Students’ Graduation Ceremony 48 years laterPosted: May 25, 2012
In September 2011, Auburn University students Marian Royston and Blake Evans traveled with Dr. Mark Wilson, College of Liberal Arts Director of Civic Learning Initiatives, to the Newnan Public Library in Georgia to interview Willie B. Wyatt regarding his role as one of thirteen students who filed the historic suit, Lee v. Macon County Board of Education, which desegregated Tuskegee High School in 1963. The oral history interview was one of several taken as part of the CLA Community and Civic Engagement Initiative’s participation in the Appalachian Teaching Project. The historic graduation event described below on May 23, 2012 is the result of this collaboration.
MACON CO., AL (WSFA) – You can hear the drum line of Notasulga High school miles away as band members welcome the graduating class of 1964 back to Macon County for a ceremony that’s been long overdue.
“I kind of thought I was a forgotten person from a graduation standpoint,” Willie Wyatt Jr. said.
Wyatt and Anthony Lee along with 10 other students paved the way for integration in Macon County and the state when they integrated two schools in the county.
“On the first day we were turned away by the state troopers. We just wanted to have the same opportunity as the other students did,” Wyatt said.
Lee and Wyatt say they would have graduated on May 25th, 1964 from Notasulga High School, along with now deceased classmate Robert Judkins. But after resistance and violence, the school mysteriously burned.
“[The principal was told] give them there diplomas, let that be there last day of school,” Wyatt said.
He says they were also denied class rings. But with the help of Auburn University and the Macon County School Board and current students who are celebrating them, these men will finally be in their high school cap and gown.
“We’re going to give them the full salutations that they deserve,” Macon County Superintendent Dr. Jacqueline Brooks said.
They will walk with the graduating class of Notasulga high school Wednesday at 7p.m., something they say will be very emotional but will serve as closure.
“To let them know how things were and how things are now and how they can with dreams and preparation and determination accomplish almost anything,” Lee said.
Finally getting the recognition they should have gotten 48 years ago.
The 12 students who integrated Macon County schools are a part of an exhibit on display at the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center.