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SVT reunion brings alumni together to look back on journey

Isaac Mitchell, from left, Larry Holmes and David Williams laugh during the reunion. The reunion brought together graduates from Sadie V. Thompson High School, St. Francis High School and Natchez College from the years 1954 through 1972 (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)
Isaac Mitchell, from left, Larry Holmes and David Williams laugh during the reunion. The reunion brought together graduates from Sadie V. Thompson High School, St. Francis High School and Natchez College from the years 1954 through 1972. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

By Chase Ladner

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — Alumni from an era of civil and racial conflict came together to celebrate, reminisce and remember those who are no longer with them this weekend.

Alumni from Sadie V. Thompson High School, St. Francis Catholic School and Natchez College came together for the Sadie V. Thompson Era Reunion, which included a variety of events throughout the weekend.

Cynthia Elery, from left, Hattie Elery, Janis Randall, Exeleana Jefferson and Roberta Beard talk during the Sadie V. Thompson Era Reunion at the Natchez Convention Center Friday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)
Cynthia Elery, from left, Hattie Elery, Janis Randall, Exeleana Jefferson and Roberta Beard talk during the Sadie V. Thompson Era Reunion at the Natchez Convention Center Friday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

“People are just so happy to see each other and feel blessed,” said Phillip West, former Mayor of Natchez and chairperson of SVT Era Reunion committee, and class of 1964.

The reunion started Thursday and will culminate Sunday. The celebration started with a casual meet and greet Thursday, a parade and picnic Friday, a formal banquette today and end with a memorial for classmates who died Sunday.

Friday, the cars filled up the old SVT High School parking lot, which is located on Union and College streets, as the group prepared to drive to the Natchez Convention Center where all reunion events were hosted during the week.

The motorcade was led by the Bikers with Bikes that Light at Night, a local group of motorcycle enthusiast such as Lee Dixon, Larry Holmes, David “Blackspot” Williams, Walter Mackel Jr., and Ricky Evans, who all went to SVT before the school system was integrated in 1970.

The reason it is called an era reunion is because of integration and overcrowding, West said.

Students would move between several regional schools during that time period, West said. SVT was the school that almost all black residents went to at some point.

The theme of the reunion was “Our Unique Journey,” which focused on remembering what it was like to grow up during those times, and passing that information down to the younger generation, West said.

“It took a village to raise a child,” said Gloria Young, First Vice Chairperson of the Era Committee, and class of 1964.

Young recalled how different growing up was when she was a child, and how separated the SVT alumni’s children are from the generation that went through integration.

“What we want to do is connect the dots,” West said.

The Era committee is starting to reach out to the children and grandchildren of the alumni to help educate them.

West said he expects 600 alumni to come at some point during the weekend.

“People got the opportunity to see each other again when they may of never seen each other again,” West said.

This is the seventh reunion involving the three schools since 1997. West said the reunions were organized every three years, but now they have reunions every two years to increase the likelihood of being able to see old friends before they pass away.

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