Before integration of public schools in 1970, Whittemore High School in Conway was the only black high school in the county and students traveled great distances to receive an education.
Etrulia Dozier, former librarian at Whittemore High School, detailed the history of the school in a 1968 edition of the Independent Republic Quarterly.
Calling on the memoir of a 1907 graduate, George A. Singleton, Mrs. Dozier traced the beginnings of the school to 1865.
At the end of the Civil War, the Rev. Benjamin Franklin Whittemore of Boston served as chaplain in the U.S. Army and then served as superintendent of education among the freedmen in South Carolina.
Singleton recalled that Rev. Whittemore and Rev. Richard Harvey Cain met in Marion and following a conversation funding was provided for a church and school in Conway to serve children of color. The school was called the Old Academy. It had two classrooms with plastered walls, full-length blackboards in the center, and a wood heater stove in each room. The principal and teacher was John E. Thomas.
Later, the school was named for Whittemore.
Singleton said he graduated from Whittemore Graded School at the head of his class. His diploma was signed by two white trustees: F.A. Burroughs and Attorney C.P. Quattlebaum, who was a colonel with the Confederates. The principal was Osmond L. LeValley.
The location changed over the years beginning when it was an elementary school, known as Whittemore Academy, located near the intersection of Beaty Street and Racepath Avenue.
The second location, in 1911, was named Whittemore Training School and was located at Racepath Street and Thompson Street.
According to Mrs. Dozier, Whittemore moved from Racepath Avenue to U.S. 378 in 1936. It served elementary and high school grades until 1954.
The school burned in 1944 and several of the old barracks were used until the school could be rebuilt in 1954. The high school and the elementary school divided the same year.
The high school had a winning football team, an amazing band and a community with great students and admired teachers.
When Whittemore High School merged with Conway High School in 1970 due to integration, many alumni say the center of their community was taken away from them.
The newly-integrated school became Conway Junior High School before being turned into a middle school and its old name restored.
Whittemore served in the S.C. Senate in 1868 and then in Congress during Reconstruction. However, he resigned when Democrats regained power in the state legislature and began passing laws to restrict voter registration and reduce the civil rights of freemen.
Whittemore returned to Massachusetts where he became a publisher. He died in 1894 at age 60.
The Independent Republic Quarterly can be read online
by visiting www.digitalcommons.coastal.edu
Read more nuggets of Horry County history at www.robertsonb-blog.com