Site of Bartlett Colored School Historical Marker, Bartlett, Texas

Site of Bartlett colored school Marker Text

The farming community of Bartlett was founded in 1882 when the Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroad reached the town, which is situated on the county line between bell and Williamson counties. By 1912, a second railway served the town, and Bartlett became a shipping point for area farm and ranch products.

When the Bartlett public school built a brick schoolhouse in 1909, the school district moved its existing six-room frame classroom building to this site to become the first local school for African American students. When the six-room schoolhouse burned in 1919, Dave Johnson was given the contract to build a new one-story, four-room structure using recycled lumber. Decades later, in 1945, half of a building from the Goodeville school district was moved to the site to serve as a shop and vocational agriculture building.

The Bartlett colored school, unaccredited at that time, only went through the tenth grade; few students from area rural populations could get to the schoolhouse, and fewer still made the trip to temple or Austin to complete their education and graduate. Parents and teachers, united through a parent teacher association formed in 1933, continued improvements and attracted a dedicated couple from prairie view A&M to move to Bartlett in 1946. Gentry "Prof" Powell, sr. (1909-1976), and his wife acted as principals, teachers and coaches. They brought in students from the area with a school bus and driver granted by the school district at the start of the 1946-47 school year. By summer 1947, attendance had doubled to more than 160, and the school became an accredited 12-grade system. With a strong curriculum and new sports programs, the Bartlett school grew, moving in 1949 to the north side of the city, on Cryer drive.(2003)

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GPS Coordinates
Latitude: 30.789009 - Longitude: -97.438163
Degrees, Minutes, Seconds
+30°47'19.50", -97°26'17.52"

Address: 800 block Arnold Dr

Bartlett Colored School Historical Narrative by Carol Powell-Loatman

The farming community of Bartlett, Texas, was founded in 1882 when the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railway Company line reached the town. Located on State Highway 95, its main street runs east and west, dividing the town into two almost equal sections — the southern half being situated in northeastern Williamson County and the northern half in Bell County. By 1912, when a second rail line from Bartlett through western Williamson County to Florence was completed, the community had become a shipping point for cotton, gram, livestock, wool, and other produce from farms in a large area surrounding it. [1]

After the Bartlett Public School, built its first brick school in 1909, the earlier 6-room frame structure was moved to a small lot in the Williamson County section of town. Located on the north side of the present Arnold Drive between Salt Lake and Cottrell streets, it became Bartlett's first school for African Americans. That building was destroyed by fire on January 6, 1919, and a contract was awarded to Dave Johnson to replace it. Using recycled lumber from the army camps at Waco, work began in July on a new one-story structure consisting of four rooms. On November 7, 1919, the Bartlett Tribune reported the building had been completed at the cost of approximately $3,000 and was "one of the best-colored school buildings in the country." [2]

Prof. G. B. Blackburn served as principal of the Bartlett Colored School from 1909-1911, followed by Professor S. E. Cooper, who served 34 years, from 1911-1945.

John R. Powell, Ph.D., came from Davilla in 1945 to replace Cooper. [3] That same year the GoodeviIle School District donated their old building to Bartlett. To cover the expense of moving it, half of the building was sold, and the other half was made into a shop and a Vocational Agriculture building at the Bartlett Colored School. [4]

At that time, the school was unaccredited and went only to tenth grade. Housed in two frame buildings with very inadequate heat and light, it was situated on a small, unpaved, and often muddy, campus. Coal was used as a heat source for the buildings, and a shed room with a dirt floor housed the Vocational Agriculture Shop. An un-graveled and unpaved road led to the school. Many students had dropped out, and those wishing to continue their studies past the tenth grade had to travel to Temple or Austin. Since bus transportation was not provided for students living in rural areas, many had never attended school. [5]

A Parent Teacher Association was organized on October 19, 1933, with A. E. Graham as its first president. [6]

In 1946, when the Superintendent and Board of Education began to search for a young couple willing to pioneer in education, the current principal, John R. Powell, invited the author's parents to visit the school in hopes of convincing them to accept teaching positions in Bartlett. Gentry L. Powell, Sr. (1909-1976), and Marguerite Carter Powell (1922-), his colleagues from Prairie View College, visited on July 1, 1946. Deeply and compassionately moved by the existing conditions, my parents resigned their positions in the Rockdale and Hearne Public School Systems and accepted positions as principal, coach, and teachers in the Bartlett Independent School District. They were determined to build a type of school system that would not only benefit the children but would enhance the progress of the entire community. [7]

During the 1946-47 school year, Gentry Powell served as principal, vocational agriculture teacher, and coach, while Mrs. Powell taught upper-class students. [8] At that time, most of the children had been leaving school at noon to work in the cotton and hayfields. Many had been accustomed to traveling miles from home and working for months at a time in the fields of West Texas and South Texas. While harvesting and migratory work had long been a part of the noble African American history, the Powell's actively encouraged families to allow their children to remain in school for the full school day, with the promise that education would enable their children to have better opportunities for a brighter future and easier life.

Gentry Powell visited the homes of families living in rural areas that seemingly had been neglected or ignored by the school system.

He encouraged them to enroll their children in school, got them on the census, and petitioned the school board for a school bus and driver. When that bus rolled up on the first day of school in September 1946, it was filled to capacity with children ages 6-17. One family, in particular, had seventeen children ages 6-17 who were coming to school for the first time in their lives. [9]

Gentry Powell (who had won distinction as an athlete at Prairie View College) organized football in September 1946, and field and track the following spring. The children had never seen a football before. "Prof', as Coach Powell would come to be known, walked through the community and into homes, carrying the football and inviting children to return to school with the promise he would teach them how to play the game. Many who had previously dropped out of school came back to play football and complete their high school education. [10]

By July 1947, attendance had doubled. "Over 160 children had to be taken care of on a piece of ground no larger than an ordinary house lot, and in a 4-room building. [11] The Bartlett School Board voted to purchase a 6- acre plot to build a new school. This sale, however, never materialized.

In September 1947, Marguerite Powell took over the duties of principal — a position she would hold for the next 18 years - leaving "Prof" free to pursue his passion for coaching and teaching Vocational Agriculture.

The school was now a Class B State Accredited 12th grade system. New subjects were added to the curriculum, permanent records were kept, and a room in one of the buildings was converted into a combination home economics classroom and lunchroom. [12]

In November 1947, the Bartlett School Board arranged to purchase four buildings at Camp Swift to be used to enlarge or rebuild the school; and a bank loan was secured to finance disassembly and transporting of the materials to Bartlett. On August 31, 1948, a bond issue for the purpose of replacing the presently overcrowded building passed by a vote of 64 to 3, and in November, the School Board received word that the State Board of Education would purchase $25,000 worth of bonds. Plans began immediately for the construction of a "U" shaped building with eight classrooms, an office, a lunchroom, a storeroom, and restrooms. The site chosen for the new school was the former location of the Bartlett Civilian Conservation Corps Camp in the northern (Bell County) section of Bartlett. Otto Lange, a local contractor, was in charge of the construction. [13]

In May 1949, students enjoyed their first Commencement and Graduation ceremonies at the now Class B accredited school and their first Junior-Senior Prom.

Groundwork for the new school had begun in February, and the new building was completed in time for the fall school session in September 1949.

Mrs. Powell planned and orchestrated the formal dedication on September 16th. African American students from the surrounding communities of Holland, Granger, and Davilla were later transferred to the new school, and it became a Class A State Accredited high school. In 1957 the name was changed to Booker T. Washington, in honor of the famed black educator and founder of Tuskegee Institute.

In 1964, after leading his football team to the state championship, Gentry L. Powell was named "Coach of the Year." University of Texas Athletic Director Darrell Royal presented the honor. During his career, Prof's teams won twelve district championships, one state semifinal and one state championship in football; five state championships in boys track and field; three state championships in girls track and field; plus numerous district championships in track and field. An All-American halfback at Prairie View from 1929 to 1933, he was posthumously honored in 1993 when he was inducted into the Prairie View A. & M. University's Sports Hall of Fame. [14] Marguerite Powell served as principal of Booker T. Washington School until its integration with Bartlett High School in 1965, after which she and her husband continued their teaching careers at Bartlett High School until his resignation in 1975 and her resignation in 1989. Prof's death in 1976 marked the passing of an outstanding coach and educator, mourned throughout the state and nation by those whose lives had been enriched through his influence.

Throughout their careers, the Powell's worked as a team, serving as County and District Directors for UIL Literary and Athletic Meets.

They often provided money, books, and clothing for students going off to college and drove them in the family car to Prairie View when they had no other transportation. Mrs. Powell volunteered to organize and sponsor annual activities that made the school a wonderfully busy and fulfilling place to be. She was coordinator of the Black History Month Program and Celebration; Texas Public School Week Open House and Program; high school declamation and debating coach; District Spelling Director; Junior Class sponsor; Senior Class sponsor; coordinator for Class night; Senior Class 3-Act Play; Senior Class Trip; Junior-Senior Prom; Central Texas Talent Night; sponsor of the drill team, baton twirlers and pep squad; and coordinator of Baccalaureate and Commencement exercises.

They made a great team.

Coach Powell made "winners" of all his athletes, and Mrs. Powell made "winners" of her students through active participation in the State Interscholastic Meets (what better way to foster self-esteem than through the success of these competitions). Faculty members were encouraged to volunteer as coaches for debating teams, declamation, and music. Booker T. Washington produced many State Championship UIL teams in Spelling, as well as numerous first, second, and third place trophies won at the Bell County Temple Spelling Bee and the Taylor Press Spelling Bee. [15]

Some other highly dedicated and influential teachers at the Bartlett Colored and Booker T. Washington Schools include Thelma B. Wallace. Augustine White, Ardelia Cooper, Eula Mae James, Euline Lovelady, Myrtle Steward, Emma Carter. Ural Davis, Yvette Alexander. Allen W. Brown, Sally A. Armstrong Nettie B. Turner, Carl W. Turner, Louis B. Carter, Laura Campbell, James C. Jones, Henrietta Collins, Joseph Jones, [16] Vinia Pierre, Lebron Washington, Beverly Meshack-Burrell, and Albert Koontz.

Researched and Submitted by Carol Powell-Loatman