Mt. Hermon AME Church Homecoming Celebration luncheon honors Dillard Alumni ‘Classes 1938-1952’
By Charles Moseley
Fort Lauderdale’s Mount Hermon AME Church is the second oldest Black church in Broward County, so it was only befitting that it served as the site for the 2014 Old Dillard Homecoming Celebration. Dillard alumni along with a host of family and friends joined in celebration of the school’s rich history, during a luncheon on Saturday September 20, 2014. The Honorable Judge Michael A. Robinson was the key-note speaker at the luncheon, which was held at the Mt. Hermon Family Life Center in Fort Lauderdale.
The week long series of events honored those who helped build the educational foundation for future generations of Dillard High graduates which lives on today.
The week’s activities began on Thursday, Sept. 18, with a VIP reception at the Old Dillard Museum. On Sept. 20, former Dillard graduates dating back to the Class of 1938-1952 were honored during a luncheon at the Mt. Hermon Family Life Center, and a Sunday morning worship service at Mt. Hermon AME featuring keynote speaker the Reverend Dr. Edison Jackson, president of Bethune Cook-man University, concluded a week of historical activities designed to showcase the legacy of Dillard High.
Dillard High School was established in 1924 due to the efforts of Annie T. Reed, a founding member of Mt. Hermon AME Church which began in 1906. Reed worked as a housekeeper for Frank Stranahan, who founded the City of Fort Lauderdale. She convinced the Stranahan Family to donate the land to provide the City’s “Colored” students a school to attend. The late Dr. Joseph A. Ely, the principal of the school, petitioned local school board members to change the school’s name from Colored School to Dillard High School, after James H. Dillard in 1930. Dillard was a Caucasian educator who traveled the U. S. advocating that Negroes have the right to be educated. Dillard’s first high school graduation for the “Class of 1938,” was held at Mt. Hermon AME Church.
Attorney Raleigh Rawls, 89 was a graduate of Dillard’s “Class of 1944.” He recalled one of the school’s first principals, Clarence C. Walker who was at Dillard from 1930 until the time of his death in 1942.
“One of the things I really believed throughout my whole career was that Clarence C. Walker was one of the greatest persons I had ever known. He dedicated his life so that little Black children would get an education. He is the one who was instrumental in us having a Dillard High School. He convinced the Stranahans to donate the land that the school was built on. He said, “If we don’t get that land they’ll have apartments built on it. The land should belong to Dillard High School. This man in my opinion was one of the greatest high school principals that I have ever seen in my lifetime.
Chairperson Elaine Stevens coordinated the activities for Homecoming 2014 titled, “Feet 2 UR FAITH-Taking Action Trusting God” Hebrews 11:1. She said she undertook this project through her church.
“Reverend Henry Green asked me and because I was a Black History major way back during the Civil Rights era. I fought for Black Studies and I learned my history and understand how important it is for those of us who know better to share so we can keep the legacy going. A people without knowledge of their history are like a tree without roots.”
Stevens recognized the family of the late Mary Laramore Smith, a long time educator and community activists who was instrumental in preserving the Old Dillard School which is now a museum. She presented them with a plaque that read the following: “She was a woman of action who put Feet 2 UR Faith.” Mt Hermon AME Church Homecoming Sept. 21, 2014.”
“This all came about through Elaine Stevens who learned that Mt. Hermon played an instrumental part of the development of Old Dillard High School. She found that the way they got the building was because of Annie Reed, who was a member of Mt. Hermon. The first graduating class actually had their graduation here at Mt. Hermon.
Clarence Walker who was the principal of Dillard High School was a member of Mt. Hermon. So there is a great connection between Mt. Hermon and Dillard High School She felt that future generations should know how much the school and the church got along and that this should not be lost,” said Derek Davis, Curator for the Old Dillard Museum.
Luncheon keynote speaker Broward County Circuit Court Judge Michael A. Robinson is a graduate of Dillard’s Class of 1972. He was a member of the Honor Society, the Debate Team, and a letterman on The Panther’s football team.
“You all laid the foundation for generations that came before me and generations to come. You loved Dillard. You loved your community. You loved the children in your community. You looked after the children so obviously you loved them because their parents had to work. My mom was a maid, my dad wasn’t home a lot of times. He was a construction worker. Some of ya’ll looked out for me. You all also laid the foundation for excellence in the classroom. So I salute you for without you there would be no me.”
Samuel Meredith Moseley III addressed the audience by sharing how he felt his father the late S. Meredith Moseley would feel had he been in attendance at the luncheon.
“ I would like to thank you for not letting the legacy go and if my father were here he’d be very proud that you still cherish the experience you had at Dillard because that’s what he really wanted us to understand. Excellence is what it’s all about.”