January 2, 2014 by elhseven
It was very common for northern missionaries to make their way down south for the purpose of helping to establish schools in rural areas after slavery was abolished but in one small community in northwest Louisiana, one black man decided to take matters into his own hands and establish a school himself. Joseph H. Herndon was born March 19, 1840 to John Frederick Herndon, a wealthy white slaveowner from Virginia and Lue Patsy Herndon, a slave who he owned and later freed before Emancipation Proclamation. From what has been written, Joseph’s white father, John F., was never previously married, lived with Lue Patsy on a 600 acre plantation and produced 8 offspring’s with Patsy who were all considered ‘Free People of Color’ on the census and all beneficiaries of his estate. Joseph H. Herndon grew into an influential pillar in the community and with his inheritance after his father’s death, decided his community needed a better way to educate the black youth in that rural area. On November 25, 1924, before his death, Joseph H. Herndon donated $12,000 to the Caddo Parish School Board for the purpose of establishing a school for the children of color in north Caddo parish which would eventually become Herndon High School.
Joseph H. Herndon amassed wealth not only from his inheritance but also from various investments in real estate, cotton farming, gold and oil wells on their properties. The proceeds from his income afford him the seed money for the school. Although he was fortunate to continue his parent’s legacy of wealth building, he lived a very humble, modest life in a small community between Vivian and Gilliam, Pine Island. His owned a simple frame house, wore patches on his pants and his kitchen floor was clay dirt. He eventually built a brick home in Texarkana and resided there until his death in 1924. He is buried in Rodessa, Louisiana at the Tyson Family Cemetery, Sugar Hill.
After Joseph H. Herndon death, his nephew, David Tyson, became a strong advocate of education and stepped out on faith to support the need for a Negro high school in the northern area of Caddo parish. David was quick to point out that it was time out for the two room schools in the area and the community needed a high school located between Shreveport, Arkansas, and the Texas lines. David, better known as Dave Tyson of Mira, Louisiana, put his faith to the test and armed with his uncle, Joseph H. Herndon, seed money contacted the Caddo Parish School Board and began discussions with board member, C.H. McEachern of Vivian, Louisiana. David also requested that the school be named David Herndon High School in recognition of his family’s contributions and commitment to education. In 1948, David Tyson also offered to give the Caddo Parish School Board 10 acres of his personal property, located in Pine Island to build a high school for blacks, on Clyde Place Road, between Gilliam and Vivian. He also offered the option to lease twenty more acres for the agriculture department provided a stipulation that all buildings and properties be returned back to the rightful owner if the school for any reason would ever close. This property was offered along with the money already donated from his uncle and yet the Caddo Parish School Board, for unknown reasons, voted against the proposal. After David Tyson’s offer was declined he still continued to make his dream a reality and fought diligently for a total of thirty years before his accomplishment was completed. On July 2, 1953, the site of 80 acres was purchased for the school from C.W. Lane Corporation for the amount of $28,000.00. The property was located on the Gamm Road in Belcher, Louisiana. Construction began on February 2, 1955 and was completed before the projected date of September 1956. When the high school was finally completed, they named it Gamm High School. Mr. Tyson read this in the Shreveport Times and immediately went to Vivian, Louisiana to inform C. H. McEachern that if Caddo Parish School Board did not change the name to Herndon High School, he would bring forth a law suit. After meeting with, C.H. McEachern, the school was immediately renamed, David Herndon High School. According to Mr. Roosevelt Shields, the name “David” was later deleted from the school name due to a conflict with the lyrics of the school song.
Source: Dwight Tucker, great, grandson of Joseph H. Herndon & caddotrees.com
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