By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Tupelo City Council President Nettie Davis had tears in her eyes on Friday, as she looked upon a fresh mound of red dirt at the base of a newly installed Heritage marker at Carver School.
Davis, a 1959 Carver graduate, has many memories of it, as a student at the school for 12 years, as the daughter of a former school employee and as a community resident who attended many events on its campus. Seeing the red dirt reminded her of playing on the hills surrounding the school as a young child.
“It is very special,” Davis said of the school. “This is where I got my background and training. The teachers were so special to us. It brought back a lot of memories.”
The marker is the eighth one to be placed on the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Heritage Trails Enrichment Program. The program was created to identify and interpret historical Chickasaw, Civil Rights and African-American Heritage and Civil War sites in Tupelo and Lee County.
“Out of all of the Heritage markers, this one is the most meaningful,” Davis said of the sign at Carver. “It is very special to us.”
Built in 1939, Carver School served Tupelo’s black students before integration. It also was a meeting place for the black community and was among the centers of social activities during the civil rights era. Speakers on Friday noted the school’s athletic and musical history and the success of its alumni.
Following integration, Carver was used as the Tupelo School District’s ninth-grade school. It later become an elementary school and is still used today, when it serves kindergartners and first-graders.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton attended it as a freshman from 1990-91.
“Right next to senior year, it was the most fun year of school,” he said. “You began looking forward to it in fifth- and sixth-grade. I don’t know what made it so fun. Part of it was that it was just us. We just had a great time.”
Friday’s unveiling ceremony featured remarks by Davis, Tupelo CVB Executive Director Neal McCoy and Tupelo School District Assistant Superintendent Kim Britton. Carolyn Wise Long, a 1959 Carver alum, led the crowd in the singing of the school’s alma mater.
“This school has played a monumental role in Tupelo’s history,” McCoy said.
The Carver marker is the third Civil Rights one on the Heritage Trail, joining one at the former locations of the Woolworth store and of Springhill Church.
McCoy said four more markers will be placed soon, including two connected to civil rights and African-American heritage.