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Bernard School's 100th anniversary to be celebrated
Bernard School, Elize Lee at the school.jpg
Elize Lee is pictured standing outside Bernard School.
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One hundred years ago, in the summer of 1921, a community spirited individual lead the effort that would eventually result in Bernard School opening in 1922. 

Following in those footsteps, plans have begun in 2021 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of Bernard School in 2022. That event will include a Bernard School Alumni Homecoming for former students. 

“The original Bernard School opened its doors in 1922,” said James “Mickey” Gwyn, event organizer. “We would like to recognize that historic moment.”

In the summer of 1921, professor J.E. Wood, principal of the City School for Negroes, appealed to the Rosenwald Building Program for assistance. 

Program founder Julius Rosenwald was an American businessman and philanthropist. He is best known as a part-owner and leader of Sears, Roebuck and Company. Booker T. Washington encouraged Rosenwald to address the poor state of African-American education in the US, which suffered from inadequate buildings and books.

Wood, realizing the potential of utilizing Rosenwald funding, invited the Rosenwald Fund Committee to McMinnville in the interest of building an adequate school for his people. Rosenwald Fund representatives and staff from the State Department of Education met with leaders of the city of McMinnville that resulted in a planned campaign for building funds.

In the fall of 1921, the present site on Bernard Drive was purchased for erection of a seven-teacher school building that opened in January, 1922. Months later, the school was named for Mr. O.H. Bernard, the Rosenwald agent who gave time and money to make the school a reality.

The original structure was consumed by fire and completely destroyed in 1946, but the school was quickly rebuilt in 1947.

Bernard School remained a part of the Warren County’s school system until 1982 when it was razed. The gymnasium is the only remaining building that was part of the Bernard campus. Today, the gymnasium has been leased to Young Men United. Group members have undertaken a renovation project to preserve it.

Festivities celebrating the 100th anniversary of the school, which will be jointly sponsored by the Black History Museum of Warren County and Young Men United, are tentatively set for May 27-29 in 2022. Among the activities will be a meet and greet, dedication of a historical marker, celebration dinner and family cookout scheduled.

More information will be made available as the various organizing committees finalize events.