- Associated Press - Sunday, March 1, 2015

WEATHERFORD, Texas (AP) - It has been his project - his passion - since 1999, and it is now finished.

And Raymond George could not be more pleased.

The Mount Pleasant Colored School, which he attended as a youth, has been restored and will be on display Saturday as part of Black History Month.

“I made a commitment to myself to get this done,” said George, 77. “Now here we are. This has been my dream - this is what I’ve been working for.”

Mount Pleasant, at 224 Prince St. in Weatherford, was built in 1917 for black students in first through ninth grades and graduated its last class in 1963. Weatherford public schools were integrated the next year.

George graduated from Mount Pleasant in 1953. He and other black students from Parker County then attended I.M. Terrell High School in Fort Worth to complete their education.

George said his father, John Lorenzo George - an upholsterer in Weatherford - was committed to seeing that the kids made it to I.M. Terrell. The drive was 45 minutes each way since the highway ended at Summit Avenue.

“Every morning, my dad would pick up the kids that were going to I.M. Terrell, drive us over there and leave us, go back to work and then he would come back to pick us up,” George told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (https://bit.ly/1wgs9AW).

“He did that every day from ‘54 to ‘56 with his own vehicle, and he continued until the city - as the classes grew bigger and bigger - provided him with a larger vehicle and a little money to help with the gas.”

There was little use for the Mount Pleasant building after 1963, and time took its toll.

After graduating from Terrell, George went to work for the phone company and remained there for 40 years.

“I considered myself fortunate because I went to work in 1957 and, as you can imagine, the only job a black man could get with the phone company then was either a janitor, which was where I started, or as an elevator operator in the larger cities, or maybe on the loading docks,” George said.

He eventually became a phone installer - “the first black installer in the area.”

“I had gone into a lot of white people’s homes to install a phone and several times was asked to come to the back,” George said.

He said people would write his supervisor and say how nice the “colored guy” was.

George eventually ran for the Weatherford school board in 1980 and was easily elected, serving six years.

“I took 90 percent of the vote,” George said. “I look back and think I couldn’t go to school with whites and now I am on the school board . how ironic.”

George took on the mission to save the school in 1999.

“It really does seem to have taken a long time,” George said. “There were so many things that needed to be accomplished. And I had told so many people when I was intending to have this completed, and it just went on and on.”

The preservation effort was frustrating at times, he said, and he had to remind himself that volunteers were doing much of the work and donating money and materials.

“I’d sit around at night and think, ‘What would I do if I had to pay for all of this? What would this actually cost?’” George said. “I know I have well over $100,000 into this. The windows alone were more than $32,000. I can’t begin to thank the community for being so benevolent in helping with this project.”

With help from the Parker County historical society, George is working to place a Texas State Historical Marker on the grounds where the two-room building stands.

As agreed upon by the Save the Mount Pleasant Colored School historical committee, George reluctantly turned over control of the restored school to the city.

“I understand right now that turning this over to the city is probably the best thing I can do,” he said. “There’s no way I could keep this up, and I know that the city has the personnel and equipment to do so.”

But he said he also feels like the school’s “parent,” and letting go troubles him.

“I’m going on my 16th year doing this,” George said. “You want to know how I feel about my little school? It’s like you have a child that you’ve been raising, only to find that you have to give them away after 15 years - how does that make you feel? This is my child and I have to give them away.”

George said the city will work with the Mount Pleasant alumni association to preserve the school’s history and raise money for upkeep.

Assistant City Manager Sharon Hayes said, “Raymond was the catalyst to get this project moving, and his dedication, drive and tenacity were instrumental in keeping it going.”

The city plans to put in landscaping, build sidewalks, and add a fence and a paved parking lot.

Once that’s completed, George hopes his final dream is realized.

“If I can get a historical marker on the building and this becomes a functioning part of the city and people can benefit from it, that’s great. What more can you ask for?” George said.


Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, https://www.star-telegram.com

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