Lincoln High School closed in the late 1960s. For 75 years, African-American students received their education here. Many went on to distinguish themselves in a diversity of careers.
According to a 2003 report in the Times Record, graduates “have established themselves as community leaders across the United States. They are scientists, writers, engineers, educators, lawyers, ministers, law enforcement officials, musicians, business leaders, and dedicated public servants.”
Over its long history, Lincoln High School turned out some 6,000 students. Their success is attributed to outstanding teachers, strong church leaders, and a proud community. Teachers like Dora Sullivan, Rizetta Davis, Chester Jordan, Minnie Cox, and F. M. Ware demanded respect, good manners and hard work.
The school functioned in spite of hand-me-downs and discarded materials no longer considered useful at other schools. Former students remember books with no backs, missing pages and graffiti. Furniture and desks were dilapidated and had peeling seats.
“Because of the teachers at Lincoln High School, many graduates have gone worldwide, making an impact on society, and still raising the banner high,” said retired English teacher Judy Stratford Christian.
The late Lawrence Tidwell organized the Lincoln High Alumni Association back in 1980. The reunion is held every two years, and it is set to take place July 7-10, 2016. Former graduates from as far away as Maryland and California will be renewing friendships and rekindling memories.
The economic impact of this event will significantly impact local hotels, restaurants and retail centers. Reunion organizers have set events all over the area, expecting more than a million dollars to be spent during the reunion festivities.
Some prominent graduates of Lincoln High
Cecil M. Greene, Jr. is from the class of 1948. He left the area and went on to complete his college education, fought in the Korean War, and had successful careers at the University of Chicago and Knoxville (Tennessee) College. He returned to Fort Smith where he currently serves as photographer for the Lincoln Echo newspaper.
Yvonne Keaton-Martin (1950) has enjoyed a long career as a Fort Smith educator, member and past president of the Fort Smith School Board and retiring principal of Howard Elementary School. In 1999 Beverly enterprises (now Golden Living) established the Yvonne Keaton-Martin Scholarship Fund in her honor. To date, over one million dollars has been awarded to deserving students.
Alvin Bradley (1952) came up through the ranks of the Fort Smith Police Department. As a major, he has the distinction of retiring as one of the highest ranking officers. Since retirement, he has operated the Lincoln Youth Service Center. Ledro R. Justice, MD (1961), board certified in general psychiatry, Dr. Justice joined the medical staff at St. Edward Mercy Medical Center (now Mercy Hospital Fort Smith) / Harbor View Behavioral Health Hospital. He served as medical director of Mercy Behavioral Outpatient Services. For more than a decade, he chaired the Jeanne Spurlock Congressional Fellowship Selection Committee which selected a psychiatrist to serve in a Congressional office.
Leon R. Thompson (1962) received a Bachelor of Science degree from Arkansas AM&N (now UAPB). In 1968 Thompson began a successful thirty-one year career as the Human Resources Administrator of Whirlpool Corporation. Over the years, he has served on numerous boards and commissions. Now retired, Thompson is an active member of the Lincoln Alumni Association and the Men of the Fort Smith RoundTable.
Barbara Webster-Meadows (1962) has a college degree in business administration. She is co-founder of the Lincoln Echo newspaper, where she served as publisher for eight years. She is in her eighteenth year as an appointed commissioner for the Fort Smith Housing Authority. She retired from Scholars Learning Center as program manager in 2013.
George B. McGill (1964) graduated from the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) with a Bachelor of Science degree in education as well as an MBA. He owned McGill Insurance & Financial Services, Inc. in Fort Smith until his retirement. Currently, he serves in the Arkansas House of Representatives for Fort Smith District 78. He was instrumental in securing funding for the soon-to-be-built U.S. Marshall’s Museum. Rep. McGill is a founding member of the Bass Reeves Legacy Initiative. He is the 2013 and 2015 recipient of the Distinguished Legislator Award.
Garland Bray (1966) graduated from the College of the Ozarks in Clarksville on an athletic scholarship. He retired after forty-one years with the city of Fort Smith. Bray began volunteer work with the Fort Smith Boys Club. As a coach in basketball, football, soccer and baseball, he led teams to 5 National ASA Championships and 2 NHAS National Championships. As a member of the Fort Smith Boys and Girls Club Hall of Fame, he is the recipient of the Distinguished Lipton Award, the Man-Boy Award, and Allstate Good Hands Award.
by Sherry Toliver
Sherry Toliver is president of the Lincoln High School Alumni Association, Inc. She is a 1962 graduate and co-founder of the Lincoln Echo newspaper, Inc. Toliver retired in 2004 after 27 years in Federal Service (FS), but remains active in many organizations including the FS Museum of History, FS Historical Society, Parks & Recreation Commission, Sebastian County Branch NAACP, Partner in Education with Howard School, and Sebastian County Democratic Women