COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – Despite the famous 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, launching school desegregation across the country, many CSRA schools still separated white and black students.
A place in Appling, now considered Grovetown, was built and named for John Pierce Blanchard who served as Superintendent of Columbia County Schools. The school stayed open from 1957-1970.
NewsChannel spoke with students who attended the one story building during that time. While the color of their skin separated them from learning with their white peers, the education and relationships developed while together will never be forgotten
Spend any amount of time with the group of alumni and sounds of laughter will fill the atmosphere.
A few of them may even still represent the school’s name on blue and white t-shirts with the phrase ‘KEEP THE LEGACY ALIVE’ on back.
The school, located inside what is now the facilities building for Columbia County Schools on Columbia Road, was built right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement and did not close until two years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and the end of the Civil Rights Movement.
Annette Rickerson, who was Annette Sanders back then, left her all-black Harlem elementary school for seventh grade at Blanchard.
“I enjoyed the company and the students that I knew, but it got a little tiresome at times having to pass a school to come about 9 or 10 miles when we could have gotten the same information closer to home,” she recalled.
Rickerson was involved in activities throughout high school and became Salutatorian of the Class of 1967. It was at Blanchard where she met her best friend, Margaret Tutt-Adams.
“You just knew back in that era, white folks went that way and black folks with the other way and as long as there was no violence it was normal,” said Tutt-Adams who played athletics at Blanchard and was crowed Homecoming Queen her senior year.
Robert Lampkin came out in ’67 too.
“For some reason we had to go more days than they [white students] went. They would say, ‘why are y’all going today?’ We going to school. They got a lot of days off we didn’t get off. You learn to live with that,” he said.
Lampkin, who went on to attend Augusta Technical College following Blanchard, loved playing ball.
“[Our] biggest rival was T.W. Josey Eagles, the Eagles and the Thompson Bulldogs. We had two.”
Lampkin and the rest of his peers keep in touch with Jean Lazenby, their high school counselor and wife of the school’s only principal, Mr. Charles Lazenby.
“There were some teachers who could be late for a half of second. I could never be late,” she recalled of her husband, who she worked alongside.
Lazenby said she and her husband lived in Thomson and raised one child, but they had several children who walked the halls of Blanchard. She told us her husband started in the classroom and finished his work as an assistant superintendent in Columbia County schools.
Ms. Lazenby said she also remembers John P. Blanchard
“He was just a dynamic person. He knew how to get teachers to work,” she said adding that he was very personable and was insistent on knowing each teacher’s name.
Blanchard alumni added they were pushed to get an education by passionate teachers and a no-nonsense principal.
Charles Lazenby, Blanchard and Mrs. Ann Daniel will all have their names engraved with the school name on a park bench at Evans Towne Center Park on Saturday, February 25 at 11:00 a.m.
Proceeds for the bench were generated at the 2016 reunion. Tutt-Adams said the students who attended Blanchard gather for a reunion biennially and raise funds for scholarships for students.