Historical Moments

Students from this school have attracted both state and national attention:

* In March 1910 the mother and father of Billy Strayhorn, the eminent African American composer-arranger, were married in the Mt. Olive Church. Both his mother and his maternal grandmother had attended Long Ridge School (David Hajou, LUSH LIFE: BIOGRAPHY OF BILLY STRAYHORN, New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, p.9).

* A Visit from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. From an interview with Mrs. Shirley [Barnette] Sewell,
conducted in June 9, 1983 by Edwin B. Cheek.

“I was born in 1913, and I started school when I was 6; so that was 1919, and I finished the 7th grade, that’s all that they had here. I was 8 or 9 years old when … John D. Rockefeller came through. I remember that the teacher told us to get dressed; so we put on our Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and wore them to school that day. He had been to Marshall, so he came to Long Ridge School to see our work…

“So he came up — seems like it was a T-model Ford, he and two other guys. I know he had on a big Stetson-like hat, and I don’t remember what the other people wore, ‘cause all we wanted to see was the richest man in the world, John D. Rockefeller. So we saw him… He appropriated the money for us to add an addition to the school, and this additional room was called the John D. Rockefeller Room.”

* Viola King Barnette was a washerwoman for Mars Hill College Faculty and administration. All her children, including Shirley Sewell, attended Long Ridge School. She wrote to the Superintendent of North Carolina Schools saying that her children were entitled by law to public education. In reply she was told that because of her letter all black children in North Carolina would have access to high school, beginning with busing to Asheville from Mars Hill. She and her story are featured in Emily Wilson’s, HOPE AND DIGNITY.