EDITOR’S NOTE: During the next four weeks, News13 will celebrate Black History Month through a series of stories highlighting Black achievement and educating the public on the struggles and triumphs African Americans faced for centuries.

LAKE CITY, S.C. (WBTW) — Named after George Washington Carver, a Black man born into slavery who went on to become a world-renowned agricultural chemist and humanitarian, Lake City’s Carver High School became one of the first schools in the state to integrate.

But although the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling determined that racial segregation in public schools violated the 14th Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional, mandatory integration didn’t happen at the school until the early 1970s  

“You know how it is when you put people together,” Lake City Mayor Lovith Anderson Jr. said. “That’s just life, and everybody has their little chalk lines they want to draw sometimes. But for the most part, we didn’t have a lot of issues like other places did.”

In 1950, South Carolina passed a $75,000 bond to equalize schools. But it would take years — and even decades — for some schools to finally embrace desegregation.  

Carver High School was initially known as the Lake City Colored Elementary and High School on Graham Road.  It housed the first through 10th grades, but eventually, the building couldn’t sustain the population. High school students were moved to the new high school and elementary students took over Carver Elementary School on Graham Road.

Anderson was part of the first integrated Class of 1971.  He said it wasn’t until the school integrated that he realized many of his teachers were working with limited resources.

“Intellectually, they were fine,” Anderson said.  “Sometimes, there were other things that went along with the classes. They would pull money out of their own pockets.” 

Gloria Tisdale, president of the Carver High School Alumni Association, graduated in 1969.  Tisdale said when she attended Carver, students were given a choice to attend a school that was integrated.

“People said it was separate but not equal … we didn’t know anything about that,” she said. “All we knew, we were in school, and we were getting an education.”

And at that time, Tisdale felt the schooling was efficient.

“Well, that particular moment is what I knew,” Tisdale said.  “I didn’t know any different. But later, as an adult after getting out, I realized you know the education was not the same. But at that time I thought we were getting what we needed.”

Nonetheless, many Carver High School graduates became prominent local and state leaders, educators, doctors and ministers.

One of its most notable alumni is NASA astronaut and physicist Ronald McNair, who died during the 1986 launch of the Challenger mission.  He graduated as valedictorian of Carver High School in 1967.

The Dr. Ronald E. McNair Life Center on Main Street, where he wasn’t allowed to check out books, now bears his name.

In 2006, alumni Rufus Timmons and John Gaston created the Carver High School Alumni Association.

“We wanted to not let Carver be forgotten, and it was a way for us to keep in touch with fellow schoolmates and as well as being positive in the community,” Tisdale said.

The group’s mission is to give back to the community through scholarships for seniors, turkey drives and donation drives for the Boys and Girls Club.

 “We wanted to continue that legacy, so we will always be remembered,” Tisdale said.  

If you’re interested in joining the Carver High School Alumni Association or would like to donate to the cause, click here.