Special guest helps dedicate George Washington Carver school

Todd G. Higdon

Back in the 1870s, a little boy walked from Diamond Grove to Neosho to attend the Lincoln School, an African-American school. That little boy was George Washington Carver.

“We would be remiss not to have the opportunity that in order to name the school George Washington Carver, to not have George Washington Carver in our presence today,” Neosho R-5 Superintendent Dr. Richard Page said.

On Sunday, more than 300 people joined Carver, portrayed by Paxton Williams of the Carver Birthplace Association, and the school’s administration for the formal dedication of the new school.

“Most people think of me with my work with the peanut -- over 300 uses for the peanut, over 150 uses for the sweet potato -- they talk about my work with Henry Ford trying to create bio-fuels, bio gases,” said Williams, as Carver. “They don’t talk about what, I believe, is the most important part of my story. The part of my story that tells how I was able to be born in slavery, how I was able to become the master of my own destiny. I believe that was my important part about my story.”

Listing his various honors, including 1916 when he was named a Fellow London Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, he spoke of also being honored with the Theodore Roosevelt award and in 1923 the United Daughters of the Confederacy honored him.

“I have been honored many, many times,” said Williams, as Carver. “But I have never been more overjoyed with this honor this afternoon, to have a school named after me.”

He emphasized one of Carver’s famous quotes.

“I believe that education is the key to unlock the golden door of opportunities,” said Williams, as Carver. “I believe that, because I lived it.”

Carver stated it was here in Neosho that he began his journey to gain an education.

Directing his comments to a group of George Washington Carver Elementary students in the front row, Carver said, “with encouragement, guidance and hard work, you can do anything.”

He also gave praise to the educators.

After leaving Neosho, he continued his pursuit of education, eventually graduating from college and, later on, working at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He died in 1943.

Carver’s final comments involved his education track.

“Let me ask you to give yourselves a round of applause, because had Neosho not been Neosho, George Washington Carver could not have been George Washington Carver,” said Carver, impersonated by Williams.

Neosho R-5 School Board President Bruce Mahr added, “This is an exciting day, not only for the Neosho R-5 School District, but for all of the community of Neosho.”

After Williams spoke as Carver, the building’s principal, Satotha Burr, gave a description of the building and invited the audience to take a tour. Refreshments were provided at the end of the tour.

“I did not realize that it was this large,” said resident Carl Green, who toured the school.

“It is amazing on how big these rooms are.”

The school has 33 classrooms, with a total of 66,000 square feet, and has 480 students. It also has room to grow, with one empty classroom per grade level.

Neosho Daily News