Black History Month: The Trailblazers- 1965 Integration of Lexington High School

Sam Timberlake, an original member of a group of 13 black teenagers from Henderson County known as the Trailblazers, made his way to Lexington High School in August 1965. They were there to voluntarily integrate Lexington High School at the time.
Photo Submitted / The Lexington Progress

Article by Bhyren Priddy-

We are all familiar with the story of Ruby Bridges, the 6-year-old little girl who in 1960 integrated William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana. However, many people in Henderson County are not familiar with the group of teens known as the Trailblazers, that integrated our very own Lexington High School. This is their story.

On an August morning in 1965, thirteen young black men and women set forth on a journey that would forever change the course of history in Henderson County. Although the times were very volatile, they were not carrying picket signs nor staging a sit in. They were there to integrate Lexington High school.

With Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, U.S. 483 (1954), and the Desegregation Act of 1964, this courageous step by these young men and women was eleven years in the making. There was no police or national guard escort, no television or local paper to record the event. Just them, together ready to clear a path for generations still to come, myself included.

Joyce Belew, Mae Lean Belew, Hurtis Carver, Charlotte Easley, Cynthia Easley, Marguerite Flakes, James Harris, Peretha Hodge, Constance Massey, Linda Pearson, Wayne Raspberry, Joe Ray Ross, and Samuel Timberlake. They were an all-volunteer group from Montgomery High School, who from that day forward would be known as the Trailblazers.

It was my honor to be able to speak to one of the original thirteen, Mr. Samuel Timberlake, as well as Mrs. Linda Pettigrew, who followed the original thirteen in 1967 when the entire school system was integrated.

While speaking with Mr. Timberlake I learned that, after volunteering to go to Lexington High, he never told his mother he was transferring. When asked was this intentional, thinking his mother would be worried for his safety, he stated “he didn’t think of it that way, that it was an opportunity.”

An opportunity he would take full advantage of. Like many of the Trailblazers, Mr. Timberlake was, in what was known at the time, as fast learner classes. He was also the first black…

For complete coverage, see the February 17th edition of The Lexington Progress.

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