Each year, students from the former Jackson High School gather for an annual reunion. They are Grammy winners, administrators, police officers and teachers, united in a spirit of shared history and divergent presents.
Marion Jackson, class of 1961, travels between his homes in San Francisco and Corsicana three or four times a year, but he always makes sure to come during the reunion.
“I was born and raised here,” he said. “It’s a place I still love. All my friends are here.”
Helen Newsome, who calls both Dallas and Corsicana home, agreed that nostalgia is part of her motivation to keep come back.
“I love the camaraderie,” she said. “We were all as one big family in this town. We just loved each other.”
Prior to desegregation, G.W. Jackson High School was the only public school for African Americans in Corsicana. The students recall that the school wasn’t as nice as Corsicana High School, now Drane Intermediate School, and their books were the used texts from the “west side,” but the Jackson teachers never allowed any excuses for failure.
“I think the reason we come back to this is respect for our school,” Marion Jackson said. “Our teachers were dedicated to us learning. They were our mentors, as well.”
Mary Griffin Ponder, class of 1958, never left the area after leaving Jackson in her junior year. She graduated from Kerens and has lived there her whole adult life.
She attended the reunion to see her friends from out of town and catch up on their lives, she said.
“Reminiscing and talking about old times,” she said fondly.
Loreda Quarles Brown, class of 1959, agreed.
“It’s so good to see old friends and the changes,” she said. “To see what others have done, where they’ve been, what kind of successes they’ve had.”
Jenelle Victoria Leonard, class of 1963, was on the committee to organize the 50th reunion for her class. A reunion within the larger reunion, the class of ‘63 students spent months sending out “save the date” cards and trying to get hold of as many classmates as possible for this year’s event. A director with the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., Leonard said her background at Jackson helped prepare her for a lifetime of working in education and the public sector. At the top of her class, her college education was paid for with a Collins Scholarship.
The students at Jackson didn’t have the latest books or up-to-date facilities, but they didn’t know that when they were students, she said.
“Despite not having all the resources we had caring teachers,” she said. “I was prepared. They prepared me to learn and continue to grow in whatever situation.”