R.L. Cousins High, a former all black high school in Covington, will celebrate its 57th anniversary with the Walk of Honor on Feb. 15. (Special photo)
COVINGTON – The R.L. Cousins High School Alumni Association will celebrate the former school’s 57th anniversary with its Walk of Honor on Feb. 15 at 2 p.m. at the old campus on Geiger Street.
The walk, which extends from the school to its gym, is meant to commemorate the lasting and historical impression that the bygone high school has left on the Covington community. Since opening its doors in 1957, the site of the former school has provided Newton County with an array of services for the past six decades.
“It’s got a lot of history that we need to maintain,” said Cousins High alumnus Flemmie Pitts.
For its first 13 years of operation, R.L. Cousins served as the first all black state-funded high school in Newton County. Although the historical Brown v. The Board of Education Supreme Court case of 1954 resulted in requiring all schools in the U.S. to be integrated, Georgia schools did not become fully desegregated until 16 years after in 1970. After desegregation, the building became the integrated Cousins Middle School until 1996. Cousins Middle then moved to its current location on Carlton Trail, and the facility sat vacant until 2002, when it became the site of Cousins Community Center Inc.
Cousins Community, which is operated by Newton County Recreation, now uses the old high school’s basketball gym and football field as practice space for Newton County athletic teams. The Wolverine Field, which was named after the R.L. Cousins mascot, now serves Newton high school football teams as a place to train. According to Pitts, the gym was in much need of repair in 2005, when the facility received a total of $750,000 to have it renovated. Of that $750,000, $500,000 of it came from SPLOST funds, and the remaining $250,000 came from a grant provided by the Atlanta Falcons.
Along with providing a space for athletic activities, the facility also houses a Department of Driver Services outpost and a community learning center, according to Cousins Community Center employee Laura Bertram.
When recalling his fellow Cousins alumni, Pitts said, “Some of them live around here, some of them live up north, and some are deceased.”
The high school alumni, who are now in their 60s and 70s, gather each year for the Walk of Honor to recall their memories of R.L. Cousins High and the significance it has to those who attended during segregation.
“It’s such a blessing to be able to come back,” said Pitts, “even though some of us will be on canes.”