Mr. Randal Betts, Superintendent
851 Yellowjacket Lane
Clinton, Arkansas 72031
Tel. (501) 745-6005
Fax. (501) 745-2475
A History of Clinton School
The early schools in Clinton, Arkansas consisted of random sessions of about three months duration that were set up and operated by individual teachers who collected tuition from each student.
James H. Fraser started a school like this in Clinton in August of 1870. During the school term, which closed at the end of October, it was reported that this was a good school and many people were pleased with it. The children all thought a great deal of their teacher.
On the first of September, 1870 Mr. Fraser was awarded a teaching certificate by Wm. H. Clayton, Circuit Superintendent of the 4th Judicial District. The certificate was presented for satisfactory testimonials of good moral character, has this day been examined in Orthography, Reading, Writing, Mental and Written Arithmetic, English Grammar, Modern Geography, History, and the Constitution of the United States, Constitution and School Laws of the State of Arkansas, and stated that Mr. Fraser was thereby Licensed to teach in the Public Schools of this State within the limits of the 4th Judicial District for the term of twenty four months from the date hereof, unless sooner revoked. Given under my hand this 1st day of September A.D. 1870.
Early in 1872 James H. Fraser's sister from Athens, Alabama, came to Clinton and started a three months term school. A newspaper item dated April 30, 1872, reported: "At Clinton, Miss Virgie Fraser, late from Athens, Alabama, has opened a school of high grade, with flattering prospects of success. A number of citizens have determined to build a handsome house, and establish an academy that will be an honor to the community."
Virgie Fraser started another term on school on July 8, 1872. She wrote to her father on this date as follows: School opens today. Young men over age and everybody seems to me to want to go." This second session of school was over in late September, and Virgie Fraser returned home to Alabama.
Sometime in 1879 a school was established in Clinton, Arkansas and was called the "Clinton Male and Female Academy." On December 9, 1879, James H. Fraser wrote about the New Academy as follows, "Our school so far is a wonderful success. The New Method of teaching the children to read, write, spell and the sounds of letters by the time they learn the names of letters is surprising. Four weeks ago children who did not know their ABC's are reading and writing quite well. Everything is on the blackboard. The very first and every succeeding lesson is written out on the blackboard by the pupil. Appleton Series are the textbooks and they begin in the first grade."
Later in December 1879, he wrote: "On last Friday and Saturday the 19th and 20th we had our second teacher's meeting. The meeting was well attended and the exercises were interesting. On Friday night the pupils of the Academy gave an exhibition in connection and as a part of the program of the teachers meeting. The meeting grew a large audience. The hall of the Academy was full. The exhibition, I think, was equal to most of such performances that I have witnesses."
Professor T. L. Cox, was the first principal and in 1882 he advertised in the "Clinton Banner" as follows:
Clinton Male and Female Academy
First term begins July 17, 1882 and will continue for 5 months.
First class Reading, Writing, Primary Arithmetic, Primary Geography, and Orthography–$1.50 per month.
Second class Embracing all in the First class and Grammar, United States History, Arithmetic, Geography and Natural Philosophy. $2.00 per month.
Third class All of the First and Second class and Natural Science, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Logic, Ethics, Latin, French and other higher studies. $2.50 per month.
T. L. Cox Principal
The Male and Female Academy continued to serve Clinton into the early part of the 1900s. John Garner Fraser, oldest son of James H. Fraser, graduated from the Academy in 1892. He later entered Hendrix College and graduated in June of 1899. He returned to Clinton and that fall became Principal of the Academy.
In 1929 Garner Fraser wrote about the Academy as follows: Clinton has long enjoyed an excellent reputation as an educational center and school community. A way back in 1879, exactly 50 years ago, there was founded here the first academy in this section of the State. It was the only institution in a large block of counties that offered instruction above the primary work, and drew students by the score from Cleburne, Searcy, Pope, Conway and Faulkner counties. A roster of the noble and worthy teachers would make a distinguished list indeed, and a roll-call of the students for those fifty years would include many men and women who have done their bit to make the world better.
A new school house was built in Clinton about 1907 or 1908. It was located on the hill south of the Court Square. It may have been about this time or a little earlier that the Male and Female Academy gave way to the first truly public school in Clinton.
This building had an auditorium, with a stage and two classrooms on the first floor and three classrooms on the second floor. The Masonic Lodge held their meetings in the South room on the second floor. The building served the town well but in 1928 the new brick building housing the Clinton State Vocational Training School was built. From 1929 until 1934 this building served as the grade school.
Act. No 145 of the General Assembly-1927
By Garner Fraser
On March 16, 1927 the Governor of Arkansas approved Act No. 145 of the General Assembly of that year. The Act divided the entire State into four vocational school districts. The first District was composed of 17 counties in the northwestern part of the state. Van Buren County was one of them. The Act provided that two vocational schools should be established in each district. Section 2 reads as follows: Section 2. Wherein each of the foregoing districts there shall be established two vocational schools each to be known as a State School of Vocation, for its respective district, in which shall be taught the literary branches usual in high schools to the extent and in such form as shall be applicable the training of students therein vocationally; and in which shall be taught the domestic arts; and training shall be given the manual arts, the commercial vocational arts and vocational agriculture, trades and industries peculiarly appropriate to the development and resources of the state of and district. The underlying intent of such training shall be to develop the student along lines appropriate to local conditions.
The Act further provided that the Governor appoint three trustees for each district and placed the duty of each Board to locate within their respective district two schools for the kind and for the purpose described in Section 2. No boards were ever named
for districts number two, three, and four. The trustees in District No. 1 were appointed. They were O. W. Bass, Fayetteville; Senator F. O. Butt, Eureka Springs and Tom Hargis, Huntsville. They organized, set a day for a meeting and called for applications.
Section 4 of the Act, among other things provides: "In selecting such locations (the boards shall take into consideration the healthfulness, accessibility and general desirability of the locations, the special needs of the immediate community contiguous thereto, and such material inducements as shall be offered by donation of lands, buildings, equipment or funds for the purpose provided that any location so selected must donate to such purpose in money, lands, buildings or equipment, or any one or all thereof, a value of not less than $15,000; and provided that no such location shall be selected at a point nearer than twenty miles to any existing four year high school maintaining, or eligible to maintain, a manual training or domestic science department as a part thereof; nor nearer that thirty miles of any other vocational school provided for hereby."
How Clinton State Vocational Training School Was Secured
On July 19, 1927, a letter was received by T. J. Cowan, then CountySuperintendent, from O. W. Bass that if we wished to make application for one of the Vocational Schools it would be necessary to file such application by the 24th of that month.
Having only four days in which to make arrangements to meet the requirements of the State for such a school and file the application with the secretary of the board in Fayetteville, a meeting of a few citizens was called in the rear of the Van Buren County Bank to discuss the possibilities of meeting the requirements.
The application was made and reached the secretary in time. On the 25th of the same month, the Vocational School Board met in Fayetteville and set August 12th, 1927, for determining the location of said schools. Each applicant was given thirty minutes to present its claim. Eighteen representatives were present from Clinton. Garner Fraser and Tom Cowan presented Clinton's claim and pled her cause.
The Board that day awarded one of the two schools for the district of Huntsville, but postponed the location of the other for two weeks, at which time it was awarded to Clinton.
The campaign was then launched in earnest to secure the cooperation of the people of the whole county in the building program to meet the State's requirements for the school and to get ready for the school term of 1928-1929.
By spring of 1928, funds were in tangible form for getting the contract. Through and by the help of the Department of Education building plans and specifications were selected, and on May 5, 1928, a contract was made with J. W. Valentine of Morrilton to erect the building and have it ready for the school term of 1929.
The new building was described in 1928 as follows: the school building is located on the top of a small hill one half-mile south of the business part of Clinton. The building itself is composed of six large classrooms, an office, a small music room, and an auditorium.
Four of the classrooms have direct entrance into the auditorium. The other two are used by the home economics department and allied courses taught by the home economics teacher. The superintendent's office is between the home economics room and the other classrooms.
The view from the building is commanding. It overlooks the town to the north, with the spurs of the Ozarks running right down to the edge of town on the north and extending as far as one can see in long high ridges. The view is inspiring within itself. One not accustomed to such scenery cannot look upon it for a time and then be the same individual.
Then to the south one can look down upon the Little Red River as it circles around the school farm. This little river is hidden from direct view by Loves' Leap, a precipice 200 feet above the water on the side adjoining school grounds and just 300 yards
from the school building.
This stream surrounds the farm from the Ozarks from the north and runs into Red River one half-mile east of Clinton. Such environment will naturally have a wholesome influence upon the life of any one, especially if properly held up and taught in its natural setting.
History of Clinton State Vocational Training School
By Judge Garner Fraser
Fifteen years ago when the school was established the physical plant consisted of the administration building and the 92 acres of land. There has been a gradual enlargement and development. A two and one-half acre tract adjoining the campus was acquired. A substantial brick Smith-Hughes building was erected. Then a comfortable and pretty Home Economics cottage was built, followed by a large stone veneered building which served as both gymnasium and auditorium. Later came the superintendent's home, an elegant, convenient and roomy bungalow. In more recent years, a good home for the Smith-Hughes teacher has been built on the farm and includes a garden, barn and other necessary outbuildings.
The plant as it stands today is easily worth four times as much as it was fifteen years ago when the State of Arkansas first became the owner. This modest and gradual building program has been carried on without incurring any indebtedness. The gymnasium was constructed with private donations and with student labor under
the efficient and effective direction of S. D. Mitchell, the then Smith-Hughes instructor. Most of the other buildings came into being in cooperation with various federal agencies. This building program has cost the state almost nothing. In 1953, the sum of $2,000.00 was appropriated for the Vocational building, and in 1935, the sum of $1,500.00 for the Home Economics cottage. There has been no appropriation for the improvement or development of the farm.
Thus, today the people of the State of Arkansas, by the expenditure of only $3,500.00, are the owners of a valuable educational plant at Clinton. This happy situation has been brought about, as stated above, by teamwork, the liberality and generosity of the friends of the institution, and the sacrifices made by them.
Just as the school has developed and grown physically, so has it developed and grown along other lines. Sid B. Walker has been its Superintendent for the past twelve years. To mention his name means to think of the Vocational School at Clinton. He is giving it some of the best years of his life. There has been no friction. Under Superintendent Walker's guiding hand, the various departments are set up and manned, and the general policy mapped out.
The ordinary high school studies are taught. In addition, special stress is put on vocational education in its various phases. The boys are taught how to farm, how to
take care of livestock, and how to work with wood and metal. The girls are taught how to cook, to sew and to keep house.
Every year there are large classes in shorthand and also in typing. Many of the graduates in these department are now on their own and are making good livings. There are also large classes in music, both vocal and instrumental, and the school has a band with more than fifty members.
The young men and women who have gone out from the school are a fine and sturdy group, and they are taking their places in our state and nation as worthy and worthwhile men and women. We are proud of them.
The enrollment is all that, and even more than, the present classrooms can comfortably accommodate. The school needs a new and larger administration building. The present one was shattered and almost wrecked by a wind-storm shortly after it was built. It was repaired and has been used ever since but is wholly inadequate to take care of the present enrollment, let alone to permit a continuance of the healthy growth which the school is enjoying.
Let it be said and emphasized that neither the school nor any of its friends has any desire or ambition to become a college, nor even a junior college. It is exactly what it should be, where it should be, and is doing in a most satisfactory way the work it should do. Many of its graduates go on to higher institutions on learning and are making splendid records there. On the other hand, many more of those who graduate and of those who do not finish the high school course do not find it possible to enter college and are forced to begin their life's work with only the preparation they have made in the Vocational School. How very, very important it is then that these boys and
girls should receive at least the rudiments of a literary education and also such training in a vocational way as will equip and prepare them to learn a living and to take their place as solid citizens of this great Republic.
The Vocational School at Clinton does not aspire to be a college. It is content to do and do well the work it is doing. It has its field, its duty and its function, and it is striving earnestly to perform that duty well. It keeps ever before it the words of Act 145 of 1927, the Act which organized the school, fixed its goal, its limitations and its objectives; "The underlying intent of such training shall be to develop the student along the lines appropriate to local conditions, the adapting of such local conditions, and the development of their possibilities. (Submitted by Fraser Stephens)
This article was taken from the book Early Schools of Van Buren County 1850-1950, by The Van Buren County Historical Society, 1992, and reproduced for this web page by Dwight Hutto, Principal of Clinton High School, 2000.