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Sunday, April 21, 2024


June 6, 2002 – Fifty years ago this month, three young men bid their farewell to Charlotte Amalie High School. On Thursday afternoon, the Class of '52 graduates met again to commemorate leaving their marks on the three branches of the Virgin Islands government.
Under benevolent skies, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, seven-term senator Elmo D. Roebuck and retired Territorial Court Presiding Judge Verne A. Hodge gathered on the CAHS school grounds for the dedication of a memorial created by fellow classmate Liston Gregory.
All three honorees made it clear to the gathered crowd, which contained many other 1952 graduates, that the memorial wasn't meant so much to honor them as to inspire today's CAHS students to work toward achieving their dreams.
Sitting on a bench at Territorial Court was the last thing on Hodge's mind when he graduated that June as class salutatorian. "We were poor then, very poor," he recalled Thursday, "and I just wanted to help my mother."
One of seven children, he had planned to go into the military service so his mother would get an allotment. "My mother said, 'No way. You're going to college,'" he said. "When I wondered how, my mother said, 'The Lord will provide,' and she gave me a one-way ticket."
Hodge said he wanted his career to serve as an example of what can be accomplished by products of public schools. "We don't want the private schools invading our students and giving them scholarships. We want to show we can do it ourselves," he said to applause.
Turnbull, who was the class historian, said he had no political ambitions when he got out of high school. "Since the third grade I'd known what I wanted — to teach," he said.
Straight out of high school, he did so at Lincoln School, later to be renamed for J. Antonio Jarvis. He then left the island to attend Hampton Institute, where he received a master's degree in education. Hodge and Roebuck also are Hampton Institute graduates.
Turnbull returned to teaching on St. Thomas, became principal of CAHS, then joined the faculty at the University of the Virgin Islands. Until becoming governor, his only political appointment was as Education commissioner.
Roebuck, whose seven terms in the Legislature included four as its president, was the Class of '52 class valedictorian. "I've always been a man of a few thousand words," he joked.
Aside from his political career, which includes a myriad of government positions in multiple administrations, Roebuck taught for five years at CAHS. At his own graduation, he recalled, his eyes were turned to business, not politics, but his flair for drama, discovered in high school, soon found a natural home on the Senate floor.
He, too, encouraged the assembled students to view the monument as a symbol of what can be achieved.
The native stone monument was surrounded by huge bouquets of bright yellow daisies symbolizing the Class of '52 graduates' golden anniversary. Jeanette Smith, CAHS principal, while delivering remarks, asked if she could have the flowers for the school. And she got in a little politicking while she was at it, reminding Turnbull that the fence leading up to the monument needs an extension.
Horace Callwood, another 1952 graduate, presided over the ceremony and introduced many other classmates. About half of the 62 members of the Class of '52 were on hand, and they gave a spirited rendition of their class song right after members of the Class of 2002 sang theirs.
Other well-known 1952 grads include the late Emile "Milo" Francis of Milo and the Kings, well-known political figure Rudolph Krigger Sr., monument designer Liston Gregory — an engineer who created the desalination plants at the Water and Power Authority, athlete Doris Hodge and educator Una Turnbull.
Callwood joked that the today's CAHS complex is nothing like the school they all graduated from at the old Barracks grounds — what today is the Legislature Building. "It wasn't like this," he said. "When it rained, you'd just move your chair and go to another room."
Turnbull noted that of the territory's six elected governors, three — Melvin Evans, Roy L. Schneider and himself — were CAHS products. "You must outshine us," he told the students. "We want you to be better than us. This is how society moves ahead." He concluded, "I am a Chickenhawk, a great, great, great bird."
The monument, which stands about 8 feet tall across from the main classroom and office building, lists the names of the three honorees on a bronze plaque along with the legend, "To excel always."

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