Link to actual article at Arkansas Online

Little Rock's  'Lost Class' of 1959 recalls turbulent year

BY ANDREW A. GREEN
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

    David Scruggs was a sports writer for the Central High School Tiger in the fall of 1958. Because he was a senior, he got to cover the football games every Friday night.

     On Saturday mornings he typed his stories, walked up the big front steps of Central, showed his pass to the armed guards at the door and dropped of his copy in the journalism department.

    But the building was empty that fall. He was one of only a few students to walk through Central's doors that year, and his stories were just more sheets in a stack of articles, the material for a newspaper that would never be.

    Forty years ago today, Little Rock residents voted 19,470 to 7,561 to close the city's high schools instead of immediately integrating all schools in the district. The high schools stayed closed the entire year.

    The political passions sparked by the forced desegregation of Central High School the year before had not begun to calm. Adults, from parents to city leaders, nightly held hushed discussions and frantic meeting, trying to determine what balance would be struck between federal orders and local wishes.

    It was not the 1960s.

    The 1958 Hall High yearbook from the previous spring had three pages about sock hops and a letter from Pat Boone, who chose Donna Sue Martin as the prettiest girl of '58 from the photos of five contestants.

    "It was the '50s, and we lived in a very happy little bubble until all of this came along," said Cathie Matthews, who was a senior at Hall that year.

    Members of Little Rock's "Lost Class" of 1959 say that political activism could not have been further from their minds.

    "We were never politically active in state and federal affairs. Our politics were running for school council," said Betty Meyer, who is now helping organize Hall's 40th reunion.

    Today class members recall being caught in the middle, victimized by a situation out of their control. And, like Scruggs, they tried as hard as they could to manufacture what they always wanted and would never get a senior year of high school.

    Lost Class members use words such as "traumatic" and "horrible" to describe the school closing and many recall a sense of disbelief that extended well into the fall. School had to open any day, they thought.

    Don Smith, who was to become president of Hall High student council that fall, the closest he and others came to activism was trying to convince adults to open the schools, integrated or not. Smith helped conduct a poll in September 1959 that showed 71percent of Halls students wanted the schools to open regardless of integration.

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This is a reprint of an article which appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Sunday September 27, 1998 and is now available to the Internet via linkage to the Democrat-Gazette site:http://www.ardemgaz.com/prev/central/acclass27.html. It is reprinted for the sole educational use to complement a missing component from the 40th Anniversary site of the Crisis at Central High It is one of the few stories about the 'LOST CLASS of 1959" of which this site's author was a member.