Hawthorne Reed, Pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in the Aberfoil community for almost five years, announced to the congregation that the adjacent former Aberfoil School building would not be used as a voting location. County Commissioner John McGowan had contacted him to ask that the building be used for election voting. McGowan said Reed told him that the building was "inhabitable, and would require $200,000 to do the repairs".

This is a concern to us, the Aberfoil Junior High School Community Center committee. Being able to vote in our community would keep voters from having to drive to another location. We met on April 28, 2021, and inspected the building to be sure it is suitable for a voting site. We wanted to publish the information about this situation for the readers of the Herald newspaper.

The stove, several long tables, and many chairs have disappeared from the building. One table and some chairs are there, but more tables and chairs can be carried into the building and portable heaters can be used. Church records, that would include information about the school, kept in a church file cabinet have disappeared. The building is a historical treasure. It was listed on the "Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage" in 2005.

A historical marker was erected in 2020 by the highway by the Aberfoil Junior High School Community Center. In 1890 ten acres were donated by Rev. C.H. Thornton where he organized the church and the first public school for African-American children in the Aberfoil community.

Over the years, the grades taught here increased from grades 1-3 to grade 10 in 1939 when a new building was erected. Students used the building during the day and World War II veterans used it in the evenings. In the 1960s NAACP meetings were held here.

In May 1961 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited the school to encourage the local residents to become active in the Civil Rights movement. The school and the adjacent church were the only locations in Bullock County that he visited. In 1964, Aberfoil Junior High School was closed due to integration From 1964 to 1978, the school building was used as the adult education center that was supported by the federal government through Tuskegee Institute.

From 1978 to 1986, a preschool operated in the building, and a fence was built so the children could play in the yard. The building is one of the few surviving examples of those first rural African-American schools, and only two such buildings have survived in Bullock County, Aberfoil School, and Old Merritt School. The building became the Aberfoil Junior High School Community Center.

In more recent years, family reunions were held here with a rental fee of $60 paid to the church. GED programs were taught here. A few years ago, Pastor Hawthorne Reed announced that he wanted the school building burned. There was much opposition to destroying this historic building. This school was where we got our start in life. It was a home away from home. Union Springs Fire Chief Dwayne Anderson refused to burn it down.

A petition opposing the burning of the building held 322 signatures. Repairs were made with the $73,000 grants from the Black Belt Foundation, the Alabama Historical Commission, and the school alumni.

The congregation hired Hawthorne Reed to be the pastor of the church, not to lead in the administration of our historic school building as a community center.

Sincerely,

Committee for the Aberfoil Junior High School Community Center - Billie Hazzard, Chairwoman (replacing deceased chairman Richard Hatcher), Jessie Borders, Willie Lee McGhee, Evergreen Freeman, Betty Gipson, P.J. Walker, and John D. Williams.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.