There was a lot of pride in the packed gymnasium as alumni of Armstead Tasker Johnson High School (A.T. Johnson High School) celebrated their 80th anniversary. They cheered for former students who once graced the halls and exceeded the dreams of many. They stood tall as they greeted their fellow alumni. Every speaker spoke of a time when education was revered by not only their families but all the students, as well. The love, pride, and respect were evident in every aspect of the 80th anniversary event.
The story of the making of A.T. Johnson High School has been told many times. It was the first African American high school in Westmoreland County. But Marian Veney Ashton, Class of 1968, reiterated the fierce determination that still resides in all who attended this special place. As she reminded the audience, it took a long eleven years of lobbying the local county board to build the school. Finally, in June 1935, the County School Board resolved to construct an African American high school at Templemans.
“ The glorious day when the school opened, most of us had never seen anything like it. We didn’t have all of the textbooks we needed, but there was no lack of love and excitement.”
— Bernice Carter Hill (Class of 1937)
The African American community raised $1,803.01 for the school. Bake sales, egg sales, and the May Day celebrations raised more funds to increase the contributions to around $3,000.
In March of that year, they requested that the school be named for educator, A.T. Johnson.