As we get older, memories from the past become more important to most of us. This last week, 78 alumni from J. W. Darden High School with their spouses and friends, returned to Opelika to renew friendships and talk about memories of J. W. Darden High School. On the back of tee shirts it said: “And To Thee Dear Darden High School – We will Always Loyal Be”. Friendships were renewed and memories of the years spent at Darden High School were talked about.
In Opelika, the all black public school East Street High was closed in 1951 and the Class of 1952 was born at the new J.W. Darden High School on South 4th Street. Darden High was used through 1971. All Opelika high school students then moved to the newly completed Opelika High School on LaFayette Parkway.
These Alumni hold J.W. Darden dear to their hearts. The Alumni Association Reunion started in 1998 and has continued every two years since. This year members traveled from as far away as Germany. Others came from at least 13 states.
These J.W. Darden alumni have contributed much to our city, state and country over the years. Some of the alumni present this year were Councilman Larry Gray (‘69), USAF (Ret.) Colonel Aaron B. Floyd (‘56), Dr. Floyd Russan (‘54), and local retired school teacher Armetta Cooper Johnson (‘54).
One alumna who has touched many lives over the years is Armetta Cooper Johnson. Ms. Johnson retired from teaching after 32 years in Opelika and Lee County. She taught at Carver and Pepperell schools first and was at Smiths Station for 14 of her 32 years.
This year’s reunion began last Wednesday and went through Sunday, June 29. This year’s events included a banquet at Grand National, a memorial service at Peterson & Williams Funeral Home for Alumni who have passed away, a golf tournament at Auburn Links, a luncheon at the FOP lodge, church services at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, and a farewell gathering at the historic J.W. Darden House on Auburn Street.