BG Sea Foam: In memory: A salute to a great principal

July 4, 2011 

    W. Kent Alston Sr. was a leading figure in Beaufort's history as principal of the segregated Robert Smalls High School from 1937 until shortly before his death in 1962 at age 51.

    Last Monday, June 27, marked the centennial of his birth.

    A nice memorial from his family was published in The Beaufort Gazette last week.

    To perpetuate his memory and help people understand the impact one energetic person with high standards can have on a community, we share today some highlights of his tenure.

    In May 1962, a long list of accomplishments at the school under his watch was published in the school newspaper, The General, under the heading, "Things We Have Accomplished."

    Below is a portion of that article:

  • Breakfast was served to the students, 1948-49, who rode the bus. In doing this, the attendance picked up and there were fewer dropouts.

  • Installed the first public address system at Robert Smalls, 1940. Cost, $1,250.

  • Bought a television for the school for educational purposes, and a large circulating fan in the workroom in the library.

  • Director of textbooks for Beaufort County, selling books to 150 teachers for approximately $25,000 each year for 25 years, with no discrepancies in money.

  • We organized the first band, which was the third band in any colored school for a long time. From the fees, a full-time teacher was employed. Cost, $1,500. P.A. Stewart was paid $150 a month from fees.

  • After years of talking and begging, a surprising telephone message came to me giving the school $5,000 worth of instruments for the band for only $168. We were badly in need of tubas as there were only two among the instruments. Our band was the only colored one from this section to participate in the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.

  • USO services (for African-American troops) were opened at Robert Smalls upon my request of the Board of Trustees.

  • We placed a clock and fan in each classroom, purchased blackout shades and venetian blinds for the chapel.

  • The veteran students gave an average of 75 pints of blood each time the blood bank came to Beaufort from 1948 to 1952.

  • I have been chairman of the following: Christmas Seals, three years; Easter Seals, seven years; blood bank, one year; Red Cross, one year; polio drive, one year.

  • I worked as co-captain of election day from 1948 to 1962.

  • I adopted a boy as asked by the courts into my personal custody for four years. During this time I bought his clothing, etc. This kept a minor from going to the state penitentiary. Solicitor Randolph "Buster" Murdaugh Jr. was the cause of saving this boy and more than 10 others he asked me to step in and help save.

  • I was the only person out of the community who would and did take the lead to see the state senator and get a conference with the governor to save a man from the electric chair.

  • (A group of church people came and asked me to and said that they could not get anyone else to see about it.) I then named a group to go with me. We did have a conference with the governor, but were not able to save the man.

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