Over 70 years ago, Charles Hamilton Houston died from a heart attack. He was the godfather of the Civil Rights Movement. Attorney Houston knocked down one segregation case after another. He and a team of lawyers, which included his former student, Thurgood Marshall, worked on the Brown vs. Board of Education case. This case was based on segregation in the public school system.
Charles was the lead lawyer who took the case all the way to the Supreme Court; but he did not live to see the final Supreme Court decision. Charles Hamilton Houston died in 1950 and the Supreme Court decision on Brown vs. Board of Education was made in 1954 disbanding segregation in the school system.
Mr. James E. Henson, Sr., has been a very lucky man. His aunt Eleanor McGuire Massie left him her house at 607 South Pitt Street. James and his wife, Ardene moved in the house in 2007. This house stands on the original spot of the first colored public school, Snowden School for Boys (1870 – 1916).
James was born into a family that has made many historical achievements. His mother’s uncle was the famous Matthew Alexander Henson who was an explorer with Robert Peary to the Arctic and the North Pole. In addition, James’s great-great uncle was Josiah Henson, whose life was depicted in the famous book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
James’ paternal aunt, Alice McGuire married the famous John A. Seaton who was the first African American Alderman in Alexandria. The famous 19th Century preacher, Reverend Samuel W. Madden, married all the McGuire women, Alice, Blanche, Louisa, and Nannie. He was the pastor at Alfred Street Baptist Church.
James E. Henson, Esq., has made his own achievements. He is a retired attorney. He was the first African American lawyer to serve as assistant county solicitor of Howard County and deputy director for the Maryland Commission on Human Relations. He has taught business law at Morgan State University and at Howard Community College in Maryland. Prior to his law career, Mr. Henson served twenty years in the United States Air Force, retiring as a master sergeant.
Mr. Henson was born in Alexandria in 1936. He graduated from Parker-Gray High School in 1954. He is the former president of Alexandria’s Departmental Progressive Club. In addition, he is one of the founders and a former president of the Alumni Association of Parker-Gray School. He was a chairman of the Charles Houston Ad Hoc Naming/Narrative Committee and the Change Agents for Historic Alexandria book project. He coauthor, “African Americans of Alexandria, Virginia: Beacons of Light in the Twentieth Century.” To add on to his family’s achievements James E. Henson, Sr., became the 2019 Living Legend in Alexandria, Virginia.
During the Vietnam War, Alexandria had over fifty veterans that lost their lives in combat; Raymond Leroy Williams, Sr was one of them.
Raymond was a 1962 graduate at Parker-Gray High School in Alexandria. He was a popular student who was loved by many. His life was cut short when he received multiple fragmentation wounds on May 13, 1969 in Vietnam.
The Parker-Gray High School year of 1949 – 1950 had one principal and twenty-six teachers.
William H. Pitts, Sr. – Principal
Mary Tunstall Adams – Sociology, Social Studies
A.W. Adkins – English, English/Math
Susie E. Anderson – Science
Arthur W. Bracey – Shop
Janie R. Browne – Fourth
Edith W. Casey – English
Flora W. Chase – Commercial
Helen L. Day – Seventh Grade
Thelma M. Dorsey – First, Second
Ellen Goods – Third, Fourth
Lauretta H. Hall – Art, Social Studies
Ferris Holland – Science
Earleen L. Hughes – Social Studies, English, French
Naomi C. Jackson – Second
Louis R. W. Johnson – Physical Education
Rubye S. Johnson – Physical Education
Dorothy P. Key – Librarian
Alma P. Murray – First
Edward L. Patterson – Music
Bernice J. Perry – English, Guidance
Julia E. Pritchett – Seventh
Lucile Smith – Seventh
Mabel Lee Smith – Mathematics
Ruby E. Smith – Home Economics
Geraldine Stevenson – Seventh
Elease N. Vaughn – Third
There were forty-four students in the Class of 1949.