THE LEGACY OF HATCHER HIGH SCHOOL
Black parents throughout the county strongly felt that there was a need for a school that would provide a quality education for their children. They wanted a facility that would allow their children to complete their high school education close to home. They began to organize for that purpose. These efforts were led by two sets of trustees headed by Rev. J.H. Hatcher, a well-known and respect Methodist minister.
Prior to the construction of the “new school” all Black students had to go to Cedar Bluff or Gadsden in order to obtain a high school diploma. Classes for elementary school children were taught at Shiloh Baptist Church, St. Mary Methodist Church and the Sunflower Masonic Hall.
Once the commitment was made to build a high school in the community, the real work began. The school was to be located off Bay Springs Road in Centre, Alabama. All of the funding for the property, material and construction were provided by the organized efforts of the Black communities across the county.
Construction began on the five acres site in the fall of 1947 and completed in time for classes to start in the fall of 1949. The new school was named Hatcher School in honor and recognition of Reverend Hatcher’s work completing the project. Hatcher School was the only “colored” high school in Cherokee County, therefore students attended from all over the county after completion of the sixth (6th) grade in church schools in communities around the county.
By comparison to facilities for white students at the time, Hatcher School was limited. However, when one considers that Hatcher School was solely funded and constructed by the community it served, Hatcher School was far ahead of it time.
Strong community support continued to provide students at Hatcher School a number of options and opportunities that had not been available prior to its construction. In 1954, Hatcher School became the first Black High School in North East Alabama to have a “non-dirt” regulation size basketball Court. The school’s cafeteria provided staging for plays and other community events. It became the center of all community activities. The building continues to stand at the same location and is currently known as the JFK Community Center.
In 1954, the Board of Education recognized the need to improve its facilities. Construction began on a new school a quarter mile down Bay Springs Road. The new facility made it possible for the elementary school students that were scattered throughout the county, to consolidate in one facility. Classes for all elementary students moved into the original facility. They remained there until the second wing of the new facility for elementary students was constructed in 1961. Bus service was added to ensure the opportunity for all children to be able to attend school. The new facility was called Hatcher School because of the inclusion of all grade levels. Grades 7 thru 12 were housed in the original wing separate from the elementary students and referred to as Hatcher High School.
The new Hatcher School opened in 1955. The facility had a gymnasium along with space for football and baseball fields which allowed Hatcher High School to create one of the strongest Black high school programs in Alabama. The school and students flourished both academically and athletically over the next 13 years.
In 1968, all of the middle and high school students and teachers were transferred to different schools in the County. The high school program was closed. All of the elementary school students were move to different locations the following year (1969).
The alumni of this great school are proud of the legacy that Hatcher High School leaves behind. They point to the great accomplishments achieved by a small but fiercely competitive Black school. A school that was initially built by and always supported by a community that wanted the best for their children.
Athletically Hatcher High School leaves behind these accomplishments:
*Hatcher placed second in the State Basketball tournament in 1961. Team entered the tournament undefeated (14-0) lost the finals of the tournament finished the season 16-1.
*Hatcher won the N.E.I.A.A District Championship in Basketball four times 1959-1960-1961-1967.
* Hatcher won the N.E.I.A.A. District Tournament (1960)
*Hatcher placed fourth in the N.E.I.A.A District Tournament twice (1962 and 1964)
*At the Main High School (Georgia) invitational Tournament in 1960, Hatcher took 1st Place in the girls and boys divisions.
*Hatcher took 1st place in the Hatcher Boys invitational tournament in 1959-1960-1961-1964-1965-1967.
*Hatcher won the N.E.I.A.A District Championship in football in 1961 and 1967, the 1967 team finished the season 7-1.
Information prepared by:
Hatcher High School 1968