Patrinell’s former classmates recall life at Turner High School

Pastor Pat Wright graduated in 1961 from Turner High School, a segregation-era black school in Carthage, Texas. Her classmates remember her as being extremely sociable, talented, and smart. From what we can tell from the 1961 Turner High School yearbook, “Patrinelle” was a member of the Spanish Club and a choral group known as “The Jivettes”.

8504_1534123496596Jivettes8499_1534123468035These images were graciously provided by Cecil Morris, who was the 1961 Turner High School Class President and is currently the contact for the Class of 1961 Alumni Association.

Apparently the original spelling of her first name is “Patrinelle”. An alternative spelling is also found in the commencement program, “Patrinella”, but this is probably a misspelling because on the same program elsewhere it is spelled “Patrinelle”. Her former classmates pronounce her name with a long “a”, as in patriot. Her nickname was “Patri”. These days however the preferred pronunciation of Patrinell is with a short “a”,  as in “Pat”. I have to admit, I always get a kick out of watching stage announcers and officials struggle to pronounce her name correctly in public!

Pat and her classmates deeply respected their teachers, who were inspiring and motivating while still realistic to them about the difficulties they would likely face as adults because of racism. They taught the students to work hard and have pride in themselves. They were told that they had no excuses not to achieve.

When the public schools were desegregated in the late 1960s, the black students were moved to Carthage High School and Turner was turned into an elementary school. Pat Wright’s younger brother, Rev. Gregory Staten, went through middle and high school  during these changes. Although the school facilities for African-Americans were inferior and underfunded, the end of segregation brought its own problems– exposing black kids to constant bigotry, and white teachers who didn’t care about teaching black kids.

Gregory says:

I went to school at a time when segregation was coming to an end. They started with the freedom of choice, where you could go—if you wanted to—go to the white school or you could stay at the black school. I spent six years of my educational time at Turner Elementary School, which was the black school in Carthage, Texas. But my mother thought I would get a better education at the white school. So we started going to the white school when I was in junior high. But the education wasn’t better, by no means. The teachers at the black school seemed to care more about the students, especially since we were all black. Then when I got to the white school, they didn’t care at all….The guys that used to be my friends that I used to hang out with at Turner Elementary, when they got to Carthage High School, didn’t want to be around me anymore. They started calling me names. They labeled me. They called me “honky lover” because I would talk to white people. And the white people would call me “n—–“ because I was black.

Who wouldn’t expect that things might be better in northern cities such as Seattle?

Andrew Elizaga