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Alumni group seeks to acquire C.G. White School

WINDSOR – As it is within any small community, a school is a source of pride.

Such is the case in Powellsville where the doors of C.G. White School have been open since 1938. However, with the consolidation of C.G. White and Southwestern into the new Bertie Middle School, scheduled to open in August, the need for a public secondary education facility in Powellsville is no longer needed.

In an effort to maintain C.G. White School as a beacon for the community, a colorfully-clad group showed-up in great numbers on Monday night at the Bertie Board of Commissioners meeting. Several members of the C.G. White Alumni Association addressed the board during the public comment session, each bringing the same message n that of soliciting the commissioners to turn the facility over to them.

“We are very much interested in acquiring C.G. White School,” J.C. Watford said. “This school has always been a vital part of the Powellsville community and we would like to continue that by offering the citizens a place for recreation and other activities.”

Board Chairman Rick Harrell interjected at this point the historical value of the school, asking for confirmation that it was the oldest African-American high school in Bertie County.

“We understand the historical significance of C.G. White School,” Harrell said. “In regards to your request, we have not yet received word from the (Bertie) board of education about this particular property. Once we receive word we will explore the options.”

Estella Simons, a 1936 graduate of the Powellsville school, echoed Watford’s wish to have the alumni association take over the property.

“Please, please consider giving us a chance to be the owner of C.G. White School,” Simons said. “I love that school, as did Mr. C.G. White himself.”

Charles Grant White founded in 1904 what would later become a school named in his honor. It started with a little house covered in bushes that he cleared away. He then purchased an old church and incorporated that into his growing school. Eventually, the school was taken over and operated by the county of Bertie. At that time it was known as Bertie County Training School.

Along the way he touched the heart, mind and spirit of thousands of students, including Lucille Bazemore.

“We had an educator in Charles G. White,” she said while addressing the commissioners. “He was the maintainer and his spirit lives through the people here tonight. We want to maintain what he started.”

White’s great-granddaughter, Gloria Riddick Mizelle, asked the commissioners to consider the school as a landmark.

“Help us keep this as a landmark for the community,” Mizelle said.

Mabel Taylor, a 1954 C.G. White grad, said plans were in the works by the alumni association to use the school as a resource center and recreational outlet for the community.

“There are so many opportunities for us to use the school for the betterment of the community,” Taylor said.

Bertie Commissioner Norman Cherry Sr. said it wasn’t unusual for alumni groups to request and take over closed schools. He cited C.S. Brown School in Winton and R.L. Vann School in Ahoskie as examples.

Cherry also noted a personal affection for C.G. White School.

“Both my parents attended that school and my first principal’s job with Bertie County Schools was at C.G. White,” Cherry recalled. “I applaud the efforts of this group to take ownership of the school. I would like to see us do what we can to make their dreams come true.”

Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb obtained contact information from Mizelle as well as alumni association president Jean Canada in order to remain in touch concerning future developments with the county’s possible disposal of the C.G. White School property.