History of Ray City School

In 1918, a contract for a new school building in Ray City, GA was let out by the Board of Education. Plans for the building were drawn by Valdosta architect Lloyd B. Greer. The contract for materials went to A. H. Miller Hardware Store in Ray City.

Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record, September 25, 1919, announcement of construction at Ray City, GA

Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record, September 25, 1919, announcement of construction at Ray City, GA

Construction on the brick school building, which has been preserved in Ray City and which now houses the Joe Sizemore Community Library, began in 1920.  The Ray City School opened in 1922.

Ray City School, March 11, 1927. In 1918, the Berrien County School Board put out a contract for a new school building in Ray City, GA. Plans for the building were drawn by Valdosta architect Lloyd B. Greer. Materials were supplied by A. H. Miller Hardware Store in Ray City. The school opened in 1922.

Ray City School, March 11, 1927.

The brick school building at Ray City, GA was designed by Valdosta architect Lloyd Greer.  Among other buildings designed by Greer were:  Federal Building and Post Office, Valdosta, GA; Carnegie  Library, Valdosta,GA; First Church of Christ, Scientist, Tallahassee, FL; James Price McRee House, Camilla, GA; Dasher High School, Valdosta, GA; Barney School, Barney, GA; Barber-Pitman House, Valdosta, GA; Lanier County Auditorium and Grammar School, Lakeland, GA; Ilex Theater, Quitman,GA; Moultrie Theater, Moultrie, GA; United Cigar Store Building, Jacksonville, GA; Quitman Library, Quitman, GA; Echols County High School, Statenville, GA; Barrow Hall, Emory Junior College, Valdosta, GA; Pine Grove School, Fitzgerald, GA; Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, GA; Douglas Negro High School and Douglas White High School, Douglas, GA; Nichols House,Valdosta, GA; Berrien High School, Nashville, GA. The Lyric Theater, Waycross,GA was designed by Greer.

Old Wooden School at Ray City, GA

The Ray City High School Class of 1949 wrote, “The school of our community was begun long before our town received its present name having been known as Rays Mill. “

Among those early teachers of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) was  Henry Harrison Knight (1840-1898).  These teachers   taught in the little one room log house schools  of Berrien county, and were often paid in “found” – bartered, homegrown commodities such as ham, chickens, eggs, or butter.

The first school building was located on the east side of town. This building was destroyed by fire. Then a log cabin called the Alliance Building was constructed in 1898, and was used for about two years.

In January 1898, the Tifton Gazette reported that Robert Crawford Woodard was the teacher at the Rays Mill academy.  He later went on to become a physician.

In 1900 the interested people of the community decided to make an improvement in the school plant. Trees were cut from their lands and carried to Sutton’s Sawmill to be made into lumber, for the purpose of erecting a frame building. That stood where our present building is now standing. It consisted of one large room. Some of the interested patrons who helped with this building were: J. S. Swindle, W. E. Langford, Isaac Burkhalter, Redding Swindle, and W. M. Knight. With the aid of other patrons they completed the first Ray City School. -History of Ray City School (1948-49 Yearbook)

The town experienced a boom period when the Georgia & Florida Railroad came to Ray City in 1909.The increased population made it necessary to make an addition of two more rooms to the school.” -History of Ray City School (1948-49 Yearbook)

The January 19, 1911 edition of the Valdosta Times reported news of the school in Rays Mill (now Ray City).   Husband and wife team James Marcus Patten and Ida Lou Hall Patten were running the school. Professor J.M. Patten was college educated, having completed the teacher education program at North Georgia Agricultural College, and had twenty years experience teaching in the common schools of Berrien County.

In 1918,  the Reverend John W. Shoemate and Mrs. Harriet M. Shoemate came to Ray City to take charge of the school.   Reverend Shoemate was a native of Tennessee, and a Baptist minister.  Mrs. Shoemate was a native of South Dakota, and college educated. In Ray City, they were the neighbors of Professor and Mrs. J. M. Patten.  Mrs. Patten was also then occupied teaching public school.  The Ray City School was then still held in the three-room, wood frame building, and educated  students through the eighth grade. One student from this time period was Claudey Belle Hester, who wrote well enough for publication in Progressive Farmer.

According to the Annual Report of the Department of Education, in 1920 the public high school in Ray’s Mill was a 2-year Junior High School. Sankey Booth was Superintendent of the school and later served on the Berrien County Board of Education. One of the teachers in old Ray City was Louannie Eudell Webb (1902-1972), who started teaching by age 17.  She was a daughter of Luther Webb and Mary J. Albritton, and had only an 8th grade education herself. She married Leroy Lorenzo Carter on August 3, 1922. Another teacher at Ray City in 1920 was Lucile Fountain; she taught the fourth grade class. According to later census records, she herself had only attended school through the 4th grade.  It was the talk of the town when her beau, Calvin Simmons, came and got her out of class  and took her to get married on February 13, 1923. Maria Antoniette Poblete Knight worked as an art teacher at the Ray City School in the 1920s.

The Brick School

That [multi-room wood school house] was used until 1920 when work on the present building was started. -History of Ray City School (from the 1948-49 Yearbook)

Ray City School, 1948-49, C. W. Schmoe, Principal.

Ray City School, 1948-49, C. W. Schmoe, Principal.

In 1924, the Georgia Library Commission added the Ray City School as the only station in Berrien County for the Georgia Traveling Library.   the Georgia Library Commission had been created in 1919 by the General Assembly with and annual appropriation of $6,000, which included funds for the maintenance of traveling libraries.  These traveling libraries typically provided 50 or 100 books, which were available for a few months before being passed on to the next station.

Wilma Harper began her 60 year teaching career at the Ray City School in 1928 at the age of 18.  There she met and fell in love with Prentice M. Shultz, who taught and was principal at Ray City School. A year later they were married.

In 1928, the Georgia Library Commission reported  library service offered in Berrien only at Ray City, through the Ray City School and at the Kings Chapel School.

The Great Depression took a great toll on Berrien County, and Ray City struggled with funding to keep the school open. Only through the generous contributions of local citizens and by charging students a tuition, was the school able to continue for the full term. In 1930, the school could not even afford to hold graduation exercises.

In the 1930s many schools in smaller communities were consolidated. In 1936, Pleasant Vale and Sappling Grove schools were closed and the students sent to Ray City.

The Ray City School held a junior high school rating until 1936, when it became an accredited senior high school. Another classroom building was added that year to the school plant. -History of Ray City School (from the 1948-49 Yearbook)

By the 1940-41 school term, New Lois High School was also consolidated with Ray City High School.

In the early days students at Ray City School brought their own lunches to school and ate outside on the school grounds, as there was no lunchroom or kitchen to prepare food.  David Miley recalled a sow that used to come into the playground, and snatch the lunch bags of unsuspecting kids. The school grounds were fenced and had a cattle gap to keep free ranging livestock from entering the schoolyard.  Even so, livestock could and did occasionally get into the school yard.  By 1941, the school had a lunch room serving 150 students a day.

 

Fence and cattle gap in front of the Ray City School kept livestock out of the schoolyard, 1949.

Fence and cattle gap in front of the Ray City School kept livestock out of the schoolyard, 1949.

During WWII, Ray City School did its part.   Vocational agriculture teacher St. Elmo Lee gave up his classrooms at Ray City  and New Lois, GA for the U.S. Army. Graduates and former students left Ray City to go to war. Some never came back.  Hubert Comer (RCHS 1940) joined the Navy and was killed in the D-Day invasion of Normandy Beach. Harry Elmore Devane (RCHS 1938) also joined the Navy.  On D-Day Devane was a boat officer on a tank landing craft at Omaha Beach. He was killed in an accident aboard the aircraft carrier USS FDR after the war. James A. Swindle (RCHS 1936) captained a B-26 Marauder and flew 75 bombing missions; he was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross. Maurice “Max” Johnson (RCHS 1940) served as a B-24 pilot during WWII from 1942 to 1945. Leland E Langford (RCHS 1939) enlisted on June 12, 1941, serving as an Army pilot until he was killed in a plane crash in 1949.   J.I. Clements (RCHS 1938) joined the Army and fought in Germany. Many other alumni of Ray City School served as well.

William R. “Mac” McClure was principal of the school in the mid 1940s. Charles Woodrow “Woody” Schmoe served as principal in the late 1940s and early 1950s. His wife, Nancy Young Schmoe, taught 5th Grade.

In 1947 a fifteen thousand dollar gymnasium was constructed by the patrons, a building in which the whole community justly takes pride (1948-49 Yearbook).  The town dedicated the building with a big dance celebration and the crowning of the Queen of the Harvest.

In 1948, a vocational building was erected by the veterans of World War II, at the end of five years this … [became] a part of Ray City School.

It was in 1949 that veterans of World War II built  a “very modern and up-to-date lunchroom” for the school.

In 1954, Ray City High School and all other white high schools in the county were combined into Nashville High School.  The brick school building at Ray City continued to serve as an elementary and middle school until 1994, when all county schools were consolidated into facilities in Nashville.

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Lawton Walker Johnson, WWII Sailor

Lawton Walker Johnson, son of JHP Johnson and Chloe Gardner Johnson,  was born June 14, 1908 in Ray City, GA.  During WWII, he joined in the US Navy , enlisting November 2, 1943. His younger brother, Max Maurice Johnson, was serving in the Army Air Force as pilot of a B-24 Liberator bomber.

Lawton Walker Johnson, WWII Sailor

Lawton Walker Johnson, WWII Sailor, grew up in Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Navy Cruise Books for World War II show Lawton Walker Johnson served on the escort carrier USS Hollandia as a Seaman 1c, USNR.

“Hollandia sailed on her maiden voyage July 10, 1944 from San Diego for a shakedown cruise to Espiritu Santo. She also transported replacement aircraft on this cruise, and on the return voyage stopped at Manus Island and Guadalcanal, arriving Port Hueneme, California on  August 27, 1944. During the next few months the escort carrier made similar cruises between the United States and the Navy’s bases in the far Pacific, Manus, Ulithi, and Guam, transporting vitally-needed supplies and passengers.”

USS Hollandia off the coast of California in 1944.

USS Hollandia off the coast of California in 1944.

“Hollandia was anchored at Ulithi on April 1, 1945 when the Navy’s massive amphibious assault of Okinawa began. She got underway next day and operated off the Okinawan coast, sending fighters to support the advancing troops. The ship then returned to San Diego, arriving on May 1, 1945.”

Navy records show Lawton Walker Johnson died June 3, 1945 while on active duty, his death “resulting directly from enemy action or from operational activities against the enemy in war zones.”  About that time, Hollandia was on a cargo and passenger run to Pearl Harbor.

Just two months after Johnson’s death, Hollandia would be pressed into service transporting survivors of the ill-fated USS Indianapolis to a Navy hospital.   Indianapolis was torpedoed and sunk after completing the secret mission to deliver parts and the enriched uranium (about half of the world’s supply of Uranium-235 at the time) for the atomic bomb Little Boy, which would later be dropped on Hiroshima.

USS Indianapolis survivors on the USS Hollandia.

Lawton Walker Johnson was laid to final rest at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.  In 1947 his father, JHP Johnson, applied for and received a government provided marker for his grave.

 

Lawton Walker Johnson, as    a casualty of WWII, received a government-provided grave marker.

Lawton Walker Johnson, as a casualty of WWII, received a government-provided grave marker.

 

 

Grave of Lawton Walker Johnson, Ray City, GA

Grave of Lawton Walker Johnson, Ray City, GA

 

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Elizabeth Roena Patten Clements (1858-1951)

Elizabeth Roena Patten Clements,  matriarch of the sawmill family of Ray City, died in 1951. She was the widow of Levi J. Clements and  a daughter of William and Elizabeth Register Patten.   In the early 1920s the Clements Lumber Company  was the largest business in Ray City, GA.

Obituary of Roena Patten Clements.

Obituary of Roena Patten Clements.

Valdosta Times
Friday, February 2, 1951

DEATH CLAIMS MRS. CLEMENTS OF RAY CITY

Mrs. Levie J. Rhoena Clements, 93, passed away at her home in Ray City this morning about 10 o’clock. Funeral services will be held at New Ramey Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City at 3 p. m. Saturday. She is survived by a daughter, Mrs. Lillie Gaskins, five sons, Dr. H. W. Clements, Adel; J. L. Clements, Fort Meade, Fla; W. G. Clements, Ebb, Fla; and J. I and J. S. Clements of Ray City.  Twenty grand children and 28 great-grandchildren also survive. Mrs. Clements was born in Berrien county and was a resident of that section all her life. Pallbearers will be the grandsons. Elder Marcus Peavy, pastor at Ray City, will conduct the services.  He will be assisted by the Rev. John W. Harrell, pastor of the Ray City Baptist Church. Wiseman Funeral Home, Adel, will direct the arrangements.

Funeral of Roena Patten Clements was held Saturday, February 3, 1951 at New Ramah Baptist Church, Ray City, GA

Funeral of Roena Patten Clements was held Saturday, February 3, 1951 at New Ramah Baptist Church, Ray City, GA

Mrs. Clements Is Laid To Rest

     Funeral services for Mrs. Rhoena Clements were held Saturday at 3 p. m. at the New Ramah Baptist Church.  Services were conducted by Elder M. C. Peavey and the Rev. John W. Harrell.
Mrs. Clements died Friday morning after an illness of several months.  She was a member of an old and prominent Ray City family.
Amazing Grace and I’m Going Home were sung by a mixed choir.  Interment was in the churchyard cemetery.
Active pallbearers were Donald Clements, Hugh Clements, Mason Clements, Kief Clements, J. I. Clements, Jr., Ralph Clements, Austin Clements and Dr. Fred C. Clements.
Honorary pallbearers were H. P. Clements, J. H. Swindle, Y. F. Carter, L. H. Webb, W. A. Clements, P. N. Sirmans, R. P. Swindle, C. W. Schmoe, Morris Johnson and H. W. Nelson.

Roena Clements 1858-1951, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Roena Clements 1858-1951, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Children of Elizabeth Roena Patten Clements and Levi J. Clements:

  1. Henry W. Clements, M.D.,   b. 1877, Ray City, Berrien Co., GA ,   d. 6 Feb 1952
  2. Lucille “Lillie” Clements,   b. 17 Feb 1879, Berrien County, GA,   d. 25 Apr 1967
  3. Lucius Jordan Clements,   b. 26 Dec 1880, Berrien County, GA ,   d. 20 Dec 1965, Ft. Meade, Polk County, FL
  4. Pearle E. Clements,   b. 6 Oct 1882, Berrien County, GA,   d. 9 Sep 1904
  5. William Grover “Bill” Clements,   b. 1 Oct 1884, Ray City Berrien Co., GA ,   d. 30 Jul 1984, Cross City, Dixie County, FL
  6. Joseph S. Clements,   b. 14 Aug 1886, Berrien County, GA,   d. 23 Aug 1963, Berrien County, GA
  7. James Irwin Clements,   b. 14 Aug 1886, Berrien County, GA,   d. 9 Feb 1965, Berrien County, GA

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Max Maurice Johnson

Max Maurice Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Max Maurice Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Maurice “Max” Johnson (1922-2012) grew up in Ray City, GA. As a boy he attended the Ray City School ( see Glee Club Gave 1939 Christmas Cantata and Ray City School 1934) graduating with the Ray City High School Class of 1940. The Johnsons were a prominent family in Ray City and have been the subject of several other posts, linked below. Records of the census enumeration conducted in the spring of 1940 show Maurice Johnson was a student and also working as assistant janitor at the school. His father, JHP Johnson, was a retired merchant, his mother, Chloe Johnson, was Assistant Postmaster of Ray City, and his older brother, Glen, was working as a band instructor.

During WWII, Max Maurice Johnson served in the U. S. Army Air Force as pilot of a B-24 Liberator bomber. Another brother, Lawton Walker Johnson, was killed in 1945 while serving in the Navy.  Other Ray City men in the Army Air Force included B-26 Marauder pilot James Swindle, and flying officer Jim Paulk.  Sgt. Mitchell Moore was assigned  to the 854 AAF Bomber Squadron, 491st Bomber Group, flying as a crewman on a B-24 Liberator. Charles Shaw was sent to the 96th Bomb Group, 8th Army Air Force, stationed at Snetterton Heath, England where he joined the crew of the B-17 Mischief Maker II. William C. Webb served in the Medical Corps of the Army Air Force and Howell Shaw served at Sedalia Army Air Field. Lt. Jamie Connell, of Nashville, served as a  navigator-bombardier. Saunto Sollami served in the Army Air Corp and came to the area after the war.

After the war, Max attended the University of Georgia Law School. He was a  founding member of Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity at UGA. He took the Georgia Bar Exam in Atlanta, GA in the summer of 1947 and graduated from the law school in December of that year.

Max Maurice Johnson died on September 25, 2012 at  LaGrange, GA. He was buried at Carrollton Memory Gardens, Carrollton, GA.

Obituary of Max Maurice Johnson

Mr. Max Maurice Johnson, 90, of Carrollton passed away on September 25, 2012 at the West Georgia Hospice in LaGrange Georgia, after succumbing to his battle with bladder cancer.

Mr. Johnson was born in Ray City, GA on May 28, 1922, the son of the late Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson and Chloe Ann Gardner Johnson. He was a veteran of the U. S. Army Air Force where he served as a B-24 pilot during WWII from 1942 to 1945. He and his wife of 69 years, Frances A. Johnson, moved to Decatur, Georgia in the summer of 1960 then to Carrollton in 2000. They built a house next to their daughter and settled into a comfortable and productive lifestyle. They became active members of the Carrollton First United Methodist Church and enjoyed good relationships there.

His career and his education were devoted to education. He attended Martha Berry College, Georgia Southwestern College and University of Georgia for his undergraduate degree and University of Georgia for his Masters in Education as well as his law degree. He was a principal both of elementary and secondary schools in Berrien County Georgia. At the age of 38, he changed careers and built a successful educational marketing business, Educational Marketing Services, selling educational products to school systems.

He was a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather and is seceded in death by Timothy Max Poucher, grandson. He is survived by three daughters and two sons in law; Sandra Dianne and Robert Alan Fischer of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Suzanne Johnson of Fort Myers, Florida, and Kathryn Elaine and Carl Emil Poucher of Carrollton. Survivors also include grandchildren and their spouses; Shawn William Fischer, Ashley Ayn and James Edward Remik, Kevin Hamilton Butts and Deanna Lynn Ford, Jessica Robin and Daniel Eric Blanks, Mark Christian and Melissa Caspary- Poucher, John Gabriel and Kendall Poucher, Justin Cauldwell Poucher. great grandchildren, William Jeremy and Caleb James Remik, Noah Lane Butts, Isaiah Samuel, Judah Isaac, Chava Chloe, Aaron Levi, Ari Mordechai, and Tovia Yosef Blanks, Ethan Ry and Samantha Eve Caspary-Poucher.

Memorial Services will be Monday, October 1, 2012 at the Carrollton First United Methodist Church with Rev. Gerry Davis and Dr. Dean Milford officiating.

The family will be receiving friends and family beginning at 10AM followed by Memorial Services at 11AM.

The family requests contributions to Carrollton First United Methodist, 206 Newnan Street, Carrollton, GA 30117, in lieu of flowers and messages of condolence may be sent to the family at http://www.almonfuneralhome.com.

Funeral arrangements are being made by Almon Funeral Home of Carrollton.

Grave of Max Maurice Johnson, Carroll Memory Gardens, Carrollton, GA. Image source: Don Sharp.

Grave of Max Maurice Johnson, Carroll Memory Gardens, Carrollton, GA. Image source: Don Sharp.

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