Henderson High grads dedicate bench in Unity Park

District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams unveiled the new bench dedicated to the last graduating class from W.C. Henderson High School at Unity Park on Saturday. Williams served as the former president of the class reunion committee. (Photo By Logan Kirkland, SDN.)
Staff Writer

Members of the last graduating class of W. C. Henderson High School unveiled a new bench at Unity Park on Saturday.

The Class of 1970 was the last class to graduate from Henderson before desegregation. The school was integrated into Starkville High School.

Those who spoke at the event were District 5 Supervisor and former president of the class reunion committee Joe Williams, current president of the class reunion committee Fred Gandy, Mayor Lynn Spruill, President of the Board of Supervisors and District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer and Unity Park Advisory Committee Chair Jeanne Marszalek.

Gandy opened the ceremony introducing members of the class of 1970 to celebrate a moment of history in Starkville.

“We want to be remembered and not forgotten,” Gandy said. “We are not doing this as a fame thing, but as a remembrance.”

Spruill said she was honored to be invited and to speak at the dedication ceremony. Spruill said this is another remembrance of how far Starkville has come and the strides it continues to take to promote inclusion.

“This is something to show that we’ve changed,” Spruill said. “We are now integrated and that’s how it should be.”

Trainer said the new bench is a perfect way for the class to remember an important part of history and the people who were the trailblazers during a challenging time.

“Every time I come by and look at this bench, I’ll never forget about the class of 1970,” Trainer said.

Marszalek said the Unity Park committee was thankful for the class adding this contribution to the park and hopes it will encourage others to donate more items like the bench to the park.

Marszalek said the park is a wonderful place for members in the community and visitors will see the efforts Starkville is doing to praise those who advocated for unity.

“It speaks to the people that really worked so hard to make equality for everyone,” Marszalek said.

Williams said this was a class who wanted all students to come together, no matter their race, ethnicity or where they were from and this was a class who wished for opportunity.

With the new commemorative bench, Williams said it will help honor and recognize graduates who have gone on into the community to serve as nurses, doctors, educators and more.

“We want to bring about unity all over Oktibbeha County,” Williams said. “This represents the end of an era, an era of greatness.”


The Unity Park Advisory Committee will be accepting nominations for its 2018 honorees from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15. The committee is looking for submission of names of potential honorees who have contributed to civil rights in Oktibbeha County.

The honorees will be announced during a ceremony held at Unity Park on Martin Luther King Jr. day on Jan. 15, 2018. Beginning in 2018, the committee will select up to two additional honorees per year from nominees submitted by the public.

Nominees can be submitted online at starkvilleunitypark@yahoo.com or in writing to Unity Park Advisory Committee, 108 Grand Ridge Rd., Starkville.

• Each nominee must meet the following criteria: u The nominee must have lived in Oktibbeha County for at least part of his or her life.
• The nominee must have been deceased for at least five years at the time of nomination.
• The nominee must have made a significant contribution to civil rights in Oktibbeha County.
• The nominee must have advanced community unity within Oktibbeha County.

The committee will consider the names submitted and make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors