James T. Gregory commemoration set for Saturday

Published 10:06 am Wednesday, July 12, 2017

History will be both made and remembered Saturday evening at the Butler County Board of Education as a school and the man behind it are honored.

The building that houses the current board of education, located on School Highland Road, was once known as James T. Gregory Elementary School, which is where African American students received an education prior to the integration of Butler County’s various schools.

Butler County Board of Education member Linda Hamilton and Kenneth Crum, a product of James T. Gregory Elementary School, set out on a mission to remind Butler County residents of the school’s role as a formidable foundation for students during the pre-integration era of public education.

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But just as importantly, the duo aims to inform a demographic of Butler County youth who are too young to recall the building’s rich history.

According to Hamilton, the idea for a commemoration began with Crum, who noticed something interesting—or rather the absence of something—upon a visit to his old stomping grounds as a youth.

“Mr. Crum, upon revisiting the place where he went to elementary school, got the idea that ‘Wow, there’s really nothing that says James T. Gregory. Now it’s the Board of Education.’” Hamilton said.

The event’s coordinators have made a conscious effort to appeal to as wide of an audience as possible by courting various entertainers.

Famous musical family The Mahands will perform a musical selection following a speech from Jerome Gray, chairman of Conecuh County’s NAACP.

Kenneth Robinson and the Free Birds will also serve as special musical guests.  The Butler Chapel A.M.E. Zion Youth Praise Team will also perform, as well as a dramatic poetry reading from Shannon Crum, Kenneth Crum’s niece and a current performing arts student at Alabama State University.

The event will feature a very special guest of honor in Gennetta Jordan, Gregory’s 90-year-old granddaughter.

“She is so excited,” Crum said.  “I called her and told her what we were going to do in honoring her grandfather. I asked her permission to do it, and she is so, so happy.”

Honoring the legacy of Gregory and others like him is paramount, for Crum.  But it’s equally about making sure that the legacy carries on.

“This is a well-respected person, Mr. Gregory, and the experience of that time in our history is very important,” Crum said. “If we don’t acknowledge and chronicle it, and do our part… if we don’t make this important, no one will.”

The ceremony will begin Saturday at 6 p.m. from the Butler County Board of Education cafeteria, and the dedication will follow at 7 p.m. in the lobby.

For more information, contact Crum at 404-242-4223 or Hamilton at 334-368-2019.