The Bulloch County Historical Society plans to honor the memory and legacy of Professor William James, one of Bulloch County’s pioneer African American educators, with three events Oct. 27 and 28.
Back in March, Historical Society leaders met with several of James’ descendants, who visited Statesboro from Massachusetts, Illinois and Delaware. Two of his granddaughters, a grandson-in-law and a great-granddaughter also met representatives of the Bulloch County Schools, whose central offices are in the William James Educational Complex on Williams Road, and specifically with the principal of Williams James Middle School, which is now on U.S. Highway 80 West.
Since then, the Bulloch County Historical Society has secured the cooperation of the Bulloch County and city of Statesboro governments and a church for these upcoming events and placement of a historical marker. It will go to the site of the now-vanished, original school James led for a quarter century, in what is now the Luetta Moore Park area.
“I think the story of William James has been well known in the community out there, and the schools continued to use the name and that has been an important dedication to his memory in the community,” said Bulloch County Historical Society President Brent Tharp, Ph.D.
“But it was really the family that brought forth some new research and materials related to letters and diaries we hadn’t known about that I think spurred us to say, ‘Oh! This needs an additional effort beyond some of those past efforts now,’” he said.
The memorial events will begin Sunday, Oct. 27, with the 11 a.m. service at Historical First African Baptist Church, which retains the historical address 1 Cotton Ave. but is on the corner of Bobby Donaldson Avenue and Church Street. This will be the church’s regular service, and Historical Society members plan to attend. William James and his wife, Julia James, were members of the church, and their house, no longer extant, stood nearby.
At 3 p.m. that day, Oct. 27, the public dedication of the Statesboro High and Industrial School marker will take place at Luetta Moore Park off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive with proclamations from the city and county.
Statesboro City Council, by a unanimous vote Oct. 1, 2019, authorized Mayor Jonathan McCollar, Statesboro’s first African American mayor, to issue an easement for the marker to be placed at the Zadie Lundy Douglas Little League Field. He also signed a proclamation.
The field’s location in the park is approximately where a group of citizens purchased land in 1905 for the school that opened as the City Colored School in 1908. It was renamed Statesboro High and Industrial School in 1910. William James, born in Jefferson County in 1872, was the school’s principal from its founding until 1935, the year of his death. The school was renamed William James High School in 1948.
This marker will be the 25th placed by the Bulloch County Historical Society.
“This marker has more good information that the general public does not know than any marker we have done to date!” wrote Virginia Anne Franklin Waters, Bulloch County Historical Society executive director.
Oct. 28 Meeting
Culminating the two-day focus, the Historical Society will devote its monthly meeting, 11:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 28, to James’ legacy. It will be a meeting with more young people and music than usual but at the usual time and place, the social hall of Pittman Park United Methodist Church on Fair Road.
As the centerpiece, the William James Family Legacy Group will present findings from the family’s research.
But the meeting will also feature musical performances by the symphonic band from William James Middle School, as well as, from Statesboro High School, the Statesboro Steel ensemble and student vocalists.
For lunch reservations, required for this meeting, phone Waters at (912) 682-9003.