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City Schools



Appleby School was named to honor F. T. Appleby, who was

superintendent from 1917 to 1932. The building is the original

Coffee High School. Florence Junior High School, built in 1936

on the lot adjoining Coffee High, had housed all junior high

classes until 1951 when the new high school was built on its

present location. The old high school building was then converted

into an elementary school. Upon completion of Richard School

in 1961, all the elementary grades were moved to that school.

Both the old high school building and the junior high school are

now used as junior high schools. 

This building had several fires, and in the 1980's it was badly

burned. It has been razed, and the University of North Alabama

tennis courts now occupy the area. 

This picture to the right was published in the Times Daily,

Sunday, 28 Nov 1982. It was located in the scrapbooks compiled

by the late Oscar D. Lewis. These books, which contain many

interesting articles about this area, are located in the local history

and genealogy room of the Florence Lauderdale Public Library.



This was the second High School for Florence. Occupied in the mid 1960's, it was named for Henry A. Bradshaw.  Although the buildings still exist, the school, by name, does not. Bradshaw and Coffee High Schools were combined in 2003, and are now known as Florence High School.  



This was a combination of the John Slater School and Burrell Normal School, and served the negro children from 1937 to 1958. In December 1958 the twenty-three year old school building burned. It had housed 360 pupils from the 7th through the 11th grades. The new Burrell-Slater Negro High School was built on the corner of College and Cherokee streets and opened for the school term 1960 - 1961. This school has an enrollment of about 561 and is accredited by the State and Southern Associations. 



Before 1917 less than on hundred pupils were enrolled in the city school system and there was no accredited high school until this year. The city schools were Patton, Brandon, Fifth Ward in North Florence, and Slater School for negroes. 

In 1916 ground was broken for the new high school on land given by Mrs. Camilla Madding Coffee, who gave a portion of the ground with the understanding the school would be named for her husband Capt. Alexander Donelson Coffee. The cornerstone was laid 1916 and construction completed in 1917. The school was opened in 1917 but the official housewarming was not held until September 1918.

In 1917 F. T. Appleby became superintendent of city schools and under his direction Coffee High School became a member of the accredited secondary schools in the state in 1920. This last year, 1920, was the first year in the history of the city school system that a high school graduate did not have to take an entrance examination to enter college. 

[Note: The buildings still exist, but the name does not. Coffee and Bradshaw High Schools were combined in 2003, and the name is now Florence High School. Update 2016: Sadly, this building was razed in 2016 for a new Florence Middle School facility.]




This school was completed on September 1, 1963, on a 12 acres tract of land donated by Dr. W. W. Alexander and F. R. Stovall. It has 28 classrooms and was built at a cost of $608,000. This school serves the area of the north part of Florence. 



Gilbert School was born, so to speak, in Dr. L. F. Duckett's cotton patch in March 1921. The Fifth Ward School and the elementary school housed at Coffee High School were combined to form Gilbert School, which was named for H. C. Gilbert, who had served as superintendent of education from 1892 to 1904. When the school opened, 272 pupils enrolled.

Henry Grady Richards was the first principal and teacher of the seventh grade at Gilbert School. He retired in 1964 after being principal here for 42 years and upon his retirement was presented with a new car by former pupils and parents of his pupils as a token of appreciation for his years of service to the children of this school.

There were originally eight grades in the school, as were in all the city's grammar schools until Mr. Norton organized a high school. This school met on Pine Street for two sessions from 1914 to 1916.

The faculty at Gilbert School in the 1930's included Miss Josie Milner, Miss Virta James, Miss Helen Chandler, Miss Era Russell, Mrs. Robert Lanier, Mrs. L. E. James, Miss Ruth Sims, Mrs. N. E. Williams, Mrs. A. B. Staton, Miss Novie Almon, Miss Springer, Miss Alma Lovelace, and others. Miss Ruby Little and Miss Corinne Tuthill were visiting teachers who taught music and art, respectively. 

The frieze over the front door of the new Florence-Lauderdale Public Library came from this school which no longer exists.












[NOTE: Apparently the first row referred to in the above picture caption is the top row. The sixth child from the left in the 2nd row is Jill McClain, better known in genealogical circles as the late Jill (McClain) Garrett. She was living in Maury County, Tennessee when she died. A very prolific compiler and publisher of historical and genealogical data. Among her many publications are "The History of Florence, Alabama, (With 1850 Lauderdale County, Alabama Census)," "The History of Lauderdale County, Alabama," and "Some Cemetery Records of Lauderdale County, Alabama."] 

This picture is located in the scrapbooks compiled by the late Oscar D. Lewis. These books, which contain many interesting articles about this area, are in the local history and genealogy room of the Florence Lauderdale Public Library.




Located on Handy Hill, this school was named to honor the famous negro musician and composer who was born in a log cabin in west Florence. Handy is the largest elementary school in the city.  Fifteen acres are included in this property, which also includes the W. H. Lewis Stadium. 



Construction of this school was started in 1954 in the Norwood Park subdivision, east of the Cloverdale Road. The school was named in honor of Sam C. Harlan, who served as a member of the Board of Education from 1921 to 1929 and who had contributed much to the progress of education in Florence. 


On September 1, 1973, "Rufus Hibbett Day" was celebrated in Florence to honor the former coach, teacher, principal, school superintendent, and city commissioner on his 50th year of outstanding community service in Florence.  Hundreds of his former students witnessed the inauguration of the Rufus Hibbett Scholarship Loan Fund which was announced during half-time ceremonies of the Coffee-Sheffield football game. The city also announced...that the new elementary school...would be named the Rufus G. Hibbett, Sr., Elementary School.          

The resolution read at the game: "In grateful recognition for the many years of outstanding and distinguished service of Rufus G. Hibbett, Sr., to his community, state and nation, the new elementary school to be constructed by the Florence City Board of Education on its newly acquired twenty-two acre pubic school site in the northwestern section of the city is hereby named and designated Rufus G. Hibbett, Sr., Elementary School." 




Kilby began as a model training lab for teachers and was established in 1885 and accepting it's first students in 1886. Prior to the addition of this school laboratory to the curriculum of the State Normal School, future teachers did their student teaching at various schools in the area. Dr. T. J. Mitchell was president of the State Normal School at the time.



The following information was found on the Florence City Schools website:  "In 1890, Florence City Schools began, with Prof. J. W. Morgan as the first Superintendent. 1. 1891 – October opening of Patton School (named for Gov. Robert M. Patton who owned the Sweetwater Plantation) – College Street between Cherry and Chestnut Streets."
















































As the Edgemont subdivision grew, the need for a school in this area was soon apparent. The board acquired a tract of twenty the area between Edgemont and Cherry Hills. Construction of a 20-classroom building was started April 15, 1958. This school was named by J. W. Powell, who retired in 1958.

In January 1959, children who had been attending Patton School were moved to the Powell School. This need grew out of a fire which had destroyed Burrell-Slater School. The high school students from Burrell-Slater were sent to Patton School and the white students at Patton transferred to Powell School. 





Richards School, serving the Riverview section, was built at a cost of $325,000, which included grounds and furniture. The school, first occupied September 1961, was named to honor Henry Grady Richards, who, as principal of Gilbert School, had taught three generations of Florence pupils in his 42 years at that school. 



This school became part of the city school system when the Weeden Heights section became part of the city of Florence in March 1951. The school plant consisted of a five-room frame building complete with cafeteria building and equipment.

On September 27, 1953, announcement was made of the plans for a combination junior high and elementary school at Weeden Heights.

For a timeline of the establishment of Florence City Schools, visit

Appleby Junior High
Coffee High
Forest Hills

Gilbert School - 1936

"...This old photo shows the Seventh Grade of Gilbert School back in 1936. The photo was made by G. W. Landrum. Pictured, from left to right, are: first row, Josephine Holt, Edith Broadfoot, Elizabeth Gray, Catherine Jones, Warren Duke, Frank Dosser, Jimmy Calloway, Billy Huckaby, Mrs. N. E. Weatherby, Rene Jackson, Don McDowell, William Parrish; second row, Mary Frances Parrish, Lorene Woods, Marie Small, Genevieve Baker, Meldia Lancaster, Jill McClain, Janey Simpson, Virginia Ellen Duncan, Edwin Martin, Bob Johnson, Jimmy Ross, Richard Bailey, unknown; third row, Malcom Marsh, unknown, Collier Duncan, Perry Lee Roden, Thomas Mitchell, unknown, Harold Beckwith, Rufus Dowdy, Russell Rowe, Sybil Mathis, Elizabeth Taylor, Dot Keenum, Martha Fago and Betty Jason.

Gilbert School
WC Handy School
Hibbett School

1st Row: Gladys ___?__, Vernon Farrow (father a preacher), Logan ___?__ , ? , Kenneth Jordan, Annie Tate Harris, Willie Mae Hughes, Herman Buchanan. 2nd Row: Minnie ? , Jessie Bryan, Merle Faries, Grace ? , Elsie  Lawson, Nellie Cramer, Gertrude Brock (Brook?), ? . 3rd Row: Nellie Gray, ? ? , Vernon Dowdy, Blanche Dowdy, Helen Fulton, Lucian Garner. 4th Row:Jessee Mae Eastep, Dalma ? , Albert Jordan, Vernon Boston, Roland Snyder, Floyd Ricks, Donald Hindman (sp?). 5th Row: Minnie Stitts, Earl McPeters, Alvin Cramer, Teacher-Elsie Lawson.

Patton School, About 1910 or 11
Elsie Lawson, Teacher

Contributed by Laura Brown on 19 July 1999

"Patton, maybe high 4th and low 5th. I was age 9. This picture was attached to a note card with all the names listed. I copied it as it is on the card. My grandmother Willie Mae (Hughes) Richey wrote the info on the card. She is the lovely little girl on the front row with buttons on her dress." Laura Brown

Patton School 1950-1951


Contributed by Pat Bailey on 2 Jan 2007


1st row [6 students]: 1. Gene Downs; 2. Evelyn Butler; 3.; 4.; 5.; 6.; 2nd row [6 students]: 1. Jeanette Cofield; 2. Melvin Hamm;  3. ; 4.; 
5. Charles Twitty; 6. Charles Melton; 3rd row [7 students]: 1. Alvin Smith; 2.; 3. Diane Hayes; 4.;
5. Jimmy Staggs; 4th row [9 students]: 1.; 2. Velma Balentine; 3. Pat Earnest; 4.; 5. Johnny Hunt; 6.; 7. Polly ? 8. Myron Wilson; 9. ? Pickens
Miss Watts was the teacher of the 1st grade in 1950 - 1951. Can anyone name the "missing" students?

Powell School
HG Richards School
Weeden School
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