For 40 years, without fail, the Atkins High School Class of 1968 has come together every five years for a class reunion.
Class Chairman Thomas Hicks said the bond the class shares has helped create a seamless reunion experience.
“Our class has always been very close,” he said. “…We don’t depend on one person, like myself, we all pitch in, so if somewhere along the line someone drops the ball we got someone right there to pick it up.”
The class held its latest reunion last weekend. Festivities began Friday with a meet and greet at the home of Emma Ingram, who was a secretary at Atkins and whose sister, Ruby Griffin, is a member of the class. A banquet and dance was held the next day at the Specialty Park Reception and Event Hall, where attendees heard from classmate Rev. Charles Kennedy of Bethabara Christian Church. The reunion concluded Sunday after a morning worship service service at Bethabara Christian.
The Class of ’68 graduated during a tumultuous time. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated weeks before their graduation, and local schools were beginning to transition to integration. While the Atkins faculty was racially integrated at that time, the student body was not. Hicks said that during his senior year, Atkins was admitted to the Central 4A, a previously all-white athletic conference, which led to spirited, friendly basketball rivalry with Reynolds High, a historically white high school across town.
Whether on the playing field or in the classroom, Hicks said Atkins students thrived in the increasingly integrated world.
“We were conscious of it, and we would always try to put our best foot forward to let people know that they’re human, we’re human, we’re all the same. We tried to look past, and for the most part we did look past, skin color. What we were focusing on was the ability to succeed in both high school and in life.”
Class Vice Chair Andrea Mickle Bush recalled that beginning in her junior year, Atkins students were given the chance to integrate local white high schools. Bush’s brother did just that, enrolling at East Forsyth. Bush, whose 10 siblings all attended Atkins, said her class remains like a close-knit family.
“There’s a love for Atkins,” she said. “We saw each other everyday; we played with each other; we interacted with each other; we had fun.”
Classmates traveled from near and far to attend the reunion. Future Williams had the distinction of traveling the farthest. He lives in the Western Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago with his wife Diane. He said the trip was well worth it.
“This is my beginning,” he said of his classmates. “If it wasn’t for the interactions between these people, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
Many members of the class went on to achieve positions of prominence. George Glenn is a renowned musician who performs with the Eliminators, Otesha Creative Arts and the Chuck Davis African American Ensemble. Betty Thompson Morton worked in the test kitchen at Reynolds Wrap and starred in the company’s popular “Pat and Betty” television commercials. Camille Russell Love is the director of Cultural Affairs for the City of Atlanta and played a role in the recent Lifetime Network version of “Steel Magnolias.”
Ret. First Sgt. Ben Mickens began his last tour of duty in the Army at age 54, fighting in the Iraq War before his retirement in 2008. Ret. Lt. Col. William Clyburn also served his country.
Though he now resides in Maryland, the Army veteran said he couldn’t resist coming to see his classmates.
“When you are trying to decide who you are in life, when your personality is still developing, some of the things they said, some of the things we did, had an impact on who we are now,” Clyburn said.