"Service, Simplicity, Sincerity"
There were several reasons why Greenville County needed this new school. First of all, the site of the plant was located in the most thickly populated Negro section of Greenville, which at that time had no junior-senior high school in the community. Secondly, Sterling High School was operating on double and triple sessions and was badly in need of relief. Thirdly, the entire Nicholtown area was steadily increasing in population, and future need would increase the demands for a new school. Finally, a school was needed specifically to take care of students in the Nicholtown, Allen, Backer's Chapel, Roosevelt, and Fieldcrest areas of Greenville.
After a building committee was set up and the final plans for the school were approved, the contract to build the new plant was given to the Triangle Construction Company. In a meeting on November 10, 1964, the Board of Trustees of the Greenville County Schools voted to change the name of the new school from Nicholtown Junior-Senior High School to Joseph E. Beck High School in honor of the late Mr. Joseph Elbert Beck. Mr. Beck was an African-American educator who had spent thirty years in Greenville County school work including serving as principal of Sterling High School for twenty-one years.
The Joseph E. Back High School
was occupied for the first time in August of 1965. The new building's
construction had cost $1,425,715.65 and equipping the school brought the
figure up to $1,584,846.75. The McPherson Company served as the architect
in the project.
The plant consisted of forty classrooms, library for 120
students, vocational shop complex, a 600 seat auditorium, science laboratories for science and home economics. The band, choral, and art departments were housed in areas that did not interfere with regular class activities. The gymnasium, which seated approximately 1500 people, was provided with an electrically operated panel that could divide the gym into two separate areas.
Although Beck was built to serve
at least a thousand students, only 700 were expected during the first year.
However, almost all of that one thousand students came that first year,
and in the following years there were never less than that number.
The first faculty consisted of thirty-nine teachers, but due to a consistently
high enrollment, the number was increased in following years. J.E.
Beck High School had a total of 253 graduates: twenty-eight the first year,
105 the second, and 120 in 1968.
A student council functioned as the parent club of the school. Its first action was to adopt a school motto ("Service, Simplicity, Sincerity"), colors (black and gold), and an alma mater. The council also produced a student handbook containing rules, guidance, and activities for the student body. Other products of the active council was a monitoring system, clean-up plans, an annual homecoming festivity, and charters for various clubs and organizations within the school.
During the 1965-1966 school year Beck High School had both a football and basketball team. The next year track and baseball were added, and in the 1967-1968 school year two junior varsity teams began in basketball and football. Beck participated as a AAA conference school in 1968 with its basketball team that year becoming the Class AAA State Runner-up team.
The Panther, Beck's yearbook, was published in the spring of 1966. It continued during the following years under the leadership of various faculty members and student staffs. In 1968 the school added a completely equipped dark room and developing lab to its facilities. This was a great advantage to the yearbook staff since the audiovisuals director of Beck was engaged to take and develop all the pictures to be used for the yearbook.
J. E. Beck High School was always a forward looking institution, seeking to improve the quality and the quantity of the education available for its students. Each year there were improvements made in the school's facilities and in the courses offered. In its second year, Beck added for its students courses in band, art, auto mechanics, masonry, industrial art, trigonometry, shorthand, comparative government, advanced typing, and advanced cosmetology. In the 1967-1968 school year, Beck began offering a program in health education led by the school nurse. Further additions included courses in Spanish, business math, economics, and journalism. Later courses were added in developmental and remedial reading, driver education, office practice, speech, sociology, string music, advanced French and Spanish, business math, economics, and journalism.
During this time, school accreditation was not the only thought in the minds of the faculty and administration of Beck. They were becoming aware of national and local concern over the problem of school integration. Before 1967-1968 there were no white personnel at Beck. Preferring to achieve integration on a voluntary basis, Beck's staff began working toward another goal - integration of school personnel. In the fall of 1967, a part-time school nurse who was white was employed. In February of 1968 a white social studies teacher was added. Then, in the fall of 1968, Beck's staff included eleven white persons, all of who were employed before district pressures were placed on schools to have them integrate their faculties. This achievement was the outstanding one in the integration of school faculties in the state of South Carolina.
Beck's history was relatively short, having seen only four years of operation, but the advances the school made in its educational program and in the programs of the district and the state in such a short time had been remarkable. If past performance and effort could have been continued within the school and coupled by full administrative and financial support from the School District of Greenville County, Joseph E. Beck High School could not help but have become one of the outstanding high schools of South Carolina.
Much appreciation is given to the Greenville
Cultural Exchange Center for
providing text, pictures and most of all, - guidance in this historical project.
Greenville Historical Schools Index
Please email additional information or comments to the Beck High School Web Project.
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