History of Pickens Academy
The history of Pickens Academy’s founding, like all history, begins with concerns in the minds of people. Having visited Prince Edward Academy in Farmville, Virginia, Jimmy and Peggy Gentry believed that such a school might be feasible in Pickens County. A number of phone calls, revealed that many parents had the same concerns and wishes for better academic opportunity for their children. After a meeting of the Gentry’s, Bootie and Marie Cox at Phil and Dottie Baker’s home, events unfolded rapidly. At a courthouse meeting, many parents expressed interest and the Pickens Academy foundation was established. A fifteen member Board of Trustees was elected from foundation member families, each family having one vote. Families from each school district elected from their own trustees, proportional to the number of family memberships in each district. Practically every parent exhibited a spirit of cooperation and volunteerism in the early days, as now. Jimmy Gentry was chosen the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Trustees met, usually weekly, and sometimes more, until late at night, until the school began in September. It would be impossible to catalog individual contributions, but noteworthy at the difficult beginning was John Tyler McShan’s purchase and donation of land on which the school was to be built. Bubba Wade and Bill Martin tempered the over-exuberance of some with sound financial advice. Excellent legal guidance and counsel of wisdom was provided by Judge Robert Hugh Kirksey, Buddy Kirk, and Pep Johnston. Jamie and Laurie Rainer and Martha and Buddy Crocker were enthusiastic workers in the Reform area. Harold McCool and Jack Howell of Gordo supplied common sense at crucial times. School secretary, Elisabeth Smith, has been a cementing element from the first day of school. An unusually dedicated volunteer is Jessie Winborne. There were many differences of opinion at trustee meetings, but at the end of each meeting, there was a feeling of communion and satisfaction, with high hopes for a good school.