The organizing committee of Lincoln Memorial High School class of 1966 have been working for months on the plans for their 50th reunion.
And what a weekend they have in store for the alumni and guests.
“I’m excited about the reunion,” said Barbara DeSue, committee chairwoman. “We’ll see all our friends and classmates who we grew up with.”
The committee has packed a lot into four days, starting with a tour of the Lincoln Middle School, the former site of their high school, on Thursday, June 23.
Those attending the reunion activities will pick up their events information packets at the middle school, 305 17th St. E., from 1 to 4:30 p.m.
Then on Friday, June 24, there will be the reunion kickoff meet and greet with a fish fry at 5 p.m. at the National Association of Letter Carriers Union Hall, 1816 9th St. W., Bradenton.
The big event will start at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 25.
A banquet and dance will be held at Renaissance on 9th, 1816 9th St. W., Bradenton.
This busy long weekend will conclude on Sunday, June 26, with a worship service led by the Rev. James Roberts, pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 525 Martin Luther King Ave., Bradenton.
The service will begin at 11 a.m., and a dinner at the church will follow.
This will be a special day for the pastor, since the Rev. Roberts is a 1966 graduate of Lincoln Memorial High.
Committee member Glen Searls also is looking forward to the reunion.
“This will be a chance to see lots of friends I haven’t seen in 50 years,” Searls said.
He left the community right after graduation in 1966 to join the U.S. Air Force.
“A lot of us left town, for college, the service or for jobs,” Searls said.
Committee member Ethel Higdon-Williams stayed in the community after graduation, and sees a lot of her former classmates around town.
“I never left Manatee County,” Higdon-Williams said, “so I’ve been able to meet up with a lot who come home for big occasions like this.”
Nonetheless, she was looking forward to seeing everyone.
“I’m a little apprehensive that I’m not going to recognize someone who recognizes me,” she said.
The class of 1966 was one of the last graduating classes of Lincoln Memorial High because the school district was under court order to desegregate its schools.
A busing plan went into effect in April 1970, although some black students were already attending formerly all-white schools.
According to a speech by Cathy Slusser, presented to the Manatee County Historical Society in 2013 and published on its website, a new high school for black students was opened in 1948.
This school replaced the Lincoln Academy in Bradenton, said Slusser, director of the historical resources for the Manatee County Clerk of Court.
Since the school drew its students from black communities from both sides of the Manatee River, connections made then are still strong today.
“It was like the whole village raised the children,” said Sandra Anderson, another committee member.
“There was discipline and it didn’t hurt us,” Anderson said. “It made men and women out of us.”
She has fond memories of all her teachers.
“We had teachers who really cared about us,” Anderson said. “They would come to the house and talk to our parents.”
The committee invited all the teachers who are still alive to attend the reunion.
Six responded and are coming; one even was traveling from the Miami area.
Leroy Bellamy, another committee member, said his education at Lincoln was top-notch.
“The class was very successful,” said Bellamy, who was class president. “We have classmates in all types of professions, including doctors and lawyers.”
Fifty-three members of the class of 1966 have died, but the committee was able to contact the remaining 103 classmates.
For more information, call 941-545-8739 or 941-773-9438.