HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — A historic Catholic school in Huntsville made a groundbreaking decision 60 years ago.
In 1963, Holy Family Regional Catholic School, formally known as St. Joseph Mission School, became the first elementary school to integrate in the state of Alabama. Friday afternoon, dozens of students and staff, alumni and city officials gathered for another groundbreaking moment, this time in celebration of a new school building.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Holy Family School’s Priest, Father Joe Lubrano. “We’ve needed it for a long time and it’s finally here.”
After 30 years of planning, a new school building will become the center of Holy Family School’s campus. A goal that started under former principal Susan McGraw. Current Holy Family Principal Jim Bell says it’s an honor to see the vision come to life.
“To still be here and to be a part of it is very exciting to me. I feel like I’m carrying on something that Susan started,” he said.
The new building will include 10 classrooms with updated technology, better safety measures and a campus-wide desire for natural lighting throughout classrooms.
While new beginnings are on the horizon, several alumni, like Bobby Bradley who walked the halls of St. Joseph prior to its renaming, recalled the many lessons and laughs shared at the school.
“It was a combination of academics and experiential learning,” Bradley told News 19. “I think that made a difference for all the children who went at that time…it was the center of our universe.”
St. Joseph opened in 1956, originally serving all black students. With a Christian foundation, the nuns who taught at the school had a mission to provide each student with a superb education and life experiences they might not have been afforded elsewhere.
In 1963, white parents began sending their children to St. Josephs despite the national tension behind integration. The school would soon become the first elementary school to peacefully integrate in Alabama.
In the last six decades, the school has continued growing to serve students across Madison County.