It’s almost finished.It looks like a project that has taken more than 14 year to complete is entering the home stretch. The Mount Pleasant Colored School is one step closer to be spared from the ravages of the elements after receiving a major contribution. Glen Baker, a window and glass expert from Aledo, donated more than $23,000 in custom windows followed up by free labor and installation. The donation helps bring the school, built in 1927, closer to being in the “dry.”Raymond George, who has spearheaded the effort in saving the school for more than 14 years said he has been overwhelmed by the generosity of others. “[Glen] called me one day and said he had read an article where I said the windows would cost between $23,000 and $25,000 because they had to be custom made,” George said. “He came out with an assistant and did some measuring.”Later, George said Baker told him he was going to put the windows in for him.“I said ‘Mr. Baker that’s great but we don’t have that kind of money yet’ and he said ‘I didn’t say anything about money,” George said. “He said he wanted to do this for the school for nothing - I couldn’t do anything but grab him and hug him.”George said it was a “major step” in the continued renovation effort and in the following weeks the windows were delivered to the location and installed for free with the assistance of Ragle Glass. George said that even Roger Grizzard, owner of the Pizza Place, donated food for the workers that installed the windows.“It’s absolutely amazing the people that have donated their time and money like Morrison Air Conditioning and Lightfoot Mechanical,” George added. “Morrison donated one entire air conditioner and sold us a second one to the tune of $2,600,” he said. Lightfoot donated materials and time as well. It wasn’t much later that Bob Tallman, professional rodeo announcer and owner of Provision Security, followed up by donating $1,000 to go toward paying off the second air conditioner. He also expressed plans to donate a security system for the school, George said.“I am constantly working on this and I don’t mind, people are so receptive to what we are doing,” George said. “You would think as bad as the economy has been - you wouldn’t think people would open up and donate their time and money like this - it’s been amazing.” The next step is to finish work on the restroom where plumbing work is being volunteered. In fact, the actual toilets were donated by Home Depot. After that, the front and back doors need to be replaced to bring the school completely in the dry.“Once we get that complete we will be in the dry and can move on to the inside and work on the ceilings and blow insulation,” George said. “We could use some help with the grounds helping keeps the weeds back until we can work on landscaping.”George hopes to be 99 percent finished with the building by the end of the year. At 75, he says he is anxious.“A lot of people I know are concerned and appreciate what we are doing, as a committee, but there is no way they can understand the way I feel about this,” George exclaimed. “On March 5, 2011, I lost my wife and we went to school up there. It’s just something that has driven me to get this done.”Charlie Simmons, a close friend to George and a former student of the school, spoke proudly of Mount Pleasant saying, “it molded us.” Simmons recalls attending Mount Pleasant through the ninth grade when he graduated as valedictorian out of a class of seven, he said with a smile. After that, he attended I.M. Terrell in Fort worth before returning to Weatherford for his junior and senior years courtesy of integration in 1963.“I was the first black football player, the first black to go out for track and field as well as baseball,” Simmons said. “It was great.”He said it was amazing how God prepared him and at the age of just 16, the transition in his words was “beautiful.” He said he really never had any trouble in Weatherford.“There has to be somebody that is first,” he laughed.His brother was in the first integrated graduating class, along with close friend Joe Grats that same year. “I’m reminded of Job chapter three, verse 26 where it says “for I was not in safety,” Simmons said. “It talks about your comfort zone, and in most cases integration was blacks going to white schools - not whites going to black schools.”He said so the discomfort - if there was any - was blacks being discomforted.Simmons went on to graduate from Weatherford High School and got his bachelors in business administration from Texas Wesleyan University.“In the end, we want to partner with the city and everyone will be elated to see this project complete, both black and white,” Simmons said.RememberingGeorge said Mount Pleasant taught first through ninth grades and graduated its last class in 1963 before Weatherford became integrated. George graduated in 1953 and said he and several others had to be bused to I.M. Terrell, an all-black high school in Fort Worth.The problem was, George said, was that they didn't have a way to get to the school so his father, John Lorenzo George - an upholster in Weatherford and the only black businessman in town - made the commitment to see that the kids made it to class. The drive was 45 minutes each way since the highway ended at Summit Ave."Every morning, my dad would pick up the kids that were going to I.M. Terrell, drive us over there and leave us, go back to work and then he would come back to pick us up," George said. "He did that everyday from '54 to '56 with his own vehicle and he continued until the city - as the classes grew bigger and bigger - provided him with a larger vehicle and a little money to help with the gas."After graduating from Terrell, George went to work for the phone company where he remained for 40 years."I considered myself fortunate because I went to work for the in 1957 and, as you can imagine, the only job a black man could get with the phone company then was either a janitor - which was where I started - or as an elevator operator in the larger cities, or maybe on the loading docks," George said.He added that he spent a lot of years working to the point where he could have a job that was paying like everyone else. That he, in fact, wanted what everyone else was doing and to make his family a living."It was strange; I went to Mineral Wells and had become an installer, the first black installer in the area," he said. "I had gone into a lot of white people's homes to install a phone and several times was asked to come to the back."He said he understood because of the situation and the way things were, but that over time, he would have people writing his supervisor saying what a nice guy the " colored guy" was.The real irony was to come, however, when George ran to become trustee for the Weatherford Independent School District."I took 90 percent of the vote," George said. "I look back and think I couldn't go to school with whites and now I am on the school board; how ironic."George remembers Mount Pleasant and his teachers and superintendent fondly."It's interesting looking back over the years and thinking about what happened during that time when we went to I.M. Terrell, I can see where we were actually like a private school because we weren't associated with the district at all."Some materials contained are from Weatherford Star-Telegram archives.
Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102 Twitter: @Lancewinter