Covington High class celebrates first integrated school reunion - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Covington High class celebrates first integrated school reunion

By Justin Hanson - bio | email

COVINGTON, TN (WMC-TV) - Class reunions are a rite of passage for many.  At them, you see how some change, while others stay the same. 

For Covington High School's Class of 1980, change was a big part of a recent 30-year reunion.

1980 was the year Ronald Reagan was elected president, a record number of TV watchers tuned in to see 'Who Shot J.R,' and the world lost Beatle John Lennon.

But despite Lennon's famous lyrics, some members of the Covington High School Class of 1980 did not live as one.

"We had individual dances, we had individual proms, pep rallies, we sat in separate sections in the gym, and no one made us...this wasn't a rule, it's just the way it was, and no one ever questioned it," said class member Leigh Buie.

Mid-South classrooms were desegregated by 1980, but what happened after school was a much different story.

"Times are changing, people are changing, everybody got together when we were in school, and every body talked, out of school not so much socializing," said class member Nancy Harvey.

"It was like it was supposed to be no one made us do that it was just the way it was," Buie added.

Now, 30 years later, members of the Covington High Class of 1980 gather again, for their first ever integrated high school reunion.

"When I shared with some of my coworkers that I was coming to my class reunion, and this was the first time we've had an integrated class reunion they said, 'You've gotta be kidding me,' and I said, 'No, I'm actually telling you the truth,'" said class member Tammy Williams Sneed.

For many it's been 30 years since they've seen each other at all.

"We thought all along that would be good that we got together," Tyrone Avery said. "Time waits on no one, and as you can see around here tonight, you can see the celebration - everybody is delighted to see each other."

Until now, this class of 200-plus students held separate reunions, with whites at one and blacks at another.  They hope their 30-year reunion is a first step to mending whatever caused their separation.

"When we were in school back in 1980, things were just so separated, it was almost to the point where things were segregated, but they were which is so strange," Tyus said.

"We had separate dances and that kind of thing. I remember when we did our high school play my senior year, we talked about that - why we didn't do things together - and now, 30 years later, we are," Harvey added.

So many of Covington High's Class of 1980 say they had such a good time together that they're planning another reunion in five years, instead of ten.

They say they still have a lot of catching up to do.

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