Gene Thornton is looking for anything that was once part of the Randolph County Training School for exhibit at the the National Museum of African-American History of Culture next to the Washington Monument.

A RCTS alumnus, he is looking for everything from a desk used in the school to a tassel worn at graduation, but in particular instruments used in the band or original photographs, he said.

He was at the construction site in April in Washington.

He wants to put out a request to alumni and others who might have artifacts, such as a chair from the school.

"It would be quite an honor if RCTS became part of the exhibit. The more you look at the history of RCTS the more you realize it was one of the strongest Rosenwald schools," Thornton said. It was a seven-teacher school in a substantial building.

He just returned from Mobile where he met with a member of the family of one of the old principals, now deceased, Dr. E.S. Peeples. Thornton got in touch with Peeples' niece, who is a historian and will help them go through his collection, he said.

He is calling on white people to look through what they have. In those days they were the ones who had cameras to make pictures.

Time is important since there is a July 15 deadline to gather memorabilia to submit to the museum. Unfortunately, they did not have a lot of photos of the band and would especially welcome those.

"We want any kind of memorabilia--a band uniform, a majorette's baton, a tiara of a homecoming queen--anything to do with RTCS," he said. Textbooks are other possibilities.

The museum will make copies of what can be copied and will give back the original. This is so important because this will help preserve some of this history.

Some time ago he saw a photo of a family at a flea market, which he bought, and wondered why the family did not keep such an important item. Those things should stay with family, he said.

The museum will occupy the last available space on the National Mall. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will be situated prominently between the National Museum of American History and 15th Street, next to the Washington Monument. When it opens to the public in 2016, the museum will be a centerpiece venue for ceremonies and performances, as well as a primary exhibition space for African American history and culture.

RCTS's existence is more significant because funding for the school's construction was provided by blacks, whites, the county, and the Julius Rosenwald School Foundation. One of the earliest Rosenwald schools, the two-story school was constructed according to  architectural plans drawn up by blacks on staff at historic Tuskegee Institute (now University). The school became the first school in Randolph County to offer schooling beyond elementary level for blacks. It remained the only high school for blacks until another high school for blacks was built in Wedowee in the late 1950s.

The original RCTS building was built in 1919 while the Rosenwald School Building Fund was under the control of Mrs. Booker T. Washington, wife of Dr. Booker T. Washington, president of Tuskegee Institute.

It has a rich history with many storied graduates who remain active in RCTS reunions and events although the building itself has long been gone.

Thornton asked that anyone with memorabilia contact him by e-mail at or by telephone at 863-4670. If he doesn't answer leave a message.

"We'll request someone from the museum to come look at items, and they can tell us if it is something they would want. I'm excited about it. I know everybody in Randolph County will be excited about it. We gave eight scholarships this year. It was a good crop of kids--the most we have ever given in one year," he said of the RCTS Foundation.

When the school closed there were a lot of trophies there. Officials in 1970 said to come over there and take whatever you wanted. They burned the rest of it.

Documents of student transcripts were saved but other records were lost. He was sure they did it due to a lack of storage space--some transcripts are in the county courthouse basement.

He said he would like to know where the design documents are--in Montgomery or do they even exist? Who were the architects? Who had the contract to build the school?

Even if someone is not in possession of the pertinent documents if would be helpful if someone can tell him where they might be. There will be other schools in that exhibit. He said his brother, Alvin, is a liaison between the foundation and the museum.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.