John S. Cobb School dedication an inspiring event

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I have attended and participated in many events during this term as mayor of Cape Girardeau. These have included groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, dedications, unveilings and other official events. The event of Saturday afternoon, Sept. 1, was one of the most inspiring and emotional events that I have attended in more than two years.

This event was the official unveiling and dedication of the sign designating the former site of the John S. Cobb School at the corner of Merriwether and Ellis streets. The site is currently the home of the Southeast Missouri Crime Lab.

The Lincoln School, as previously reported in the Southeast Missourian, was opened in 1890 for African-Americans. Over the next 60 years the school evolved, building a gymnasium and changing its name to the John S. Cobb School in 1925 following the death of Cobb, a former slave and one of the city's first black educators. Fire shut the doors of this school in 1953.

Three great-grandchildren of Mr. Cobb from out of state (Minnesota, Memphis and San Francisco) were in attendance. There were also more than 20 former students of this school who attended the event. The comments that several of us made were far surpassed by the testimonials, emotional memories shared, and the sheer joy of former students and friends reunited.

Several mentioned the importance of education that was stressed in their homes by their parents. Long distances to school and much sacrifice were signs of the times as these then-young students received their education at John S. Cobb. I thought, as I listened, that we desperately need that kind of parental support in today's world to nurture and encourage our children and teens to succeed in education and build a foundation for a successful career in life.

We stood behind the three great-grandchildren as they unveiled the sign of recognition. The woman from Memphis, a noted blues singer, sang "Amazing Grace" during the unveiling as tears rolled off their cheeks. All were proud of their history and the recognition that had finally come to their relative and their school.

I would like to thank Alyssa Lage and Dick Withers of the Historic Preservation Commission of our city for their work and dedication in developing this project. They worked along with alumni of Cobb School for over a year to complete this project and ceremony.

Our history is one of our important assets, and I am pleased that we have a dedicated and active Historic Preservation Commission.

I would like to also recognize Dr. Frank Nickell from Southeast Missouri State University, who is constantly involved in developing and sharing the history of our area.

My congratulations to the family and the alumni of the former John S. Cobb School.

Harry E. Rediger is the mayor of Cape Girardeau.

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