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History of School

Sphere on Spiral Stairs

In September 1939, East Suffolk High School opened its doors for the first time with an enrollment of 227 students. The principal, Mr. William Lovell Turner, a native of Anniston, Alabama, received his B.A. degree from Howard University in 1929 and M.A. in 1930. He served as head of the department of Sociology, Clafin College, Orangeburg, South Carolina 1931-33, Allen University, Columbia, South Carolina 1933-38. The other positions he held were: Director of Instruction, Nansemond Institute, Suffolk, Virginia, 1928-38 and Teacher in high school the summer of 1939. He appears in "Who's Who in Colored America".

Mr. William Lovell Turner had a teaching staff of three members. Miss Thelma Frances Hamilton of South Boston came to us as a mere girl fresh from Virginia State College, with a B.S. degree in Home Economics. Mr. Earl Sebron of Newport News, Virginia graduated from Talladega College, Talladega, Alabama, with a B.S. degree in Mathematics. He formerly taught at Nansemond Institute, Suffolk, Virginia. Mrs. Helen Cross Mitchell of Suffolk, Virginia graduated from Virginia State College, with a B.S. Degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Social Studies. She had formerly taught at John J. Wright High School in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

Because of the limited staff, Mr. Turner taught US Government at the high school, performed his office duties, and was his own secretary, librarian and supervisor. He had a homeroom class of 19 students. Mr. Sebron taught Chemistry and Mathematics. Ms. Hamilton taught Biology and Home Economics to both girls and boys. She had a homeroom of 59 students. Some of her boys called themselves, "Tough Guys", but somehow, she won their confidence. She organized the first girls' basketball team. Mrs. Mitchell taught English, Civics, General Science, American History and French. She also organized the first chorus with about 29 students. We continued with this load for about two weeks, until Mrs. Catherine Allen of Norfolk, Virginia, a French major of Virginia State College, came to our rescue. She took over the French class, as well as one English class.

Each morning the students lined up on Seventh Street and marched into the spacious hall for devotions. It was spacious because we only had about one fourth as many students as there are today. The students were orderly and quiet, probably because they were older chronologically for the grade level than students are today. We continued with this number for one year. On October 5, 1940, Mrs. Mary Poole Lewis of Norfolk, Virginia, a graduate of Hampton Institute with a B.S. degree in English and Social Studies, and certified in Library Science, took over the library duties, as well as the sophomore, junior and senior English classes.


In 1941, Mr. Sebron was called to service. Mr. Manning Watkins of Suffolk, a graduate of Virginia State College, with a B.S. degree and a M.A. degree in Mathematics, succeeded him. The same year Agriculture was added to the curriculum. Mr. John Devine, a graduate of A&T, with a B.S. degree, joined our ranks to teach Vocational Agriculture.

Miss Nannie Jordan Graham, now Mrs. Nanny Graham Bowley, a music major of Fiske University, was added to the faculty in 1942. She took over the Mathematics class, as Mr. Watkins was called to the service. She also organized the school choir.
The first 4-year class of 43 students graduated in 1943. Mrs. Allen resigned and Mrs. Vivian Peele Deloatch, now Mrs. Cuffee, a graduate of Virginia State College with a B.S. degree in Elementary Education, succeeded her. She taught French, History and General Science. She did further studies at New York University.

Miss Ethel Whack, now Mrs. Joyner, a graduate of Wilberforce University with a B.S. degree in Education, was added to the staff in 1943. She taught Chemistry, Biology and General Science. She will receive her M.A. degree this summer from the University of Michigan.

The late Mrs. Goldie Smith, with a B.S. degree from Virginia State College and a M.A. degree from Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia, was added to the staff as a part-time teacher in 1944. She taught the seventh grade and European History. She also worked with the choir.

In 1945 Miss Leah Ernette Fulcher, a Mathematics major from Hampton Institute, took the place of Miss Graham, who left to further her studies. The same year, Miss Althalia Richards was added to the staff as an English Teacher. She was also part-time secretary. She graduated from Virginia State College with a B.S. degree.

Mr. Devine resigned in March of that year. Again the principal had more work to do, until Mr. Fitz Turner, a graduate of Virginia State College with a B.S. degree in Agriculture, came on July 1, 1945 as head of the Agriculture Department. Mr. Turner completed his studies towards a M.A. degree from Virginia State College, which was conferred in the summer of 1958. His department was the first in the state to enroll girls in the Department of Agriculture.

Miss Fulcher left in 1946 to further her studies and Mr. Austin Alexander Lewis succeeded her as head of the Mathematics Department. He graduated from Hampton Institute with a B.S. degree in Education.

In 1947, Mrs. Evelyn Van Putten, a graduate of Minor Teachers College, Washington, DC with a B.S. degree in Education, joined our ranks as teacher of English.

Miss Lessie Evans Hoggart, now Mrs. Knight, was transferred to the High School the same year. She is a graduate of Virginia State College with a B.S. degree in Education. She also graduated from New York University with a M.A. degree. She taught English, and dealt with Personal Guidance and Social Problems.

In 1948, Miss Bertha Lawrence, now Mrs. Bertha Lawrence Crocker, a Home Economics major from South Carolina State College, came to assist in Home Economics, as the student body was growing. The same year the Home Economics Cottage was added.

In 1949, Mrs. Goldie White became a full-time high school instructor of English and History.

Mr. Benjamin L. Davis joined the staff in 1950. He came with a B.A. degree from Hampton Institute and a Science and Mathematics major.

Mrs. White passed in 1951, and Mr. John Edward Jones of Norfolk, Virginia was her successor. Mr. Jones graduated from Virginia State College with an A.B. degree. He added to the staff in January 1952 as an English teacher. He was also Comptroller for the school.

In 1951, Business was added to the curriculum under a capable young lady by the name of Miss Helen Spencer, a Business major of St. Paul's College, Lawrenceville, Virginia. She was coach of the Girls' Basketball Team. She has a M.A. in Business Education from Virginia State College.

Mrs. Evelyn Horton Jackson, a Music major of Hampton Institute, came in 1951 as head of the Music Department and as English teacher. She did wonders here at Suffolk High School with the music. Her choir won the rating of "Superior" at the District Music Festival. Mr. David L. Watson came in 1952. He graduated from Hampton Institute with a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Science.

The Gymnasium was built in 1953 and Mr. Mack Benn, a graduate of Bluefield, West Virginia, with a B.S. degree in Physical Education, came to the school as instructor of Physical Education. Approximately 10 years before the gymnasium was built, the Home Economics girls and the Agriculture boys had a vision of a gymnasium on the campus. They started a fund called the "Gymnasium Fund". The scoreboard clock which hangs in the gymnasium is the result of their efforts. The same year, Miss Arlethia Brosier of Suffolk, a graduate of Virginia State College, worked with us for one year. Mrs. Sallie Spriggs Foster, a graduate of Virginia State College, came the same year as Mathematics instructor.

In 1954, Mrs. Crocker was on leave and Miss Juanita Cross, now Mrs. Juanita Glover, finished the term as Home Economics teacher.

That year a large delegation was added to the school: Mr. Edgar T. Rawles, B.S. in Agriculture from A & T; Mr. Herbert Briscoe, B.S. from Hampton Institute; Mrs. Winifred Benn, B.S. from Bluefield, West Virginia; Miss Ruth Steward, now Mrs. Ruth Whitfield, with an A.B. from Shaw University and a M.A. from New York University.

Mrs. Crocker returned in 1955. Mrs. Thelma Norfleet, a graduate of Elizabeth City State Teachers College, with a B.S. degree in Education, was added to the staff as English and Social Studies teacher.

Mrs. Thelma Clemons succeeded Mrs. Foster. Mrs. Clemons was a graduate of Hampton Institute, with a B.S. degree in Mathematics.

The following individuals joined us in 1957: Mr. Charles Edward Jones of A & T, Mr. James R. Harris of St. Paul's College, Mrs. Clara Lewis (now Mrs. Harris) of Bennett College, Miss Della Suckins of St. Paul's College, and Mr. Frank J. Valentine of Virginia State College.

In 1958 Mr. Floyd Edward Miller, a graduate of St. Paul's College, came as instructor in Mathematics. Miss Irma Burke, a graduate cum laude with a B.S. degree in Science from, Virginia State College, and Mr. James E. Barge, another graduate from Virginia State College, came on board. Mr. Barge was our first full-time bandmaster. He also taught an English class. Mr. Frank Carballo served along with Mr. Fears as part-time band director.

Miss Helen Glover, one of our own graduates, came in 1954 as secretary to the Principal. She left in 1958 to further her studies. Miss Irene Hinton served for a few months and then Miss Fannie Mae Wright, now Mrs. Mabry, took her place.

Many changes have been made since 1939 and space will not allow us to enumerate all of them. However, we will mention a few of the important ones. A cafeteria has been added, which means that the students are provided with hot lunches every day. The old elementary building is used for high school purposes and a temporary annex, consisting of six classrooms, has been added. Twenty-one one years ago, there were eight classrooms. Today there are twenty-one classrooms. The faculty has increased from four to twenty-nine.

Yes, three of us are still here today (1965) working with some of the students whom we taught just twenty years ago.

H.C. Mitchell
T.F. Hamilton
W.L. Turner

Our Alma Mater was composed and written by


Mrs. Helen Mitchell


Rev. Dr. Thema Taylor Norfleet

East Suffolk High School Alumni Association

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