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Wednesday September 14, 2005
Local News

Terrell School's campus now Texas Historical Site

A culturally diverse and spiritually united crowd of several hundred Denison dignitaries, residents and school children gathered outside Terrell Elementary to dedicate and honor the site of one of North Texas' most important historical treasures.

Terrell School's campus officially became a Texas Historical Site with Tuesday's dedication of a marker and plaque erected on the northwest corner of the school property that fronts west Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Time and again, the keynote speakers at the ceremony referred to the importance of roots in creating and preserving history, particularly at Terrell.

"When the bulldozers began in 2000 to tear away the walls of the old Terrell School building, with roots dating back to the 1800's, we realized this was no ordinary demolition," committee member and historian, Gwen Cage, told the crowd as she chronicled the rich and significant history that led to Terrell's designation as a Texas Historical Site. "We realized that a symbol of more than a century of Denison Public School history would be gone forever - but the history and memories of the school can, and will, live on forever."

Cage went on to outline the years that made history, both ordinary and extraordinary.

Terrell School was officially established in 1927 and named in honor of August H. Terrell of Denison. W.R. Wims became principal in 1936, a year that marked the addition of two classrooms, an auditorium and a mechanical arts shop. The year 1939 welcomed elementary students from Anderson School along with the addition of seven rooms and an auditorium expansion. It proved the beginning of unprecedented growth.

"The class of 1941 was the last class to graduate in 11 years," said Cage. "At that time, the 10th grade class was moved to grade 12 to adhere to a 12-year graduation curriculum."

In 1948, cosmetology was added to the curriculum. A cafeteria as well as four more classrooms, a band hall, a gymnasium and physical education rooms were added in 1949. By 1954, the Terrell principal's office sported an outer office complete with an extension telephone. The school population stood firm at 462 students.

"In 1957, the name Terrell was placed on the east side of the building," said Cage. "By 1960, the name had been placed on the west side and a library had been erected complete with furniture, visual materials, a workroom and books for the elementary and high school departments. Spanish was added to the high school in 1961 ... and to the elementary curriculum in 1962. The faculty consisted of the principal, 27 staff members and an enrollment of 566 students."

"In the 1965-66 school year, approximately 90 junior and senior level students transferred to other schools in the district due to a court ordered desegregation," continued Cage. "And 1968 was the last year that Terrell School operated as a predominantly African American school. The school remained closed for one year then re-opened as a non-segregated elementary school."

Denison Mayor Bill Lindsay joined Cage and other community leaders in praising the many accomplishments achieved by Terrell graduates.

"It was a place where young boys and girls could go to school and learn to become good citizens," Lindsay said. "Terrell has turned out some of our community, state and nation's most respected doctors, lawyers, businessmen, dentists, accountants, religious leaders, educators, and deep-down good people. We're proud and honored to claim each and every one of them."

Current students of Terrell Elementary school, representing a melting pot of Denison's many diverse cultures, quietly listened as Jerry Lincecum, chairman of the Grayson County Historical Society, gave them a lesson on the importance of roots.

"A great nation is one that remembers its roots and honors its past," said Lincecum. "Look at the trees around you that have been here for so many years. Without their strong roots, they would not still be here. Roots are very important."

Lincecum extended his lesson to include all of Grayson County, which to date is home to more than 130 historical markers.

"The history of our entire region has played a major role in the development of the great State of Texas," said Lincecum. "We were one of the first entry points to the Republic of Texas. In addition, our railroads proved crucial to the development of Texas transportation and commerce. Our area also offered so many educational opportunities to the people in our region. Terrell was instrumental in training so many young people to become leaders."

City Councilor Bill Malvern, chairman of the Terrell High School Historical Marker Committee and coordinator of the day's program, recognized Alvin Bailey of the Denison Public Library for the extensive research that culminated in Terrell's long-sought designation as a historical site.

"We wouldn't be here today without Alvin's many hours of hard work, dedication and research. We had to meet a lot of criteria to get this designation. It was truly a labor of love by so many people," said Malvern. "But most important are the lasting contributions made by so many educators at Terrell School over the years. It is an honor and a privilege to be part of such a rich and wonderful history."

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