Stratton High School to be demolished this summer

Named after the Reverend Daniel Stratton, the school was the first all-Black high school in Raleigh County

“They’re going to tear down our school,” Stratton High School Alumni Mary Mayes said. “Nobody can do anything about it.”

Mayes, who graduated from Stratton High School in 1966, said she and others don’t support the on-going construction of a new school. Mayes credits fellow alumni Rev. Nelson E. Staples, who passed in 2021, as the only force preventing the demolition. 

“I give all praises to Rev. Staples,” Mayes said. “He did everything he could before he died to stop all this with petitions and everything. All the other folks are either dead or outside of West Virginia. There’s no one left to take interest in trying to stop this.” 

Named after the Reverend Daniel Stratton, the school was the first all-Black high school in Raleigh County. Under the passionate guidance of E. L. Morton, the school’s first principal, Stratton began teaching high school subjects in 1919. The school graduated 2,786 students before integrating into the all-white Woodrow Wilson High School in 1967. 

Stratton began teaching high school subjects in 1919.

Graduates of Stratton blossomed into renowned engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses ministers and even entertainers, including 1956 graduate Bill Withers, who had a highly successful music career. 

Now operating as an elementary school, Stratton’s rich history has always bred concerns about preserving the school’s legacy. Audrey Jean Cain Cox, daughter of the late Herbert G. Cain, who taught English and coached at Stratton, stated that when the schools integrated, all of Stratton’s memorabilia was burned up in an incinerator. 

Many descendants of Stratton alumni wonder where all of the trophies, books and pictures documenting the school’s accomplishments vanished away to.

During a city council meeting on April 25, Beckley Mayor Rappold spoke highly of the new Stratton Elementary School after having toured the structure earlier that day. Rappold also said that alumni would be given bricks from the old building in memory of Stratton High School. 

Councilwoman Janine Bullock followed by encouraging residents to provide their own memorabilia to be displayed inside the new building.

The new school, which is currently being built directly behind the old Stratton, will open at the beginning of the upcoming academic year. Despite the city’s efforts to ease the minds of former alum, Stratton, as many have come to know and love it, will be demolished after this school ends on June 8. 

BBG Note: In Kanawha County the Board of Education has approved the sale of the former all-Black Garnet High School building in Charleston, West Virginia, to the Garnet Alumni Association. The alumni association plans to preserve the building’s legacy as a multicultural gathering venue and community space. The sale is pending the alumni association’s approval as a non-profit organization. The building had been used for adult education classes but will now be repurposed. The deal may include a provision that returns the property to the school system in five years if the alumni group does not fulfill their plans. The alumni association hopes to attract tenants, including non-profit organizations, to utilize the space and contribute to community development.

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