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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2007
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Church to say 'thanks' to former Trinity teachers

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com · 340-2445

ATHENS — They taught students who accomplished feats like winning an award for Southern fiction, performing for the queen of England and running for mayor of Chicago.

They did it during a time when Alabama was a divided state with separate schools for black and white children.

A church in Athens decided it is time to say "Thank you."

W.M. Byrd, pastor of Grace Missionary Baptist Church, said his congregation is hosting Trinity Banquet for former teachers of Trinity High School.

Trinity operated in Athens as the county's only black high school from 1865 to 1970. It served students in grades 7-12.

It closed during integration.

About 50 former teachers plan to attend the banquet, which will be Oct. 13 at 5 p.m. at the church on Elm Street.

"They served as more than teachers," Byrd said. "They were our parents away from home. If anything transpired that wasn't right, they disciplined. They told us we would not fail or drop out."

Byrd said he can remember Principal W.H. Ashford walking through the school with a paddle or switch.

"He made sure our hallways were clean and everyone was acting right," Byrd said.

The teaching and care students received at Trinity is evident in the success stories, Byrd said.

Trinity graduate C. Eric Lincoln, for example, was an author, theologian, ordained Methodist minister and a professor of religion at Duke University. His book "The Avenue, Clayton City" won the Lillian Smith Award for best Southern fiction in 1988.

Former slave Patti J. Malone graduated from Trinity and then went to Fisk University to join the Jubilee Singers. During autumn 1877, she performed with the group for Queen Victoria of England.

Another of Trinity's successful graduates will be the guest speaker at the banquet. That speaker will be retired Judge Eugene Pincham, class of 1941. Pincham, a human rights activist and cousin to Lincoln, is the former Circuit Court judge of Cook County, Ill., and justice of the Appellate Court of Illinois.

In 1991, Pincham was a nominee for mayor of Chicago. Although he lost, Pincham carried 19 of the city's 50 wards.

Also at the banquet, the church, former students and Athens city and Limestone school officials will pay tribute to the teachers who have died and honor those living.

Tickets are $10. Buy them before Monday by calling Byrd at 771-7081 or 233-2600.

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