MURRAY — The amount of pride that Douglass High School Alumni possess is a challenge to find in any other alumni group. Saturday night, the group met at the Center Ball Room of the Curris Center at Murray State University to have their annual Douglass Bulldog Banquet, concluding their festivities for the weekend. The amount of genuine delight the crowd took in being a part of Douglass tradition even after all of these years was transparent on every face in the room.
The theme for the Douglas 2019 Reunion was “This is us 50 years later, honoring the past, inspiring the future.” The alumni truly stuck to that theme throughout the night.
They began the night by reminiscing on the past, their years at Douglass High School.
Dennis Jackson was the speaker for the night. He was active in athletics at Douglass High School and was entered into the hall of fame as well as entered into the hall of fame for Kentucky High School Athletics and for Murray State University. Jackson was the first African-American to participate in varsity athletics at MSU.
Jackson recalled some high school memories and lessons he had learned.
“I went to Douglass High School. We never had a new book. All our books were hand-me-downs from Murray High,” Jackson said. “We had a football team. I can remember one time after several injuries, we were down to 13 players on the whole team. 13 players. We had two subs. Believe it or not, those two subs never got in the game. That’s just how dedicated the players of Douglass were. You start the game, you finish the game.”
That alone was a large enough life lesson for Jackson.
“No matter how hard you get tackled, no matter how many penalties are called on you, you still have to play the game,” Jackson said.
Jackson also spoke of a time when the football team accomplished the unimaginable through perseverance.
“I remember Douglass going to Louisville Central and playing them. Louisville Central had over a hundred players on their team. Douglass had 22,” Jackson said. “You know who won the game? Douglass.”
Douglass taught its students that numbers aren’t what define your limits; instead, it’s the size of your heart. Douglass alumni also know that no matter how big or small you are, you are somebody.
These are the kinds of lessons that teachers at Douglass High School instilled in their students more than 50 years ago.
“The teachers at Douglass, they had love written all over their faces. You were welcome in their class,” Jackson said.
There was a time when the teachers at Douglass would even visit students in their own homes.
“Those teachers made sure that those students had all they needed to succeed,” Jackson said. “Your teachers made you feel like you were somebody.”
Two teachers in particular were honored on Saturday night. Ann Perry and Camisha Pierce Duffy received the L.B. Ainsley Teaching Excellence Award.
The students, teachers and everyone else in the Douglass community always welcomed everyone with open arms.
“If somebody was in trouble and you needed help, all you had to do was let somebody know,” Jackson said. “That’s what Douglass was all about.”
At one point during his speech, Jackson became so passionate that he veered from what he had planned to talk about.
“My wife’s frowning at me because we’ve got a speech written out, and I’m off track right now,” Jackson said. “I’m just talking Dennis right now.”
However, the crowd did not mind. They were overjoyed to reminisce about the past with Jackson.
Besides honoring the past, the goal for the 50th reunion was to inspire the future.
Ann Hudspeth said, “We want to still continue to make an impact. You have to appreciate your past days by living your present days to impact the next days for a better future day.”
Two students were especially honored on Saturday night. Elizabeth Curtis received the L.P. Miler Athletic Award and Asia Blanton received the Murray State University Ratliff Scholarship equivalent to $1,500. It was also announced that, starting next year, one deserving senior will be awarded a scholarship from the new Dennis Jackson DouglaSs High School Educational Scholarship Fund annually.
Not only does the group inspire future generations by providing funding for their educations, but they also provide inspiration through their kin.
Mayor Bob Rogers said the following to the Douglass crowd: “It’s quite obvious the pride you have for Douglass High School, and I commend you on that, and having had the opportunity to work with some of your students, children and your grandchildren while I was superintendent at the Murray Independent School District, I saw the same pride carried over to those students. They were proud to go to Murray High School, and I commend you on that.”
Murray State representatives said they were honored to be able to host such a magnificent group of individuals. Murray State Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Don Robertson said, “This is a very important weekend. Anytime you celebrate 50 years is a very, very significant event. Douglass was very important to our community. This event always signifies to me the start of a lot of things that happened. I think the Douglass family and the Racer family have a lot in common because of the pride that you have in Douglass and the pride we have in Murray State University. There’s something special about Murray State alumni, just like there’s something special about Douglass alumni. I want to thank Douglass for all you do for our community, for all you do for Murray State University.”
Calloway County Judge-Executive Kenny Imes went to Almo.
“I truly appreciate the fact that you remember your school,” he said to the crowd. “I just wanna tell you all how much I appreciate you all doing this annually and keeping this tradition. It means so much to our community that you remember Douglass and the friends that you grew up with. It’s good to see so many of you.”
To conclude the night, the group formed a circle around the Center Ball Room and held hands while singing the school song, “Dear Old Douglass High School.”
“I don’t know of another school around that’s been having homecomings that draw the attention that we’ve had here of people that graduated Douglass High School,” Jackson said.