R. F. Hardin High School
The inception of Rufus F. Hardin High School began when George E. Smith, an ex-Buffalo Soldier and elder, came to Brownwood, Texas from Fort Concho, San Angelo, Texas in 1883 or 1885. He established a school for black children which eventually became a known as R. F. Hardin High School.
In the beginning school was held in buildings and the local black churches. Rufus F. Hardin, an experienced teacher, was contacted several times and encouraged by school officials to come to Brownwood to teach the black children. He came to Brownwood in 1896 and became principal and teacher. He taught school in buildings located at the corner of Cordell and Hendricks streets and Beaver and Cordell streets. The school was referred to as the "Cordell School." The grade level of the School Was six and later extended to the 8th. During the early stages of the development of the school, there were only 2 teachers.
It was not until 1910 that the Board of Trustees of the Public School District decided to purchase lots on which to construct a school for the "colored people." A building was not constructed, however, two red wooden buildings were placed on the lots. These two buildings burned in 1917. Again, the school children had to use a house as a school, specifically one of Professor Hardin's small rent houses.
The Coggin School located on Avenue D which was built in 1891 had burned in 1916. On May 12, 1917, the BISD decided to use the stone from the burned Coggin School to build a "Negro school" consisting of four rooms. The school opened in September, 1917 with three classrooms and an auditorium. Principal Hardin and his male students built a balcony over a portion of the rear of the auditorium to have space for manual training, as well as a science area. He also made a makeshift library in the auditorium with a bookcase.
Within a year of 1918, the school district added a stage in the front of the auditorium and lights were added throughout the building. The school was used by the community for social gatherings or meetings, if they were not of a religious nature. The school was called Brownwood Colored High School and went through the 10th grade. The Class of 1918 was the first to graduate From the stone building. There were 5 graduates.
In 1934 the school's name was changed to R. F. Hardin in honor of Professor Hardin who had become ill. A. L. Reed, a former student became interim principal. In September 1934, D. V. Hall became principal, a graduate of the Class of 1922.
During the 30's, the school campus began to expand and improvements were made to provide the children with a better education. In 1947, R. F. Hardin High School with its 12 grades became a "fully affiliated and accredited high school." There were 13 graduates. However, there was a "desperate" need to replace the facilities of the school. No improvements were made until 1951. Three years later, the U. S. Supreme Court ruling of May 17, 1954 called for the desegregation in public schools. To conform with the decree, Brownwood Independent School District integrated the 9th to 12th grades in the 1955-56 school year. The elementary grades remained and Hardin High's name changed to R. F. Hardin Elementary. The school did not receive any improvements until 1960. However, the school was not integrated and the district had to comply with the newly created federal guidelines of the Civil Rights Act. It was voted in June 1966 to close Hardin Elementary as a public school.
In October 1966, a Project Head Start program utilized the old stone school. The program closed in 1970 and old R. F. Hardin High School closed also.
During the school's history, circa seven of its former students returned as educators. They challenged the students with an expanded curriculum, helped them display their talents and developed their physical skills. Other former principals of Hardin were Louis T. Morgan, Claudis G. Armstrong and Waiter Chandler.
The real heritage of the Rufus F. Hardin School lies in its past and future. Yesterday's students are some of today's educators, doctors, nurses, lawyers, scientists, political leaders, etc. The future of the school is to be preserved as a museum.
Note: Information for this history provided by Carol Spratt of Brownwood.
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