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Norris Elementary is worthy of preservation

R.L. Norris School was established in the early 50's as a school for blacks formerly under the name of the McDuffie County Training Center. Its namesake, Robert Lee Norris, is recognized by blacks as one of the greatest black principals of all times, installing pride and achievement for blacks in Thomson. R.L. Norris reminds us of a place that I and will always be "our very own" school in our community.

Today, it is a historical site and mainstay for many generations of black families in the black community.

As we look around Thomson, GA, we recognize that the City is changing, but some things should remain the same when they support the spirit, pride and important history in a community. The benefits of this landmark being designated as a historic structure would be monumental to blacks who see no other symbolic structures of pride in our community. R.L. Norris is a reflection of history for all blacks who live, visit and continue to call the city of Thomson home. Tearing down and destroying this school or renaming another school R.L. Norris does not capture the spirit of preservation honoring the memory of a great black man. Nor does it preserve the true heritage of the blacks in this community. Our plea is that the town preserves the school location to honor the meaning and pride it represents in the black community. What has connected us over the years is what keeps us close and brings fond memories of a place we will forever call "our school." There is no greater pride than the preservation of a landmark that instills nostalgia and history.

R.L. Norris was made of masonry in compliance with an ordinance passed in 1888 after a fire destroyed a great many of the wood frame structures. The school was made using the same brick materials used on many of the historic landmark sites in Thomson, Georgia; the Depot, Post Office, and Movie Theatre built in the 19th and early 20th Century.

As opposed to tearing down the school, why not keep this historic site for the black community. What has connected us for centuries as we turn down Harrison Street is a location we know and love. There's nothing like "seeing" R.L. Norris and sharing the history and stories of this location with others.

What will it take to bring the interior up to code - $30,000? What about Federal Preservation Funding? Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits? Government Appropriations? Exploration of a fund raiser dinner and other benefits? List the school on the McDuffie County National Registry of Historic Places? Let us keep our eyes on the prize by putting the building to use as a historic building, school or community center, and keep the spirit and pride in the black community alive. After a careful re-evaluation, Thomson High was preserved -- as it should be. So should R.L. Norris -- it means so much to so many -- A monumental landmark worthy of preservation. Go Rams!!!

Web posted on Thursday, June 17, 2010

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