Historical Sketch of EUREKA-ROYAL STREET-ROWAN SCHOOL
Ordinance No. 21 of Hattiesburg was passed October 29, 1892, by the Board of Aldermen declaring the town of Hattiesburg a separate school district.
Reverend E.J. Currie, a Presbyterian Minister, was elected the first superintendent of the newly established school district which he served from 1892-1896. It was during this period that two small schools were built-one for Negroes and one for Whites. The White school was listed as being located between Gordon Creek and North Main Street. No reference was made as to where the school for Negroes was located. An interview with a retired teacher, who entered the public school in this system revealed "that the first school she remembers was a yellow frame building on Sixth Street." This school was reported to have been painted red a few years later.
Prior to the first public school, which was elementary only, a report of 1885 states that schools were held in churches and lodge halls; yet, these schools were operated under trustees appointed by the Mayor of the city. There were two trustee boards according to the article - one for Black and one for Whites.
In 1920, F.B. Woodley proposed a school building program which provided for a school in each of the four (4) Wards of the City of Hattiesburg. Specifically, the report stated that Court Street School an Eaton School were the first to be built. Hardy Street School and Bouie Street School were built during 1907 - 1908. The first Hattiesburg High School on Main Street was reported built in 1911, which was replaced with a 3-story brick building in 1921. However, nothing was said of any buildings being built for Negroes. It can only be assumed that the elementary schools on Rebecca Avenue and the Sixteenth Section School were built during this period. Further, it can be assumed that the red building on Sixth Street remained as the school for Negroes in Ward Four. Segregation or "the separate but equal doctrine" was constitutional and, therefore, was the law at that time.
In 1918, Mr. W.H. Jones, newly elected Black principal, submitted to Superintendent F.B. Woodley a proposal to build a new structure to replace the "Red" frame school building on Sixth Street. Mr. Jones' proposal to build a new structure. Following board consideration, the domestic Science building was built as the first unit of the proposed new school being completed in November of 1918.
During the session 1919-1920, Professor Jones pursued further with the Board of Education the completion of the proposed modern high school for Negroes. In 1920, a bond issue for $75000 was passed to build a new building with construction beginning shortly thereafter. Work was completed and the new school building was opened for classes the second Monday of September, 1921.
This structure was later acclaimed by the press as the second modern brick school building to be built for Negroes in Mississippi at that time. The school was later dedicated under the name of EUREKA in lieu of being unable to secure community consensus on any other name.
Eureka was union school housing all grades from first through twelve during the period 1921- 1949. Negro students in grades 7-12 throughout the city attended the school and student in grades one through six in Ward Four attended the school also.
Mrs. S.H. Blair succeeded Mr. W.I. Thames as Superintendent on July 1, 1939. Shortly after he took office, World Ward II began making normal school operations difficult, especially within a camp city as Hattiesburg. In spite of circumstances of constant changes in teaching personnel, overcrowded classrooms, rationing of supplies, etc., the schools operated effectively.
Following the end of World War II, it became necessary to relieve the overcrowding at Eureka where the enrollment had grown from approximately 80 pupils in 1940 to approximately 1400 students by 1947.
The first proposal by the Board of Education to relieve this congestion was to convert the Sixth street USO building into an elementary school and maintain the Eureka building as a Junior-Senior High School Black leaders of the community supported an alternate plan submitted by Principal Burger to the Superintendent and Trustee Board which proposed the following: Select a new site of adequate land space on which to build a new Senior High School Plant which will provide for departments and services essential to meeting accredited standards of high school programs. Also, the site should have adequate land space and services for recreational facilities - as tennis courts, football stadium, gymnasium, baseball field, etc. Through the educational leadership of Mr. Blair and the support of an understanding Board of Trustees, several months later the plan of building a new school on another site was adopted. Nine acres on Royal Street near William Carey College were selected as the site.