Shadowlawn High School never had a graduating class, but the alumni of that school had a reunion in Bartlett this last weekend. Shadowlawn School was built in 1957 for grades one through eight on a portion of the Mrs. Mitt Becton estate. In 1964 lightning struck the school, and the resulting fire destroyed everything but the cafeteria and the annex.
The school was rebuilt. An additional building with a gymnasium was built in 1968 with plans to turn it into Shadowlawn High School and to add one grade per year until it became a first-grade through twelfth-grade school. Shadowlawn High went as far as the eleventh grade before a court-ordered integration of all Shelby County Schools in the summer of 1970 had all high school students transferred to neighboring high schools.
In 1970 Shadowlawn transitioned back to an elementary school, serving first through eighth grades for one year. The previously all-black school was fully integrated and served students of all races, primarily from the Shadowlawn and Ellendale communities. The following year (1971), it was restructured to be a junior high, serving students in grades seven and eight from the elementary schools of Bartlett, Elmore Park, Ellendale, Brownsville Road, Raleigh-Bartlett Meadows and Shadowlawn. Shadowlawn students in grades one through six were transferred to elementary schools in the five other communities.
In 1976, sixth-grade students were added to the school, and Shadowlawn became a middle school. It remained a middle school until 2014, when it became part of the newly created Bartlett City Schools. The name changed to Bartlett Ninth Grade Academy, an extension of Bartlett High School.
The high school students that were transferred out of Shadowlawn, especially the senior class of 1971, felt like they were the “Lost Class,” as they would have been the first class to graduate from Shadowlawn. Many of them went to Bartlett High School and had only “Transferred from Shadowlawn” under their names in the 1971 yearbook, which did not list any of the activities they were involved in at Shadowlawn.
About a year ago several classmates got together and decided to plan a reunion for all the high school students who went to Shadowlawn. Carol (Williams) Whittaker and David Crutchfield co-chaired the Alumni Reunion Committee. Committee members are, in no particular order, Jacquelyn (Harvey) Hellen, Carolyn (Poindexter) Terry, Carolyn (Kelley) Burns, Delrhea (Bledsoe) Newson, Elverta (Crawford) Jackson, Margaret (Williams) Hinton, and Mae (Dorsey) Mason. They worked tirelessly tracking down former classmates and were rewarded with a turnout of former classmates and spouses that not even the committee had anticipated.
The Bartlett Historical Society became involved when the committee was looking for information on Shadowlawn High School. We met with Carol and shared what information we had, which was not extensive, but we undertook to help them in their search for additional information. This happened 40+ years ago and many of the people involved have passed on or could not be found, so most of the people we talked to could only relate accounts of what they had heard. But that did not deter the committee in their planning.
The reunion was held last weekend. More than 130 people attended the three-day reunion, which included a Friday evening Meet and Greet, a Saturday picnic at Ellendale Park and a Black and White Banquet “Celebrating Ourselves” on Saturday night.
It was a night of celebration, nostalgia and reminiscing that included a proclamation from Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell; recognition of former teachers and special guests; Jimmy Hayslip, former public relations director and historian of Shelby County Schools; and Jack and Suzanne Coleman from the Bartlett Historical Society.
Members of what would have been the first graduating class of Shadowlawn High School, the Class of 1971, were given diplomas from former teachers Mr. Odell Foster and Mr. Lonnie Neely. Former teachers also in attendance were Mrs. Joyce (Branch) Richardson and Mrs. Charles Etta (Brown) Higgins. The weekend culminated with alumni attending Sunday morning worship service at Fullview Baptist Church.
SUZANNE GRIFFITH COLEMAN is the president of the Bartlett Historical Society. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.