Robert L. Cousins High School only existed for 13 years, but the lasting impression it left on Covington’s black community will last a lifetime.
R.L. Cousins High School opened in 1957 and, as one of two black schools in Covington during the time of segregation, immediately became a focal point for the local black community.
Even though the high school ceased to exist after the local integration movement of1970, several former students hope to make the school a focal point once again through the formation of the R.L. Cousins Alumni Association.
The school is steeped in tradition and pride — whether it was the football team and their record setting 102-0 victory over Westside Lincolnton in 1967, or the civil rights marches of 1970 led by students who protested the disbanding of their high school.
"One of the main purposes is to keep the legacy and history of R.L. Cousins going. One of the things we received going to an all-black high school was the caring part. We were taught that we have to give back. Our parents and teachers preached education and to be your brother’s keeper," association President Chester Benton said. "We need to pass some of that on to our descendants, and share that with other people. To share that rich history with our grandkids — that’s all they ever know about it, what we tell them."
The alumni association has been in the works for more than a year and the group’s bylaws were approved in November. To announce their emergence into the community, the association is holding a "Meet and Greet" today between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Old Cousins Cafeteria. All former students, staff, teachers and administrators are invited to attend. Benton said alumni includes anyone who attended the school, not just those who graduated.
In addition to remembering the history of R.L. Cousins High School, the association will also seek to provide scholarships to descendants of R.L. Cousins students. Both students who are hoping to go to college and those who need financial assistance to attend elementary and high school will be helped.
Benton said one of the other key goals will simply be to help the community in any way possible.
"We have alumni with varied backgrounds — doctors, lawyers, plumbers, motivational speakers, teachers. We’re hoping to help the community in the areas of mentoring, tutoring, in the way of working with organizations that are dealing with health issues," he said. "By bringing together all 13 classes of R.L. Cousins, we can send volunteers to hospitals, schools and other places, and use of all of the talent we have."
The association’s officers are Benton, class of ‘69; vice president Charles Thomas, class of ‘60; recording secretary Janie H, Giles, class of ‘65; corresponding secretary Lillie Roberts, class of ‘63; treasurer Dr. Melvin Baker, class of ‘66; assistant treasurer Frederick Johnson, class of ‘58; parliamentarian James Mullins, class of ‘64; and historian Flemmie Pitts, class of ‘60.
"I was talking to a local official at the dedication of Wolverine Field (in September) and he said ‘I never realized the love and connection you have to R.L. Cousins.’ I’m sure everyone has it about their school, but when your school doesn’t exist anymore it’s different. It meant a lot to us, everything we learned," Benton said. "It’s like a homecoming."