The McAdams-Bedford County Training-Harris High School Historical Marker Dedication Ceremony is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 5, at 610 Elm St. The following alumni will be posthumously honored: Jim Mitchell, athletics; former Bedford County Mayor Eugene Ray, Jr., government; Lonnie D. Reynolds, military; Dr. Earl Rippie, Jr., professional...
The McAdams-Bedford County Training-Harris High School Historical Marker Dedication Ceremony is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 5, at 610 Elm St. The following alumni will be posthumously honored: Jim Mitchell, athletics; former Bedford County Mayor Eugene Ray, Jr., government; Lonnie D. Reynolds, military; Dr. Earl Rippie, Jr., professional.
Due to COVID-19 social distancing, the event will be held outside at the marker location. Masks are required. Individuals are encouraged to bring lawn chairs.
Fredia Flack Lusk and Marilyn Massengale are event organizers. They note that family members of those being memorialized are invited; they will receive memorable gifts from the host committee.
The first Bedford County school for African-Americans was referenced as “Slip UP” and between 1889-1894, 27 African-American schools would be established in various Bedford County communities. The first one-room teacher in 1889 was professor/principal Raleigh P. “R.P.” Purdy, who died in 1969 at age 98 and is buried in Willow Mount Cemetery.
Other school principals were: 1895-1935, John McAdams; 1935-1960, Bedford County Training/ Sidney W. Harris; 1960-1966, Harris High/Sidney W. Harris; and 1965-1966, Harris High/Will P. Martin. Due to desegregation, Harris High officially closed in 1966, when students were transferred to then Central High (now Shelbyville Central.)
The early history of African-American education in Bedford County lives on in books, social gatherings and reunions between friends and families. Sadly, many of the McAdams-Bedford County Training-Harris High graduates have passed away, like Ray, Mitchell, Reynolds and Rippie, but through their professionalism, they leave legacies behind for future generations to emulate.
Eugene Ray Jr.
From the BCTS Class of 1955 . . . the late Eugene Ray, Jr., would return to his community to serve as Bedford County Mayor for 12 years; he was the first African American to hold this office. Ray, who passed away after an extended illness in 2019, also served as a Bedford County Commissioner for 28 years.
Prior to his mayoral tenure, Ray worked as a real estate broker. He retired professionally from the U.S. Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) in Tullahoma, where he was water treatment supervisor.
Earl Rippie Jr.
From the BCTS class of 1959 . . . the late Dr. Earl Rippie, Jr., became owner of Pennsauken Animal Hospital in New Jersey, where he resided until his sudden passing in 2016. He was affectionately known as “Dr. Rippie” by many of his friends and colleagues. Over the years, he became affiliated with several professional veterinary groups and boards, holding offices in many.
The Bell Buckle native and BCTS alumnus graduated in 1967 from the Tuskegee School of Veterinary Medicine in Alabama. Rippie, who loved his dog Rudy, also became licensed to practice veterinary medicine in Tennessee.
Lonnie D. Reynolds
From the BCTS class of 1962 . . . the late Lonnie D. Reynolds became a company supervisor, but most of all, was remembered in his last days as simply, a gentleman. Reynolds parted this life in 2019, in Westland, Mich., where he resided for many years.
He was considered an outstanding football player at both BCTS and at Tennessee State University in Nashville. He served his country in the U.S. Army, earning in 1968 a movie role in “The Green Berets.”
Professionally, he retired from Ford Motor Company as a human resource manager. Reynolds also became involved over the years in various civic organizations, including the Shriners.
From the Harris High class of 1965 . . . The late Jim Mitchell greatly represented his community well when he secured his place with the professional Atlanta Falcons football team. His hometown, fans and friends alike, grieved his sudden passing in 2007.
Mitchell was a Pro Bowl tight end for the Falcons in the 1960s and 1970s; he was named to the Pro Bowl following the 1969 and 1972 seasons. At the time of his passing, he ranked fourth in Falcons’ history with 305 career receptions and 4,358 yards receiving. He had 31 career touchdowns.
He attended Prairie View A&M in Texas and after retiring from the NFL, Mitchell coached at colleges. The native Bedford Countian would eventually return to Shelbyville, where he served as a volunteer assistant/mentor football coach.
Lusk advised that references and information pertaining to this historical program can be found through Bedford County School System and “The Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee,” a narrative history by Dr. Bobby L. Lovett, page 77. The shelbyvillecentralhigh.tn.bch.schoolinsites.com website also includes history about the African-American Schools in Bedford County, Lusk advises.
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