The former Douglass School classmates attending their reunion on Saturday, Aug. 2, were witness to the unveiling of a monument to honor their former school.

The former Douglass School classmates attending their reunion on Saturday, Aug. 2, were witness to the unveiling of a monument to honor their former school.

It is on the grounds of the former Douglass School on Willow Street and includes a picture of the school.

The monument is labeled the “former site of Douglass School,” where “black high school children within a 50 mile radius of Hannibal were bused to Douglass School to receive their education.”

The dates engraved on it are 1885-1959. It states “Douglass School was closed in 1959.” This was when Hannibal schools were integrated and its high school students finished their education at Hannibal High School.

It states “Douglassites have gathered on these grounds for reunions since 1975 in fond remembrance of dear old Douglass.”’

It also states “The administrators and teachers at the Douglass School were dedicated to educating their students through firm discipline and great encouragement. They worked beyond the call of duty working closely with parents to prepare their students academically for life. Douglass as also known for its marching bands, choirs and sports.”


Church bought

property in 1961


The school property is now the location of Willow Street Christian Church, and its pastor, the Rev. Minnie Smith, did the unveiling, along with another former Douglass student, Joe Miller, who led the reunion committee.

Miller got a laugh from the crowd when he explained that when the monument was being installed, a small boy asked if someone was buried there.

Smith gave the history of her church moving to the school, where it had services prior to building its new building.

The school was vacant from 1959 until 1961 when the church bought the property. She said the Rev. Raymond Brown, pastor at the time of the move of then-named Second Christian Church from 1616 Broadway to the current location, had said “a marker should be placed on these grounds, so people would know this was a former school.”


Douglass classmates

share memories


While awaiting the surprise unveiling of the monument, the former Douglass students were sharing memories.

One was Elizabeth Jones of Chicago, the daughter of a well-known Douglass teacher, Marion Powers. Jones explained her dad taught woodworking and shop. He also was a history professor.

The family included another daughter, the late Frances; and two sons, Charles Powers of Tennessee and the late Marion Daniel (Danny) Powers Jr.

Jones was a member of the Hannibal High School Class of 1956, the first class from Douglass School to graduate from HHS after integration began. She received a scholarship and attended Hannibal-LaGrange College (now University) for two years.


Bacquie sold

his mother’s pies


Some of the earliest memories were shared by Albert Bacquie, 87, of Chicago. His parents, Joe and Berneta Bacquie, reared Albert and his five older siblings during the Great Depression.

His mother baked at least 100 small pies every day on her coal and wood stove. Albert and his brothers and sisters sold the pies around town for 5 cents each, and she made them understand they had to sell, not eat, the pies. He said that was not a problem – the pies were always sold out.

The family lived on Ledford Street. Albert sold the pies at WPA sites where workers were constructing buildings, such as the Admiral Coontz Armory (now Admiral Coontz Recreation Center). His parents later opened Hopkins Bar at the Wedge at Market and Broadway.

Albert followed his brothers into the military. He enlisted at age 16 and served in the Aleutian Islands during World War II.

After the war, he worked in Chicago stockyards, then for 43 years was a concierge at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, where he retired. “I met celebrities,” he recalled. “They didn’t want me to retire.”

He credits his parents with his success, because when he was young, “a seed was planted.”

Also at the Douglass reunion was Ella Patterson, who recalled working at the Hannibal Courier-Post “proof” desk when Dave Beliles was publisher.

Patterson also had a successful career. She was executive director of Douglass Community Services in the 1970s, when it was still located in the former Douglass School before moving to its current location at 711 Grand Ave. Patterson next went to Washington to work for Rep. Harold Volkmer for 11 years. She now lives in Oklahoma City.

Patterson graduated in 1953 and recalled the principal, Mr. Walker, was a big man with a booming voice. Douglass students could get an excellent education, she said. “If you wanted to learn, they taught you.”

She remembers the first Douglass reunion. It was in 1975, she said, and the theme was “Alive in ‘75.”

Patterson said when she was a child, “We were poor but didn’t know. We were rich in so many ways.”

See photo gallery on for more pictures.