what I would become today. There was David Washington, my sixth-grade teacher who made sure we learned and recited by memory such things as The Gettysburg Address; “Invictus,” by William Earnest Henley; and the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.
“An impactful high-school teacher was Ms. Betty Baskins, an English and Literature teacher. She introduced us to the world of literature, the Shakespearean era, Greek mythology and poetry. We attended Rollins College my senior year to see “Henry IV, Part I.” During my senior year, blacks were finally allowed to attend the Beachum Theater in Orlando, and she made it a senior outing for us to see “To Sir with Love.”
My best memories of Drew High were being in the band and traveling to out-of-town football games, playing in the band on Friday night at home during football season and playing in concert band during the off season. I looked forward to playing at graduations.
“Of course, the friendship, this for some, extended from kindergarten. However, the defining moment of my high school was being chosen, by my peers, as Miss Charles R. Drew High School my senior year.
“My love for working with young people was inspired by the support system I had from growing up in the church and, in particular, membership in the Charmettes club. Mrs. Juanita Maxey's nurturing has followed me throughout my life, and I have spent countless hours working with young people in both the church and the community. I was instrumental in my organization adopting the concept in the Brevard County Community.
“As a school advocate, mentor, I was tapped to participate in an Improvement Team through my company, Harris Corporation, to support the local schools. From this team was born the Harris’ HERO program (Harris Employees Reaching Out). Since it was rolled out in 1993, the HERO program has provided tons of supplies, computer equipment and peripheral, furnishings and employee engagement/mentoring to the south Brevard schools.”
TOP PHOTO: Graduates of the Class of 1968: top, Hardy Tillman, left, Willie Collins, Richard Senior, Henry Postell; second row, Stephen McCray, Jimmy Brown, Ernest Holly, Bobby Jones, Henry Foster; third row, Edward Turner, Archie Hooker, Eddie Cal Seaverson, Oneal Thompson, Terry Senior; front, Catherine Ludd, Daisy Mills, Betty Smith, Jacquelyne Bouie, Louise Jordan, Ferndale Brown, Janice Smith and Mary Weatherspoon.
BOTTOM PHOTO: Graduates of the Class of 1968 continued: top, Carey Williams, left, Julius Mosby, Eugene Taylor, Arthur Sweptson, Walter Mitchell, Henry Preston; middle, Robert Lee Wright, left, Teddy Lampkins, Beverly Ann Massey, Bobby Lee Scott, George Wright, Ernestine Ingram, Jimmy Turner; front, Wonnie Mae Riggins, Elouise Smith, Ruth Ester Birdsong, Georgia Rose Jernigan, Addie Helen Lofton, Carrie Ernestine Turner, Mattie Ruth Mills and Sharon Dean Hayes.