Anniston, Alabama was built as a private town in 1872 by the Woodstock Iron Company. In fact it was the first town in Alabama with electricity in 1882. The town did not go public until 1883. The Woodstock Iron Company employed both blacks and whites, build parks, worker housing, a company store, churches, and schools. (Slavery was never part of Anniston’s heritage.)
What is the significance of all this you might ask? Well, July 24 – July 25, 2015 marks another milestone in this town’s history. The Cobb Avenue High School Class of 1965 celebrated the 50th reunion of their graduating class. Its theme: Class of ‘65 Keeping Memories Alive.
Memories. Although segregation was strong during the years these black youth attended high school, it did nothing to stop the enthusiasm and drive which is still in evidence today. Now, 143 years after the city was founded, Anniston is still bringing its people together. This class of 1965 reunion was a bonding experience like no other. Starting with a Banquet at The Anniston Country Club, our speaker the distinguished Attorney Cleophus Thomas Jr an Anniston native, was inspiring and informative. (See the slideshow for his biographical sketch). Former teachers Mrs. Bertha Trammell and Mr. Leon Garrett were gracious attendees.
Some classmates had survived civil right struggles including being thrown into jail in Birmingham, Alabama while still students. Subjected to water hoses, dogs, and sleeping on the cold concrete floors of jail cells while marching with Dr. Martin Luther King. Their spirits remained strong. A shout out to one reunion attendee who suffered at the hands of the police in Birmingham-James Munford. These teens and others struggled against all odds while holding on to dreams of college, joining the military, becoming entrepreneurs and just plain staying alive.
A Saturday visit to the Cobb Avenue High School Sports Museum evoked memories for other attendees: Willie “Mickey” Johnson, senior quarterback; Edward Brown and Fred “Rat”Godhigh, Varsity basketball; Cheerleader, Brenda Allen Murphy; Herman Moses, Student Council President; Essie Sterling Blackwell and Zeebedee Freeman, Mr. and Miss Senior, and honorable mention for attendees from Cobb’s outstanding marching band directed by the late Mr. Vernon Seals.
After graduation this group would go their separate ways, but that little voice inside reminded them that friends and associates from those early years were close in spirit. There was no greater reminder however than this past weekend. Older, wiser, and perhaps a little slower, all were happy to see one another and even more happy to still be around to be seen.
Now, all these many years after Anniston was founded by the Woodstock Iron Company, this group and others in their bid for life and liberty, have persevered through many trials on the one hand, and on the other joy, unity, dreams reached and dreams deferred-this 1965 graduating class of Cobb Avenue High School were together again. There was certainly a bonding in this little company town.