l-r; Austin-East Magnet High School Principal Nathan Langlois and The Honorable Rev. Dr. Bethel B. Hendricks. Member and president of the first Austin East High School Class of 1968. Photos by Vivian Shipe

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — The combined classes of Austin-East Magnet High School gathered together last Saturday at Beck Cultural Center to begin a week of celebration of their inception.

In 1968, the white high school, East High School Mountaineers and the black high school, the  Austin High School Panthers would be combined together as the country moved to integrate the school system.

The result of this merger would be Austin East High School. The new mascot would be a roadrunner.

The celebration was held with the blessings of the current principal Nathan Langlois who,  along with the rest of the attendees heard the history of the school from a representative from each decade from the last fifty years. Principal Langlois also spoke of his dedication to the school and the current issues facing the inner city school as it marches towards the next fifty years.

The highlight of the evening came from the words spoken by Reverend Doctor Bethel B. Hendricks, a member of the very first class of Austin-East who also holds the distinction of being the first class president, the first captain of the football team and the first captain of the basketball team in 1968.

As Reverend Bethel spoke of the struggles of those early days, the attendees listened and danced to the sounds of the Funkstones Jazz Band and J3 entertainment. The alumni were served a delicious meal from one of Knoxville’s top caterers, Wyatt’s Classic Caterers.

The celebration will culminate on Friday the 28th with a six hour tailgate beginning at noon and a huge parade before the Homecoming game kicks off at 730 pm.