West Belton, Harris High graduates host reunion
Sunday, 05 August 2012 by Grayson Edds
The West Belton-Harris High Ex-Students Association reunion was held July 19-22, celebrating and honoring those who attended the school.
The school was first built in 1890 after Bell County School Districts were formed in 1854. The name West Belton School was chosen in 1900, and its purpose was to provide education for area African American students.
After a devastating fire that destroyed the old wood-framed building, a new brick building was erected in 1936 and named "T.B. Harris" for its revered former principal who also served as the school's first instructor.
"The school was integrated in '63 under Freedom of Choice when students could decide where they wanted to go to school," said class of 1963 graduate Roscoe Harrison. "A lot of us chose to stay at Harris. But my brother, for example, went to Belton Middle School and graduated from Belton High."
The last class graduated from Harris in 1966. Harris was then integrated into Belton High School and the building was used for a number of purposes including storage and a maintenance facility. The building became somewhat dilapidated until the West Belton-Harris High Ex-Students Association worked to renew the building and bring it back to life.
"This organization got the historical marker put up so they wouldn't be able to tear down the building," said class of 1951 graduate Mittie Russell.
In 2006, the building was dedicated as a City of Belton community center, and the building was renewed and extended to offer a large meeting hall.
Each of the old classrooms were named after a teacher at the school and are now the location of various events including City Council meetings.
"We're all so happy that our old school is bringing the community together," Russell added.
As the ages of the former students increase, the association is looking for ways to keep the reunion alive. They're now incorporating not only graduates from Harris High, but also anyone who ever attended the school.
"The school was like our extended family," said president and class of 1960 graduate Ora Jean Butler. "Whatever we did at school, our parents knew about and vice versa. It's not just a class reunion to us; it's a family reunion."
The three-day event included a variety of events such as a banquet, where a former teacher was the guest speaker, a golf tournament at Sammons, an indoor picnic and dance, as well as a memorial to honor those students who have recently passed.