LOOKING BACK: Franklin High School Class of 1923

Published 7:28 pm Friday, June 16, 2023

One hundred years ago, exercises for the first graduating class of the NEW Franklin High School were held. Commencement exercises of the Franklin High School Class of 1923 began Sunday morning, June 3 at the Franklin Baptist Church. That was the baccalaureate sermon, and it was delivered by guest minister, Reverend Winfield Shiers. Music for the occasion was furnished by the Franklin Baptist Church choir under the direction of Dr. Burton J. Ray. The pupils of the high School, the faculty, the division superintendent and members of the board of trustees, assembled at the high school and marched to the church in a body. The opening exercises were conducted by the Reverend R. D. Stephenson, minister of the Franklin Baptist Church.

Of special note, is the fact that this was the very first Franklin High School class to graduate since the new school was constructed in 1921-22 — on the site of the former Franklin Female Seminary, on Clay Street — just in time for the start of the September 1922 school year.

On Tuesday, June 5, formal graduating class exercises were held at the new Franklin High School, in its very spacious and glorious auditorium. A large crowd assembled there — the first time the new building was used for graduation exercises. Dr. C. H. Rowland of the Franklin Congregational Christian Church made the invocation. The class exercises followed consisting of the salutatory address, delivered by William Daughtrey; the reading of the history of the class, by Charles Vaughan Seal; the will and testament, by Mary Louise May; the class prophecy, by Elizabeth Evans; and finally, the valedictory address, by Annie Graham Rowland. Members of the class of 1923 acquitted themselves well without exception; and, although the auditorium is large, their voices were so well pitched and their enunciation so clear that they were heard throughout the entire auditorium. After the class exercises were concluded, Dr. Roger P. McCutcheon, head of the Department of English at Wake Forest College, addressed the class. His address was scholarly. He discussed the necessity for making wise choices. He said that the happiest man is he that thinks the most interesting thoughts.

Charles Henry Young, Franklin High School principal, delivered diplomas to the following graduates: Elizabeth Evans, Marion Eugene Williams, Charles Vaughan Seal, Edward Maddox Scott, William Henry Daughtrey, Edward Cotton Rawls, Robert Eley Daughtrey, Carroll Howell Beale, Aldine Marie Scott, Mary Louise May, Virginia Lucille Peters, Nancy Moorman White, Mary Beaton, Annie Graham Rowland, Jessie Thomas Parker and Jessie Doughtie.

The Class of 1923 officers were Eugene Williams, president; Cotton Rawls, vice president; and Elizabeth Evans, secretary and treasurer.

The final exercises took place at the high school auditorium on Wednesday, June 6. Reverend R. D. Stephenson of the Franklin Baptist Church offered prayer. Then, followed two setting-up athletic drills, the first made up of 16 girls from the grammar school. Sixteen grammar boys made up the second drill.  The two drills, under the direction of Director of Physical Education Wilson, were received with much applause. 

Next, exercises were held marking the upcoming entry of the 7th Grade of Franklin Grammar School into Franklin High School in September, for the 1923-24 school year: Frank Harrell, India Rawls, Johnnie McLane, Rebecca Pearson, Dorothy Williams, Bertha Harris, Margaret Harrell, Hazel Evans, Elizabeth Daughtrey, Marion Cobb, Virginia Bristow, Ray Davidson, Rodger Derr, Percy Gillette, Douglas Holt, Emerson Jones, Thomas Parker, James Seal and Paul Williams.

Virginia Bristow led the 7th grade class, academically, with a grade average of 97; seven other members of the class averaged 90 or more:  Dorothy Williams, Thomas Parker, Bertha Harris, James Seale, Margaret Harrell, Marion Cobb and Frank Harrell, in the order named.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net.