For more than a quarter of a century, thousands of alumni, former students, and friends of Sam Houston High School return to Huntsville to honor the life of service and achievements of Samuel Walker Houston.

Houston ranked high among the nation’s prominent educators and civic leaders. Born in Huntsville to Joshua and Sylvester Houston, he devoted his life to building a foundation for education among African- Americans. To him, the road to freedom and justice began at home and at the doors of the school.

His philosophy can easily be discerned by clues found in his many writings, particularly correspondence between him and Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, (now, Tuskegee University).

He worked with Emmett J. Scott, who served as Washington’s secretary, and Texas educators like C.W. Luckie of Prairie View; J.H. Crawford of Houston; I.M. Terrell of Fort Worth, A.S. Jackson of McClellan County and L.B. Kinchion of Austin.

Houston became a part of an organized group of educators that invaded the State’s Teachers Association to reform education prior to school consolidation in 1930 so that it would be an effective mechanism for the development of a workforce to address economic needs of the nation as well as the South.

The principal basis of the efficacy of a system of education for African- Americans in the nation had been enunciated by 1900. The system of learning would be geared to an industrial system.

Houston, along with his colleagues, understood that limiting education to an agrarian society would limit the career choices of African-Americans and enhance an accommodative posture that would maintain the status quo and inequality.

In 1900, six years before he founded the Sam Houston Industrial and Training School in the Galilee Community of Huntsville, the Texas Colored Teachers Association denounced practical; training as “unjust, illogical, spurious and antagonistic to American peace and prosperity.”

Houston, caught in the tide of the two opposing philosophies, adopted a combined approach to education. It was a classical-industrial design geared toward classical, theoretical and practical training in efforts to enhance the development of an African-American middle class. He founded the Sam Houston Industrial and Training School in 1906, worked to enhance its planning and development and, as such, opened the doors of opportunity for thousands of students from Huntsville, Walker County, the whole of East Texas and the nation.

This year, the week of July 21-26, will be “homecoming” for thousands of alumni, ex-students, and friends of Sam Houston High School. They will come from large and small cities throughout the nation and the world, including California, New York, Washington, Virginia., Oregon, Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, Tennessee, Colorado, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the District of Columbia — to mention a few. Using the general theme, “Sam Houston High School: Bringing the Past into Focus,” the National Alumni Association of Sam Houston High School under the leadership of its parent organization, the Board of the Samuel Walker Houston Museum and Cultural Center, will convene in Huntsville.

Activities will be held throughout the period: M-F — Exhibit rooms will be opened and registration will begin. The center will unveil an exhibit on the works of one the oldest alumni of Sam Houston High School, George Oliphint, a member of the class of 1941-42, along with selected pieces of Ethiopian Art from the “George and Doris Gresham” collection. Another highlight of the reunion will be the presentation of early African-American films, including “Hallelujah, (1929), the first sound film featuring African-American actors/actresses, with King Vidor as producer and the “In Our Footsteps Collection” entitled “America Beyond the Color Line.”

Famous films such as “The Learning Tree” (Gordon Parks), “Cabin in the Sky” (1943) featuring Ethel Waters, Lena Horne and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, “The Jackie Robinson Story” (1950), and “Miss Jane Pittman” will be available.

Other events include: “A Maroon and White Extravaganza: A Decade of Musical Tradition, a Salute to Motown” accompanied by a Style Show.”

This event will take place on July 25, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Samuel Walker Houston Museum and Cultural Center.

Other events planned for July 26 include a business meeting at the Samuel Walker Houston Cultural Center at 10 a.m. on Saturday, followed by a picnic, and dance scheduled at the Huntsville High School gym.

The business meeting scheduled for July 26 at the Samuel Walker Houston Museum and Cultural Center will include a strategic planning session to elicit ideas and plans for a permanent memorial to Samuel Walker Houston.

Former students from all of the county schools, including Dodge, Mount Zion, Crabbs Prairie, New Waverly, and surrounding areas should attend. This year’s reunion will be devoted to planning for fulfilling the promise of Samuel Walker Houston’s legacy.

Hope is expressed in the words of Booker T. Washington, “No man, who continues to add something to the intellectual and moral well-being of the place in which he lives, left long without proper reward.”

Naomi W. Ledé is a retired Senior Research Scientist, Distinguished Professor, and University Administrator. She serves as Chair of the Board of the Samuel Walker Houston Museum and Cultural Center and President of the National Alumni Association of Sam Houston High School.