History of Stratton High School

Photo from 1970 Stratton Jr. High yearbook

Photo courtesy of Orlando Parrish

History of Stratton High School, 1907-1967


Stratton High School, like many other great institutions, had a very humble beginning. For in 1907, it sprang from the Rock Quarry Elementary School located at Mabscott.

The Rock Quarry School, which had 19 pupils, served the children of the ten families then in the Beckley area. The first teacher was Miss Mary Booze. In 1912, the school was moved to a building on Fayette Street where the Pioneer Hotel now stands. This building served as a tinshop. Odd Fellow Hall and the school. The teachers were Miss Booze and Miss Hattie Dehaven. In 1916, E. L. Morton, a man with great foresight and courage, became the principal.

In 1919, through the planning of Mr. Morton and the efforts of the parents, there was established at Fayette and Beaver Avenue the first Negro school in Raleigh County to offer high school subjects. The building had four rooms and was named after the Reverend Daniel Stratton, a highly respected citizen.

At Stratton, all elementary subjects and those of the first year of high school were taught. There were in the high school department two teachers. They were E. L. Morton and Miss Louise Morton, who later became Mrs. W. L. Jeffries.

By 1921, the faculty of the high school department had grown to three. They were E. L. Morton, Miss Maude Wilson and William C. Reid.

Some of the citizens who worked for the establishment and improvement of Stratton High School were: Reverend LeRoy Robinson, R. L. French, Angus B. Evans, John and Richard Wright, R. O. Carey, William Robinson, Henry Mitchell, Alex dark, L. R. Marshall, J. O. Payne, H. M. Brown, Brown and Harry Payne, Dr. R. J. Howard, Dr. William Capel and Hayes Law.

By 1923, Stratton had advanced to a two year high school, with a faculty of four. They were E. L. Morton, Hobart Dandridge, Mrs. Ruth Beckwith Dandridge and Miss Anna Boyd.

In 1924, Mr. Morton resigned and began a successful career as a druggist. Mr. Morton was succeeded by William C. Reid.

During the first year of Reid's principalship, two classrooms and a small auditorium were added, and the high school division of the school was advanced to three years. One year later, the high school division was advanced to a full four year high school.

It was in the spring of 1926 that Stratton High School graduated its first class.

By 1933, the graduating class had grown to 37 and the faculty to ten. Upon the resignation of William C. Reid in August, 1933, James O. Smith became principal. During Mr. Smith's administration, additional subjects and teachers were added. And in 1939, Stratton High School was moved to the present location where Stratton's first band, under the direction of D. D. Crawford, was organized and the Cain Memorial Stadium was built.

In 1950, there were added the auditorium and gymnasium. And for the first time in Raleigh County, with Mrs. Lorraine dark Seay as instructor, Negro students were provided physical education.

At the death of Mr. Smith, William C. Reid again became principal. The first Student Handbook was published; three National Student Organizations were formed and Mrs. DuPont Evans was employed as the first full time librarian. The Vocational Building, which offered courses in masonry, commercial foods, electricity, building trades and fender repairing was constructed.

In 1958, Stratton High School was admitted to the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges. Upon the promotion of William C. Reid to the assistant superintendency, Thomas Evans, a member of the class of 1930, was appointed principal. During the administration of Mr. Evans, Stratton continued to grow. Additional teachers were employed, remedial courses and additional courses in mathematics were added. There was also added a Guidance Department.

The 1967 Stratton High School's staff now numbers 32, ten of which are graduates of Stratton and there are 109 members of the graduating class. This, in great contrast to the faculty of 2 in 1919 and a graduating class of 7 in the class of 1926.

The first Vo-Agricultural Department was developed by Mr. Simeon E. Warren. In 1962 Mr. Warren was awarded recognition and given a gold Hamilton Watch from the Sears Roebuck Foundation for 27 years service in Agricultural Education.

Mr. Roy Dawson was assistant principal under Mr. Thomas Evans at Stratton.

In athletics, Stratton High School, under the fine coaching of Dandridge, Cain, Jeffries and Hannah, won four state championships.

During the 48 years of Stratton's existence, she has graduated 2,786 students. And from these graduates, have come doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, nurses and ministers.

First Beckley Negro School Set Up in 1907

This article appeared in the Beckley newspapers, apparently in 1950.

Beckley's first Negro school was opened in1907 near the border of Beckley and Mabscott, in the center of the little community where members of that race then settled.

The little school, a one room wooden structure, served the 10 families who constituted the entire Negro population of the Beckley area. About 1912, the school site was moved and a larger structure erected on the present site of the Pioneer Hotel on South Fayette Street, where the Colored Elementary School, as it was then called, remained for five years.

An important bit of the history of education in Raleigh County was wrapped around the first school's first teacher. She was born Miss Mary Booze, but her married name was Reaves. A pillar of education, she was later chosen to give her name along with E. L. Morton to the present elementary school on South Fayette Street.

Another of the first teachers was Mrs. Hattie DeHaven, of Charleston. Both she and Mrs. Reaves taught in the same room in the original elementary school building.

When the school had moved to its second site, E. L. Morton entered the picture as the first principal. For years he and Mrs. Reaves taught together, later moving to other Raleigh schools.

Among the members of the first graduating class from the first school were Ernest Wright, James Wright, who has been a teacher and principal in Raleigh County schools for nearly a decade, Lee Roy and Susie Robinson and Edna Walker.

At that time, Negro education was sharply limited. Early students recall that the state supported three high schools -- at Bluefield, at Institute and at Harper's Ferry -- but the counties themselves had yet to organize their first Negro high.

Bluefield Institute, West Virginia Institute and Storer College offered both high school and trade courses, but they represented long trips away from home for the local students. In later years, high schools were organized within the counties, providing for a more even distribution of opportunity for education.

In the early days, many students traveled to the Virginia Normal Industrial Institute for their training.

The first school was popularly known as the Rock Quarry School because of its location close to a stone pit that operated in the section at the time. Students came miles to attend classes there -- from a section to the north of western Neville Street, from Adkinsville, now East Beckley but once called Sylvia and from other points in town.

Others among the early students were Edward Wright, son of Richard Wright; Ruth Wright (Anderson), who is now a resident of Bluefield; Virginia Claytor, now of Mabscott; Stanley Claytor, who is deceased.

Also Alec Spender, who is now a resident of South Fayette Street, William Spencer, who is deceased, and James Spencer.

Also Harvey Hargrove, Fred Ford, who is deceased, Maude Ford, also deceased, Harry Tinsley, who left Raleigh County at an early age to join a traveling circus, and Julia Blakey (Scott).

Stratton Legacy One of Strong Educators, Good Students

This article appeared in the Register-Herald on May 16, 2004. Stratton Elementary Principal Malvin Ross died in June 2004 on the premises, a few days after this article was published.


On a sunny afternoon, students in Jennifer Quesenberry's second- grade class squeal and laugh as they chase one another around a large piece of playground equipment. In the nearby, other students at Stratton Elementary School see who can swing highest.

Some are black. Some are white. All are playmates.

But 50 years ago - on that same property, which was once a pig farm - high school students practiced football, track and cheerleading. All of them - including their teachers - were black.

"The students know about that time because I always explain to them that this used to be the black high school," Quesenberry said, adding the Beckley school's past helps give U.S. history lessons a local connection. "But it's hard for them to comprehend because things are so different now."

In the 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the 21 states practicing racial segregation to end the injustice "with all deliberate speed," Stratton has been Stratton High School, Stratton Junior High and, now, Stratton Elementary School. Past and present students say it has always been an excellent school - even before desegregation.

Stratton was the first "Negro school" - as it was referred to in county school directories of the day - to offer high school subjects, but elementary school students attended there as well. Named for the Rev. Daniel Stratton, a former slave who became a preacher and built Baptist meeting houses throughout southern West Virginia, Stratton opened in 1921.

By 1925, it had become a full, four-year high school, and in the spring of the following year, its first class of seven students graduated from the original location on South Fayette Street near Beaver Avenue.

By 1937, the number of students at Stratton High and Elementary School numbered 520. Two years later, Stratton High School moved to its present location on South Fayette. In the years to follow, students took part in a band directed by D.D. Crawford, a championship football team coached by Herbert Cain and numerous student organizations such as Future Business Leaders of America and a drama group. Next door, Stratton Vocational School students excelled in programs such as commercial food and masonry.

"The teachers stressed education," said Virgil Bradshaw, who graduated from Stratton in 1946. (He would have graduated in 1942, but the U.S. Navy borrowed him for a few years and he was not able to complete his high school education until he returned to Beckley.)

"We read Shakespeare and studied the classics," he said. "I can still remember poems we had to memorize, ... lines from 'Hamlet.'"

"We had wonderful teachers," Audrey Cox of the Stratton High School Class of 1961 added.

Those teachers were not only pillars in the school, they were pillars in the community. The neighborhoods surrounding Stratton were - and still are - predominantely black. "So all the teachers lived there," Bradshaw said.

"If you made a mistake, you got into trouble. They would tell your parents," Bradshaw said.

And not just through a note. Bradshaw recalled a time after his three years in the Navy when he and a few friends decided to skip a day of their senior year, just days before graduation.

"I was 21 years old, and when I got home that evening, the principal was sitting in my house, telling my father I didn't go to school that day," he said. "I never missed another minute.

" ... You don't see that sort of thing today," he added. "I think that's one thing about it (desegregation) that hurt the community."

Cox, the daughter of football coach Cain, was serving as secretary a year before the all-black school closed in 1967 - 13 years after the Brown decision.

"We knew it would happen because they had already closed the (black high) school in Bluefield," she said. "But you never want to see your school close. I took pride in coming to Stratton."

These days, she said she takes pride in seeing her granddaughter, Shakirah Cox, attend Stratton Elementary. Her daughter - Ronnetta Pharms - attended Stratton Junior High in the early 1980s.

She's thrilled they attend her alma mater; she only wishes the school board had saved more of the high school's history.

"When the high school closed, all those trophies, those pictures, they were burned in the incinerator," she said.

Cox is still fighting an uphill battle to earn hall of fame recognition for her father, who won two state championships as Stratton's coach between 1937 and 1949.

Stratton High School became Stratton Junior High in the fall of 1967, and for the first time, white students bused from Stanaford and other parts of Raleigh County entered the classrooms. Some people wanted to rename the school South Fayette Street Junior High, but Stratton alumni protested. It is the only school building in the county that has changed grade levels twice and kept its original name.

"Now we have two schools in Raleigh County with Stratton on it - Stratton Elementary and Beckley-Stratton Middle School," Cox said.

Stratton Junior High became Stratton Elementary School when Beckley- Stratton Junior High opened in 1998, combining Beckley and Stratton junior highs. But the principal remained Malvin Ross, who graduated from Stratton High School in 1963 and returned there as a staff member at the junior high in 1975.

Ross said the majority of today's Stratton Elementary students - about 65 percent - are black. The number of white students could be higher, he said, but some families in the school's district have chosen to transfer their children to other schools.

"We have that all over the county," Raleigh County assistant superintendent David Severt said. "The way the policy is, students can go anywhere as long as they provide their own transportation."

Most of the time, the reason for doing so involves closer proximity to a baby-sitter, day care or a parent's workplace, Severt said.

But Ross said he doesn't like hearing that some parents take their children elsewhere because they believe Stratton has a bad reputation.

"We've always had good teachers," Ross said.

In fact, according to the school's most recent yearly progress report from the state, 42 percent of Stratton teachers have above a bachelor's degree. Nearly 40 percent of them have a master's degree plus 45 hours of graduate credit.

"And our students are doing well," he added.

The progress report indicates the school met all accountability requirements last year, and test scores for students there improved significantly from the previous year. The majority of them scored in the two highest of four score segments.

So what's so bad about it?

"Some people ask us why we have a fence around the school," Ross said.

The fence was placed around Stratton Junior High to prevent vandals from destroying property there at night and on weekends. It worked. The gate is open during the day.

"If this school is such a bad place, why do we host midget football practices in the evenings? Why do people choose our school for youth volleyball and basketball tournaments each year?" Ross asked.

"They need to come in and see what we're doing."

But what if Linda Brown had never taken her case to court? What if she had never won?

"It would still be one-sided," Ross said.

Stratton High School was a high quality educational institution, the alumni said; 2,786 students graduated from it, and many of them went on to become doctors, lawyers, dentists, engineers, teachers, cosmetologists, secretaries, social workers and clergymen. But when it came to getting modern amenities - such as a gymnasium - it wasn't easy.

"It took some political power," Bradshaw said.

"We have benefited from it (the Brown v. BOE decision) because we have been able to receive money for various things, like programs to help those at a disadvantage," Ross said. "It brought along progress."

Without the decision, the school might not be able to offer such things as its "Respect and Protect Program," Ross said. Instead of punishing students who misbehave by suspending them from school, the program allows those students to stay at the school and do their work without disturbing their classmates, among other things.

"It's just been much better for society to be around different cultures and different backgrounds," Severt said. "It helps us all."

Stratton High All-Years Reunion July 1-3

The following article appeared in the Register-Herald on June 20, 2006.


Though it’s been close to 40 years since its final class of graduates walked the halls, the legacy of Stratton High School remains strong.

To maintain that legacy and keep memories alive, the Stratton High School Alumni Association has planned its 14th annual all-years reunion for July 1-3.

Prior to the integration of Raleigh County schools in 1967, Stratton was Beckley’s African American high school.

The school was named Stratton, in honor of the Rev. Daniel Stratton, who, though born a slave, learned to read and write through public education and went on to become a minister.

According to the history of Stratton High School, Rev. Stratton relocated to West Virginia and eventually began working in the New River District, where he built more Baptist meeting houses than any other minister in West Virginia.

Stratton graduated its first group of students in 1926.

Alumni association president Deloris Martin-Kidd, a 1961 graduate of Stratton, says reunions are important, especially in the case of Stratton, whose alumni base decreases each year.

“Someone has to carry it (school history) on,” she said. “It’s an important part of Beckley’s history. We don’t have any tangible things left — they threw all of that away when the school closed — so this keeps the history of the school alive.

This year’s reunion theme is “For the Good Times.”

Kidd said Country Inns & Suites will serve as the reunion headquarters, and those needing to register can do so throughout the day on July 1. At 9 p.m. that day, Kidd said, a meet and greet will take place at the Raleigh County Armory.

The reunion activities July 2 will begin at the armory at 2 p.m. with memorial service delivered by 1952 Stratton alumnus the Rev. Marion Hannah for those classmates are no longer living.

That evening, also at the armory, a cocktail hour and dinner/dance will take place beginning at 6 p.m.

During dinner, Kidd said, The Pretenders quartet will perform and Domino, a ’50s and ’60s group from Roanoke, Va., will perform beginning at 9 p.m.

The three-day event will wrap up Monday with an 11 a.m. picnic at New River Park.

About 150 people have pre-registered for the reunion activities and Kidd says she expects close to 400, from as far away as California and Washington state, will attend.

Though many people will travel from other states to attend the reunion, Kidd says she hopes to see as many come from the Beckley area.

“We want everyone to participate,” she said. “It’s important we stay in touch with each other.”

Anyone wishing to register or receive more information regarding the reunion is asked to call Kidd at 252-1383.

William Howard Law (1909-2007)

The following obituary appeared in the Register-Herald on Feb. 8, 2007.

William Howard Law, 97, of Beckley, crossed over on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2007.

Born Oct. 15, 1909, in Elkridge, to the late Hayes and Annie Clay Law, William was blessed to exceed the time God promises, fulfilling a divine plan and purpose for his life, of 97 years.

William and his parents moved to Beckley from McDowell County in 1921. In Beckley, he earned the distinction of being a member of the first graduating class of Stratton High School in 1926. Pursuing a family-instilled love of knowledge, William continued his higher education at West Virginia State College, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1931 in education.

As an educator, he held positions in Greenbrier, McDowell, and Raleigh counties, as well as in Baltimore, Md., where he taught French and German at Douglass High School. During the Korean Conflict, William was a welding instructor for the United States Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

His first teaching job was at his alma mater, Stratton High School. He later retired from Greenbrier County Schools in 1975. He continued his passion for education, serving as a substitute teacher in the Raleigh County school system until the year 2000.

William’s commitment to his fellow man manifested through his selfless desire to help others. He was owner and operator of Handicapped and Technical Industries, a founding member of the Raleigh County branch of the NAACP, established in 1938, and life-long membership status of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. One of his passions and greatest accomplishments was the restoration project of Hunter Cemetery in 1991, which included collaborative efforts of individuals and groups from Beckley and the surrounding areas.

William was baptized at the tender age of nine. He answered God’s call and entered the ministry at 21. Rev. Law’s pastoral years included leadership and service to First Baptist Churches of Ronceverte, Hinton and Kimball.

Rev. Law was a loyal and faithful member of Central Baptist Church for close to 70 years, where he served as an associate pastor. He also enjoyed the fellowship found as a member of the Men’s Chorus. As founder and director of the Beckley World Mission, Rev. Law once again was able to demonstrate his desire to give and help others in need. His featured selection in the second edition of Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul was another accomplishment he shared modestly with his closest friends and loved ones.

He leaves to cherish his memory a son, William C. (Linda) Law of Virginia Beach, Va.; three daughters, Gloria (William) Johnson of Bluefield and Gwendolyn Law and Ruth (Sidney) Catus, both of Beckley; nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His cousins, close friends and church family also survive him.

Visitation will be 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, at Heart of God Ministries, Beckley. A celebration of William Howard Law’s life will begin at 2 p.m. with the Rev. Dr. Boyd W. Walton Jr., Severna Park, Md., and Dr. Fred T. Simms officiating. Interment will be at Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens, Beckley.

Friends may call at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Sidney (Ruth) Catus, 1607 S. Kanawha St., Beckley.

Arrangements entrusted to Ritchie and Johnson Funeral Parlor, Beckley.


A newspaper, The Strattonian, was published apparently in the 1950s and 1960s. The May 31, 1965, issue is vol. 7, no. 3.

Return to Beckley history