Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tangipahoa Parish Colored Training School

Professor Oliver Wendell Dillon
Professor Oliver Wendell Dillon was born October 15, 1882, and died May 18, 1954, in Magnolia, Mississippi, he received his B.S. Degree in Science from Alcorn A. & M. College, in Alcorn, Mississippi and completed his post-graduate work from Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia.

The Tangipahoa Parish Training School, founded in 1911 was the first colored training school in the entire South. The most complete account of the establishment of the school is found in Edward E. Redcay, County Training Schools and Public Education for Negroes in the South, (Washington D. C., September 1910, by Professor A.M. Strange).

The school was the first color training school in the south and one of the first rural public schools providing secondary education for Negroes in the nation. The Tangipahoa Parish Training School concept was extended fully in 1918,  Mr. Oliver Wendell Dillon, during the first year of the founding of his administration. School donations were made through the Julius Rosenwald Fund, The Slater Fund, the state, and parish, and by the supporter of the school communities both black and white.
O.W. Dillion Colored Training School in Kentwood, LA 

Professor Dillon's contribution in the area of education was a regional impact. The school provided educational instructions for Negro children in grades one through eleven with a stress on Vocational and Industrial education at the secondary level. It would also provide teachers training so that its graduates could staff the rural black schools in the parish. The colored training schools were the real beginning of secondary public education for blacks in the rural south.

After seeing his dream of a lifetime shattered, Mr. O. W. Dillon, principal of the Tangipahoa Parish Training School, retired on May 17, 1952, at 69 years old. Although his hope of establishing a normal college in Kentwood to train Black teachers had been dead for many years, he left behind 35 years of sincere service to his people and a better understanding between the white and black races.

When Mr. Dillon first came to Kentwood in 1917 to take charge of the one-room, one-teacher, two months a year school, the town was a booming sawmill center and the largest community in the parish. In 1917, Mr. Dillon received $1,000 from the Brooks Scanlon Lumber Co. and the Natalbany Lumber Co. in order to hire three other teachers and extend the school term to a full nine months for 200 students.

He continued his money-raising efforts to match $5,000 promised by the State Supervisor of Negro Education, which he accomplished within two days through diligence and the assistance of a Mr. Wayne and Mr. H.A. Addison. This endeavor resulted in a new building to replace one that had burned and the girls and boys dormitories that had also been destroyed by fire. Mr. Dillon was undaunted by these setbacks. His next appeal was too rich Northerners, and he was rewarded with enough funds to rebuild both buildings. His ingenuity proved valuable in replacing these building when he appealed to the local board to buy a one-man machine and pay for the millwork to make cement blocks.

After securing the machine, he implored the Negro people in the area to supply labor. They made 40,0000 cement blocks, one at a time, and erected a building for educating the children of this and surrounding areas. He was also instrumental in getting 30 boys from the National Youth Organization in New Orleans, to come to Kentwood and enroll in school. During their stay, enough blocks were made to build a teacher's home for faculty members. Frustration, highs and lows, 35 years of hard work and commuting  15 miles one way each day, resulting in improving the lives of thousands of your people. Mr. Dillion returned to his father's farm in Magnolia, Miss., after his retirement, along with wife, Verdie Dillion, where they lived until their deaths.

Source: Tangipahoa Parish Training School/Dillion Memorial High School Reunion 1995