Martinsville High School class of 1969 celebrates 50-year reunion

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) -- The sound of the school bell is something the current class of 2019 hears often.

For the Martinsville High School class of 1969, however, it's something they haven't heard in 50 years.

Life in Virginia was different in the '60s.

"Lots of things were changing; the whole world was changing," said '69 class member, Deborah Hodges Watson.

But many things have stayed the same, like high school, itself.

"I had a pretty cool car, I had a few dollars in my pocket, I had a girlfriend, and I had fun!" said Denny Wade, another '69 class member.

There was one big thing though that defined the class and the school.

"It was a great opportunity for us to be the first desegregated school in the area," said Watson.

Albert Harris High School, which is currently an elementary school, combined with Martinsville High School in the fall of 1968. Albert Harris was an all-black school, and Martinsville was a majorly white school.
320 students filled the first integrated school in the city.

"It was black and white for everything," said Johnsie P. Finney Tate.

A dedication for the new school happened May 4, 1969 - the end of the first school year where the students were no longer segregated.

"And you know like Johnsie said, we had to give up, they had to give up, our colors used to be maroon and grey, we just changed it to red and white. I got my bulldogs, I got my red and white. So it just worked, and there was no magic pill," said Watson.

"Integration wasn't even a speck on my radar screen," said Wade.

And it's not a speck now either. 50 years later and everyone here is ready to reminisce and tell tales of back then and learn about everything that's happened in between.

If you are apart of the class of 1969, there are several events over the weekend that you are invited to attend. On May 17, Night at the Rives is happening at 7:45 p.m.

On Saturday, members and their families can tour Martinsville High School at 9:45 a.m., as well as Albert Harris Elementary School.

And on Saturday night, classmates will meet at the Heritage Center in Bassett for dinner, games, a memorial presentation, and classmate trivia!