Initiated by King Jeffcoat Richland Library scanned 17 new C. A. Johnson annuals. It took several visits for Mr. King to complete the project but we all worked together to get it done!
C. A. Johnson High School was named for Columbia native, Dr. Cornell Alvin Johnson. Johnson began his teaching career in 1914 in the old Howard School on Hampton St. At that time, Howard was Columbia’s only African American school serving students in grades first through high school. As the district grew, Dr. Johnson was promoted to supervise the Columbia District Negro Schools. With his retirement in 1950 Columbia’s newest school was named C. A. Johnson Junior Senior High School in honor of Dr. Johnson’s many years of service to Columbia’s schools and students.
While an annual records one year of high school sports and dances these yearbooks showed the CAJ seniors were clearly conscious of the changing times. For example, John F. Kennedy received a two page memorial in the 1964 annual following his assassination, November 22, 1963. Johnny James was the 1964 senior class president and he represented illustrious seniors like Charles Bolden Jr. Bolden, on a lighter side, appeared to have a secret admirer who labeled him, in his senior picture, a “cutie”.
Moving forward a few years, the 1969 CAJ seniors powerfully dedicated their annual “To Our Past”, saying, “Yes, we have a past that is older than this nation of ours. A past that has been mostly buried but which is now being discovered. The men and women of our race collectively and individually have shared the aspirations and philosophy of this land as it strove toward the achievement of democracy. However, we did not share fully in the gains that were made and even now, 1969, we do not have complete equality.” Our staff soon began to admire the historical strength of CAJ annuals and the students who worked so hard to publish them. It became an honor and a privilege to preserve them online giving future generations access to their wit, charm and aspirations.
Everyone who hears about the CAJ yearbook digitization project inevitably asks about Mr. King Jeffcoat. Mr. Jeffcoat worked 30 years in Richland County School District 1, first at W. A. Perry Junior High School and then C. A. Johnson High School. He considered his efforts to locate CAJ yearbooks for the library digitization project a community service that ensured the CAJ annuals were preserved digitally. This year, he informed us, is the 18th anniversary of his 71st birthday (yeah, I had to stop and think about it, too).