Patricia Philpot Jones, a 1962 graduate of Spingarn High School, is a member of the planning committee for the 25-year reunion of the 259-member class. Jones, who was editor of the school yearbook, L'Esprit, is now staff assistant in the District's Office of Intergovernmental Relations. She and her husband, Fred A. Jones, have two sons and a granddaughter.
The District Weekly welcomes such reminiscences.
Members of the Spingarn High School Class of 1962 will gather this weekend for their 25-year reunion. Classmates are happily reminiscing about Spingarn, where the iron gates leading to the faculty parking lot resembled the fortress that it was.
Once inside Spingarn, at Benning Road and 26th Street NE, students found it very hard to leave before the end of the day. Locked doors and surveillance by teachers, administrators and good old Officer Dixon often prevented the potential hooky player from succeeding.
The greenhouse, still visible from Benning Road, and the then-massive lawn were symbols of the beauty and pride of Spingarn instilled in us by our dedicated administrators, led by the principal, Dr. Purvis J. Williams.
Dr. Williams will be guest speaker at the Silver Reunion buffet dinner tomorrow night at Martin's Crosswinds in Greenbelt. I know he will begin his speech with "Good evening (pause), ladies and gentlemen." That's about the way he began the announcements on the public address system and regular assemblies.
Once he says those five words tomorrow night, the whole place will become silent as it did when we were in school. He commanded our attention and got it. He demanded our respect and returned it in equal measure.
He called everybody mister or miss. A graduate of an earlier class recalls that Dr. Williams would come on the public address system at the end of the day and announce the names of the "bums and bummerettes" who had gotten in trouble that day.
Dr. Williams gave everyone a title.
All of the administrators, teachers and staff were truly interested in our welfare. Miss Annie Duncan, the assistant principal for girls, looked out for us. She was a strict disciplinarian who tolerated no foolishness. Back then, everyone at Spingarn treated us with the utmost respect and we hope to pay special tribute to them at the reunion.
The school was named for Joel Elias Spingarn, who helped found the NAACP and the Harcourt, Brace publishing firm. Before integration and the opening of Spingarn in 1952, black students in Northeast and Southeast had to travel long distances to Cardozo and Dunbar high schools in Northwest.
Although Spingarn was in a lower-middle-class neighborhood adjacent to the now historic Langston Terrace public housing complex, we believe that students who graduated from Spingarn during its first 10 years made achievements comparable to the graduates of Dunbar. Spingarn graduates include the present principal, Ann Thomas (1957), and the assistant principal, John Wood Jr. (1958). Mrs. Thomas has vowed to return Spingarn students to the course that Dr. Williams charted when he was principal.
Among the many other notable Spingarn graduates are Dwight Cropp (1956), D.C. director of intergovernmental relations; Dr. Leona Berry (1956), Howard University pediatric psychiatrist; Deputy D.C. School Superintendent Andrew Jenkins (1955); Patricia Staunton Davis (1962), former White House fellow and former assistant to the U.S. labor secretary; Los Angeles Municipal Judge Sherman Smith (1962), and William Lindsay (1962), who owns Mingles restaurant in the city.
Spingarn has always been widely scouted for its basketball players. The many outstanding veterans of Spingarn's Green Wave include National Basketball Association stars Elgin Baylor , John Tresvant and David Bing, who was in our class. Sherman Douglas (1985) is well on his way to stardom at Syracuse University.
Bing, founder/owner of Bing Steel in Detroit, is one of America's most successful black businessmen.
During my three years at Spingarn, the team won 60 games and lost only three. One of the losses was to Eastern High for the city championship. What a heartbreak.
The reunion will bring back many of these memories. Memories of the high-stepping Green Wave majorettes strutting onto the football field. It was enough to give you goosebumps just watching them. And memories of the Spring Festival sponsored each year by the Home and School Association and the wonderfully gifted students who participated in the talent show.
We will have memories of the eight sets of twins who were in attendance at Spingarn and how confusing it was to tell them apart. We will remember girls wearing Milligan shoes (or 19s because they cost $19) and boys in Big Apple hats harmonizing in the halls. We will cherish the memories of our graduation and how pretty everyone looked -- the girls in white dresses carrying red roses and the boys in white dinner jackets and dark pants.
We never imagined it could bring tears of happiness to our eyes. Though we wanted to wear caps and gowns like the other high school graduates, our protest was to no avail. We also protested about having our prom in the gym instead of at a hotel ballroom, but it didn't matter -- we had it in the gym and loved it.
We learned a lot at Spingarn, particularly about life in general. Dr. Williams wanted us to be prepared always for life's challenges and pitfalls. He never wanted us to be taken advantage of or for us to take advantage of others. We are truly looking forward to seeing everyone again.
The other members of the reunion planning committee are Margo Tibbs Anderson, Reginald Campbell, Isabell Curtis, Nadine Milner Langon, William Lindsay, Joan Burke Rhones and Carolyn Goodson Williams. For further information, call 552-3451.