In response to the article (“New La Marque school and gym named for supporters,” The Daily News, April 12): The article came short of scratching the surface of the commitment and dedication of those three legends.
Those facilities and gym that will bear the names of those three men will be glorious examples of the life and legacy of the former La Marque Independent School District. The names will serve as symbols of personification, and will add meaning to the unity and connectivity of the school district and this entire community.
During the earlier days of the La Marque “Colored School” and Lincoln High School, Professor Pickney S. Simms served as principal and superintendent of the African-American schools. Simms was a no nonsense educator. I was blessed to have lived across the street from him, as he and my grandmother would work with concerted efforts to ensure all of the neighborhood children were well prepared to enter Woodland Elementary School.
Simms didn’t stop there because he worked with the high school students to assist with their preparedness for their next step in life.
In the days of Simms and other adults, there was a strict moral code that wasn’t debatable, and we lived by it. We were, as youngsters, afraid not to live by the code. Those adults didn’t tolerate lying or stealing by anyone. As God would have it, Ralph C. Allen was hired to assist and strengthen the code. Allen was a very special presence, and from the first point of contact with him, one would know that, immediately.
Allen had an uncanny knack for bringing out the best in everyone. At Lincoln, he served as the head football coach, history and civics teacher, and the vice principal. During the 1964-65 school year, as the students participated in a walk-out over what we perceived as a civil rights issue, Allen worked with our teachers to make sure that we received homework daily. After our grievances were resolved, we were welcomed back to school by Allen with open arms and a huge heart.
In the school year of 1966, we were assigned a Caucasian principal at Lincoln. Again, Allen was there and made sure that he received respect from the student body. In 1970, the year Lincoln closed, Allen became the first African-American assistant principal at La Marque High School.
As for the late Jimmy Hayley, it’s well known that he bled blue, white and gold. He loved his La Marque Cougars. His tenure on the La Marque ISD school board as a member and president for 27 years, served as a testament of his love for the school district. Hayley was also a force in the community when he became the president of the Texas City-La Marque Chamber of Commerce.
This community thanks the committee members who worked diligently, over weeks, to determine the well-deserved names for the facilities. We also thank the entire school board and superintendent for their support.