The History of Herrin Township High School at Colp
Colp (population 224) is located in far southern Illinois in the northwest portion of Wiliamson County. Herrin Road is the main roadway through Colp. The town of Herrin sits just 1 1/2 miles east of Colp. The Little Hurricane Creek flows through Colp as well. Colp was established in 1910 as “Colpville.” The town was developed by the John Colp Coal Company and named after its owner.
A fan of the Glory Days site, Joe Dewees, advises that Herrin Township at one time supported two high schools for the children of the area. The photo at the top of this page was submitted by Colp High School Class of 1950 alum Ronald Kirby. Mr. Kirby states: :”(This is) a more recent photo of the old Colp H.S. building including a newly painted front section and a monument of Colp/Dewmaine Coal Miners dedicated Labor Day 2013.”
Robert Pruter further advises that The high school in Colp was established for the African-American kids of Herrin Township. The school was technically a branch of Herrin Township High School. When the school was founded it was commonly called Dewmaine High, but around 1928 the name was changed to Colp High. The school was segregated from competing with white schools and instead competed with the other black segregated high schools in Egypt, notably Cairo Sumner, Du Quoin Lincoln, Carbondale Attucks, Mound City Lovejoy, Mounds Douglas, East St. Louis Lincoln, Venice Lincoln, and Madison Dunbar.
Former student (Class of 1957) of Herrin Township High School, Tom Popham, relayed the following information about the closing of Colp High School:
“HTHS @ Colp was closed in the spring of 1953 and the integration of Colp High School with Herrin Township High School occurred in the fall of 1953 before the Supreme Court decision. I was a freshman at HTHS in the fall of 1953 graduating in 1957. One of the incoming freshmen from Colp was Ivan Lee Jefferson who played on the HTHS basketball team which won the Illinois state championship in 1957. He was also president of our senior class.”
A very nice collection of memories and historical information regarding Colp High School was sent to us by Class of 1950 graduate Ronald Kirby:
” My name is Ronald W. Kirby and a graduate of the Colp (Herrin) HS in May 1950. My first teacher and Basketball Coach there were Mr. Gaffney Taylor and his wife, Mrs. Derenda Taylor. My last teachers were Mr. Willis, principal, his wife Mary Willis and Mr. Cliffton Moore.
Mr. Taylor was commonly called Prof Taylor at school and within the Colp community. So I will out of respect continue to do so in this article. During his tenure at Colp (Herrin) HS from approximately 1928 until his untimely death in 1947 there was no question of who was the head of Colp High School. Even in sports when there were other different coaches, Prof Taylor was regarded as head coach. According to Emanuel Duncan, a former student and classmate of members of the 1941 team, it was Prof Taylor who convinced star player Wm Riggins to stay in school his senior year rather than leave school to join the CCC Corp. According to Emmanuel, Prof was convinced that Riggins was essential for his team to have a chance against much bigger schools in the 1941 tournament at Herrin. After Mr. Taylor passed in 1947, Mrs. Taylor with her two young girls, Tony and Kay, took a teaching position in Carbondale. This was a sad day when she left.
My personal experience with Prof Taylor started in the 7th grade. During the 7th grade our grade school did not have any male teachers and Prof took on the added responsibility of coaching the grade school team. We had another 7th grade classmate on the team named Ed White who was the nephew of Sam Webb. Ed, like his Uncle Sam, had a natural talent for the game and Prof assigned Ed as my tutor. Our first game was at Carbondale. We later played Duquoin and other grade schools. Ed and I played together for the following three years under Coach Taylor.
Other grade school players on my 7th grade team were 8th grade students: Lawrence Hatchett, Mayon Duncan, Bobby Spears and Wendell Brown
In the following year 1945-1946, Coach Taylor took our grade school basketball team to a 2-day tournament of grade schools to Mounds, Illinois. Our team was very proud to come home with a 3rd place finish behind Carbondale and Cairo, two much larger schools. Most of our team members were also boy scouts under Mr. Taylor.
The following summer, our Boy Scouts troop participated in our first camp-out competition in the Pulaski, Illinois area. Under the leadership of Scout Willie Duncan, we took pride in returning with a good share of ribbons to present to Mr. Taylor at his home.
When I graduated in 1950, our school was down to approximately 24 students with 4 graduating, including myself, Ed McKinley, Stella Stover and Nadine Cooper. I was pleased to later learn our chemistry teacher, Mr. Cliffton Moore left his teaching position and eventually became a Medical Doctor in Virginia.
Years later I got a 1931-1932 school picture (copy enclosed) of the Colp (Herrin) HS from my Aunt Armanda Kirby who then was a freshman there. Her late husband and my uncle Norvel(Tat) Kirby had attended and played on the Colp basketball team during the years 1934-1938. In 1931-32 & 1933-34 Colp was the SICCHS Runner-ups and in 1935-1936 were the SICCHS Champions. I remember how proud my uncle was to have played for Prof Taylor and graduated from Colp(Herrin) HS.
The 1931-32 school photo revealed some interesting information. At the time the school had 50 students and 3 teachers including Mr. Taylor, Carl Lee and Evelyn Bower. There were 26 boys and 24 girls. One girl Izetta Brown Williams was one of the first students to attend high school in 1928 at Colp, walking 3 miles from her home in Cliffort, Illinois. She just turned 102 in July at Detroit and still has good health and memory of her old school. Next to Izetta is Helen Kelly. Helen was daughter of Lillian and step daughter of Hubert Russel and retired in Colp after a career as Professor at Purdue University. On the front row sitting side by side were two sons of Dr. A.W. Springs, Andrew, Jr. and Jimmy Springs who later became a noted singer and returned to Colp in 1944 for the doctor’s funeral. A group of older boys stood on the top row in the order of: Clarence Kincaid, Sr. Richard Lewis, Ike McMahan, George Webb, Paul Brown, George Tyler, Charlie Wilson, Fred McCellan and Floyd Williams. It has been reported that Colp played a football game in 1928 as the Colp Colts against Murphysboro and were the SICCHS basketball Runner-up in 1927-28 and as noted above in 1931-32. It would appear that a number of boys on the top row were players in the football and/or basketball games during these years.
Although the Colp (Herrin) HS continued to lose attendance from 1931 until it closed in 1953, I was told by Eugene Green that his 1941 freshman class started with a record number of 26 students but graduated only 3 including Eugene who married one of my class graduates, Stella Stover Green.
One remarkable aspect of the 1941 freshmen class was the inclusion of William Hatchett, Jr. and after only 6 months at Colp (Herrin) HS he was a big impact player on the March 1941 championship team that defeated East St Louis. Hatchett brought to Colp High School the size and toughness that was so important in this win.
It seems fitting that Sonja Williams Lancaster would end what her Aunt Izetta Williams started as a member of the first Colp (Herrin) HS in 1928, by being among the last students to close the Colp (Herrin) school and enter Herrin HS during the 1953-1954 year. She graduated in 1955 with over 150 other students.
To close from the collection of old school records of Harrison Baker, his 1929 eighth grade class of Attucks grade school held their graduation exercises Monday, April 29 at the Colp HS Gym. The program in part was follows:
March J. D. Davis
Chorus Youth in Blossom Time
Invocation Rev. J. D. Davis
Chorus The Open Road
Salutation William Williams
Valedictory Oration H.C. Baker
Chorus When Shadows Fall
Class Address Rev. A. Grim
Remarks Mr. E.J. Mayes, Member
Board of Directors
Presentation of Supt. Don C. Moss
It is noted that William Williams was father of Sonja Williams Lancaster and E.J. Mayes was father of James Mayes of Colp and my grandfather. Rev. J.D. Davis was long term pastor of Mt Olive Baptist Church of Colp from 1918 until 1953. Sonja Lancaster provided information from the late Mr. Baker that he finished his grade and high school education as a straight A student and never missed a day of school in grade or high school. H.C. Passed in 2014 at age of 99.
Names of those pictured in the photo above:
View from L-R
First Row (Top Row):
Name unknown (relative of James Webb), Clarence Kincaid, Richard Lewis, Ike McMahan, George Webb, Paul Brown, George Tyler, Charlie Wilson, Fred McCellan, Floyd Williams
Teacher Carl Lee, Robbia Hudson, Carrie B. Davis, Lucille Reese, Lucille Flippen, Rosetta Debow, Kathyrn Greer, Ruth Cox, Helen Kelly, Izetta Brown, Mary Clark, Pauline Jones, Nora Paige, Norvella Jefferson, Inez Mayes, Ophelia Walker, Essie Lee Cross, Teacher Evelyn Bower, Jack Taylor
J.D. Martin, Mary Hayes, Virginia Webb, Lottie Meeks, Mildred Martin, Zedora McKinley, Armanda Martin, Arcola Bell, Francis Bowens, Helen Davis, M.C. Bigham, James Louis Webb, James Greer
Fourth Row (Front Row):
Howard Fuller, Harrison Baker, James Martin, James Copening, Clyde Bailey, Andrew Springs, James Hayes, Jimmy Springs, Otis Crawford, Toledo Kirby, M.C. Davis
Provided by Ronald Kirby
The following comments on the history of Colp High School came from Sonja Williams Lancaster who was in her Junior year at Colp HS when the transition of the Black students with the Herrin Township High School occurred. She brings a first-hand account of the Colp students involved and her perspective of how the transition was received. This is important from a historical standpoint because at that time the Black and White grade schools in Colp were facing an unknown integration possibility that caused hard feelings in both groups, especially the possibility that the White students from Colp would go to the Attucks Grade School in Colp. Therefore it was not unreasonable for some of the Black parents to be concerned of sending their children out of town. However only the students involved, as Sonja, had a personal reason to be apprehensive about how they would be received at Herrin.
Sonja also shares a more complete picture by identifying those students that made the historical contribution to Colp High School history. As she writes – “We, classes of 1954 and 1955 made history. A total of thirty-one (31) Black students of Colp High School were the first to attend the all White Herrin Township High School of Herrin, IL for the 1953 and 1954 scholastic years. The transition was void of any adversity, and the welcome was sincerely genuine and extremely pleasant by both the faculty and students under:
E.C. Eckert, Principal and
Marvin Owens, Asst. Principal”.
Following are names by class year of the aforementioned thirty-one (31) Black students:
Class of 1954 – Seniors (3)
Doris Jean Brown
Raymond Davis, Jr.
Delois Jean Powers
Class of 1955 – Juniors (12)
Mildred Venola Deboe
Ernest D. Harrison
Perry Rafe, Jr.
Norma Jean Williams
Sonja Yvonne Williams
Class of 1956 – Sophomores (7)
Willie Eugene Webb
Class of 1957 – Freshmen (9)
Ivan Lee Jefferson
Margaret Ressie Kincaid
Mary Helen Meeks
Sonja ends by revealing that these students were active in a wide range of extracurricular activities, sport and non-sport. Two divergent examples show that Ivan Lee Jefferson was very active in several top athletic events while Malachi Duncan concentrated primarily on student council and Drama club as his top activities. Throughout his four years at Herrin High School Ivan Lee exceeded in several sports. He was inducted into the Herrin HS Hall of Fame in 1996 and was one of the key players in the 1957 Herrin State Basketball Championship. Malachi after high school established a reputation as an excellent speaker during his management career at a major corporation and later as a retired, self-employed business owner. He was also known for his advice to youngsters of his 4 for 40 plan, which translated to four years of education for 40 years of life’s reward. However overall it would be the girls that gained the most benefit from the many extracurricular activities they experienced at Herrin High School over very limited activities received by female students attending the Colp High School.
The above information provided by Sonja Williams Lancaster is greatly appreciated. We are also sympathetic that at this time Sonja just lost one of her lifetime friends named Doris Brown Beck and offer our sympathies to the family of Doris who, with two other Colp youngsters including Deloris Jean Powers and the late Raymond Davis, Jr., were the first Black graduates of the Herrin High School.
Written by Ronald Kirby in the interest of Sonja Williams Lancaster.
The Colp High School building classrooms and gymnasium are still standing and in good use. What once was the Colp High School gymnasium is now used for storage by the city of Colp. .
Herrin Township HS @ Colp Quick Facts
by Amanda Martin Kirby
Year opened: 1910 – 1921 (exact date needed)
Year closed: 1953
Consolidated to: Herrin School District
Colp HS team nickname: “Tigers”
(nickname was the “Colts” in the 1920s)
Colp HS team colors: Orange & Black
School Fight Song: “We’re Loyal To You Herrin High School”
(University of Illinois Fight Song Tune)