by Katrina Smith
History was unveiled at the site where Stigall High School once stood. Gwendolyn Thomas and Tracie Claybrook, removed the covering unveiling a marker that honors the school and Tom Stigall, the first African American principal.
Thomas and Claybrook both worked diligently soliciting donations from others to help make this possible.
“These donations came from the children of graduates of Stigall High,” said Thomas. “Many individuals within the community and other business professionals gave donations as well.”
Stigall High School was once called The Humboldt Colored School and was established in 1896. Tom M. Stigall was the first African American principal.
As the size of classes increased, so did the need for more teachers. More rooms were added.
Stigall was dedicated and devoted to education and passed away while sitting in his chair at his desk. This was before the school became an accredited two-year high school in 1916. The school burned on two separate occasions, once in 1928 and again in 1935. It was rebuilt to include a high school. In 1935, the name was changed to Stigall High School to honor T.M. Stigall. Its first class graduated in 1937.
“The history of Stigall High School should live on in the lives of those who graduated from the school,” said coordinator Thomas. “It should be instilled in the lives of the generation who is growing up in Humboldt now.”
Education was an important tool for success and Stigall served as a pillar to educate African American students.
“It is critical that our children know the history of Humboldt’s first African American school. A lot of our parents, grandparents, relatives, spouses and siblings graduated from Stigall High School. They are successful individuals in their own rights.”
There were many successful African Americans from the community who became teachers, lawyers and doctors. Some became business owners as well.
“When people ask me where did I graduate high school from?” said funeral director, Chester Baskerville. “I proudly say Stigall High. We grew up to be successful people.”
Although the building no longer stands, the spirit of pride floated around the monumental marker. Members of TDOT placed the monument on December 2, which has remained covered until last Sunday. Some graduates of Stigall High recanted their memories with each other and smiled as they sang the school’s Alma Mater.
“I feel very proud,” said 1965 graduate Arlene Augusta. “I started at Stigall and am so thankful for the teachers who taught us to reach for the stars.”