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Sullivan High School has rich history in community

Submitted by Jill Riggs Rich • Feb 13, 2020 at 4:30 PM

Second in a series

The new school built by Sullivan County “south of the Holston River” opened in 1931. It was an outgrowth of Horse Creek Academy, later called Horse Creek High School. It housed both Sullivan High and Sullivan Elementary schools. The old Horse Creek Academy was dismantled, and the lumber was used to build a principal’s home behind the new school. When its doors opened, there were 130 students — both high school and elementary — and five teachers.

The Kingsport News reported in early December 1931 that Rally Day was to be held Dec. 5 at the Horse Creek high school at which time the name of Sullivan High School would be officially accepted. The stars and stripes would be raised with fitting ceremony, and lunch would be served at the school for attendees and students.

In 1932, Sullivan High School graduates included Horace Hite, Bailey McCulley, Paul Long, Neva Ray (Mrs. Francisco), Fred Dolen, Mary Lee Light (Mrs. Carl Stevens), Pauline Dolen (Mrs. Joe Kilbourn), Luke Johnson (a transfer from Double Spring), Janice Moore (Mrs. Horace Hall), Ernest Light, Dolen Morelock, Mildred Depew (Mrs. Gilbert Wagner), Clev Hicks (Mrs. Carl Bates), Reba Childress (Mrs. Roy Anderson) and Z. C. Cox.

During the year, Mrs. Sam Steadman organized a PTA unit and Mrs. John Eades was the first president. The PTA bought a piano for the school and started serving hot lunches in 1933. Home Economics classes began in 1934. The school’s first library was created by the PTA in 1938. During the war years of the 1940s, families grew vegetables and canned more than 1,000 jars of food for the school lunch program.

The Dec. 6, 1931, edition of the Kingsport Times tells of the honor roll students of Sullivan Elementary during the month of November. “Eighth grade: Louise Pierce and Edna Bowser. Seventh grade: Mary Addie Carroll, Clyde Hood and Hughie McGhee. Sixth grade: Roy Hicks and Bertha Shelton. Fifth grade: Mary Pearl Lambert, Frances Cox, Ruth Pierce and Kate Pierce. Fourth grade: Lorene Kerney, Martin Atchley, Margaret Coates, Hilda Cox, Gilbert Atchley, Paul Riggs, W. C. Harr, Jr., Jack Steadman, Dorothy Jones, Metford Light. Third grade: Paul Coates, Mildred Wells, Reba Morrison, Mason Combs, Jack Riggs, Thomas Johnson, Sam Bishop, Joe Coates, Dave Pierce, Eula Morelock, Kenneth Cox, Ray Dykes and Roy Archer. Second grade: Charles Chase, Sallie Dykes, Carl Hicks and Anna Mae Boyer. First grade: Thelma Wells, Ida Mae Shaver, Iva Pierce, Rosa Lee Ferguson, Ruth Fish, Naoma Bowser, Lorene Bailey, Gladys Murray, Desie May McGhee, Pauline Hubbard, Jaye Phillips, Howard Hamblen, A. C. Easley, Jr., Dee Hubbard and Rosco Forbes.”

In 1937, classes in woodworking started as an experiment at Sullivan High School. The classes were acclaimed as highly successful; 73 students prepared to complete the course. The classes were conducted in only two schools in Sullivan County, Sullivan and Dobyns-Bennett High School.

At Sullivan, the classes were sponsored by the county PTA, the Department of Education and patrons of the school. The students paid all costs of materials used. The finished product became each student’s property. Each student made 3-5 pieces each year. In view of the success of the program, the school board was expected to add classes for other schools in the county in the craft of woodworking.

In 1963, the Sullivan High Band marched in the Apple Blossom Festival in Washington, D. C.

Growth and change

Sullivan High School continued to grow, and overcrowding became an issue. By 1947, 1,400 students (both elementary and high school) attended Sullivan. There were 24 teachers. Students came from areas that would in later years be served by Lynn View and Ketron high schools. There were no cafeterias; lunches were served in the classrooms. The overcrowded conditions were so bad cardboard partitions were erected in the halls to make temporary classrooms.

A new cafeteria for Sullivan High School and the opening of Lynn View High School came in 1948. A new elementary school, built adjacent to Sullivan High School, was also ready for use. However, a fire practically destroyed Miller Perry — the only school in the 14th district. The Sullivan County school board met, and students from Miller Perry only lost one day of school because, on Tuesday morning, students from Fordtown were bused to Sullivan High School.

In 1953, Sullivan High School received a needed facelift, but the modernization had a short life. On March 5, 1954, the front portion of the building burned. Only the two back wings and the gym were saved. Only two days of school were missed. Emergency facilities were set up. Every unburned portion of the school was used for class space.

When Sullivan Central and Sullivan East High Schools opened in 1968, Sullivan High School was designated as Sullivan West High School. In the early 1970s, kindergarten was started in the elementary school. In 1980, when Sullivan North and Sullivan South high schools were ready for students, Sullivan West High School became Sullivan Middle School.

Read about Sullivan’s storied athletic history in the Feb. 16 edition of Sunday Stories.