HISTORY OF EMMETT SCOTT HIGH SCHOOL
Prior to 1888 there was no public education in the city. The first school district charter was issued in 1887, seventeen years after the city itself received a charter. Prior to that time, education was carried on by more-or-less private schools supported by patrons and tuition of pupils. The school that was opened in 1888, with Professor Banks as superintendent, is said to have been the first public school in South Carolina.
When Mr. John Coleman Cork became the third superintendent of the Rock Hill public schools (1898 -1911), there was no graded school for Negro children. The education of these children was conducted by four parochial schools which were: Friendship (Baptist) taught by Reverend M. P. Hall and Reverend M. A. Murray; Clinton Institute (Methodist) taught by Reverend J. C. Crockett and Corps; Hermon Presbyterian taught by Reverend C.M. Young and his wife, and St. Paul’s Episcopal taught by Professor Parker. These schools, except for Clinton and Friendship, were conducted in the church buildings on the denominations mentioned. They were under the general supervision of the Board of Trustees of the Rock Hill School District.
During the 1913-1914 session, during the administration of Superintendent Gunter, a petition was presented to the school board by a group of Negro citizens composed of Z. V. Kennedy, Tim Broomfield, Coles Carter, Lee Cauthen and Tom Archie, asking for establishment of a central graded school for Negro children. The petition stated that more Negro children would attend school if free tuition were available. The board considered the tuition but took no action at that time. In August 1915, another group of Negro citizen asked the board to give them a free public school. Free tuition for Negro children through the fifth grade, was approved in 1916 though no action was taken on the school.
It was not until March, 1919 that it was ordered by the board that arrangements be made to hold an election for the issuing of $75,000 worth of bonds for the purpose of paying indebtedness incurred in making additions to the buildings already in use, and to provide sites and buildings for another grammar school for white children, in the western part of the city and a combined gramma and high school for the Negro children in the southern part of the city. This election was held on April 24, 1919 and was carried with 48 votes for and 3 votes against. The contract for the construction of what was to be Emmett Scott High School was awarded to Mr. Padgett in 1920. Professor Frank Neal, a native of Rock Hill, was elected first principal. After the school was occupied the question of a name arose.
It was rather common practice at that time for schools, especially Negro schools, to raise money for supplies, teaching aids, etc. Someone hit upon the idea of a two-fold project to name the school while raising funds. Several groups of teachers and patrons chose the names of outstanding personalities of the day to sponsor in a contest for a name for the school.
Among the names used were: Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Kelly Miller, and Emmett J. Scott, who had been secretary to Dr. B.T. Washington at Tuskegee and was a high-ranking government worker in Washington, D.C. Obviously, the Emmett Scott group, led by one of the teachers, Miss Daisy Picketts, won out and the school was named in his honor. Emmett Scott
was accredited by the State Department and could grant high school diplomas beginning with the class of 1934.
There were 11 members of the first class of 1923 and 195 in the class of 1966. There have been two superintendents at Emmett Scott High School since 1920: R.C. (1914 - 1938) and W.C. Sullivan (1938 - 1964). Six principals served Emmett Scott: Frank H. Neal (1920 -1924), L.B. Moore (1924 -1938, Ralph McGuirt (1938 - 1959), W.H. Witherspoon (1959 - 1967), George Lane (1967- 1968) and Samuel Foster (1968 - 1970).
Compiled by W.H. Witherspoon
Principal of Emmett Scott (1959 – 1967)