H.B. Pemberton Learning Center

pembertonMr. H.B. Pemberton came from modest beginnings as the son of former slaves to be one of the most influential and iconic educators in the history of Marshall schools.

Born January 20, 1867, he was the oldest son of Charles and Eliza Pemberton. His parents settled in Marshall in 1876 when he was nine years old. Pemberton received a degree from Wiley College in 1888 and was the first to graduate "magna cum laude."

He taught as a professor at Wiley until 1894, when he approached Superintendent C.F. Adams to request the establishment of an organized school system for Negro children. Adams offered Pemberton the Principal position of one of the schools, and Pemberton asked for a school building separate from church connections. But there were no public funds, so he then bought a dilapidated church building on the present site of the Travis Terrace Building with money borrowed on his own personal note. The note was soon paid with the support of citizens, the land was deeded to the city, and a two-story, four-room brick building was erected in 1895 and named Central School.

The Central faculty included two men and two women and served grades 1-7. Pemberton again petitioned the school board and four more rooms and and an auditorium were added to the campus for a high school in 1916. Pemberton then became the Principal and only teacher of Central High. Eleven grades were taught and enrollment grew to 1,000.

In 1925, a site on Rosborough Springs Road was purchased for a new school to house high school students only. The old Central School became known as Hillside School. The high school enjoyed a good reputation, and around 1940 was given the highest rating accorded African-American high schools. It was listed as one of the top six or eight in the state, putting it on par with those in Dallas and Houston.

In 1941, the school board unanimously approved a petition with over 5,000 signatures to change the new school's name to H.B. Pemberton High School, in honor of the man who stepped out and created the beginnings of public education in Marshall for Negro children.

Pemberton died on April 27, 1944, and was succeeded by G.A. Rosborough, who served until his retirement in 1972. When Marshall schools integrated in 1971, Pemberton High School began serving ninth grade students only in 1972, following integration of the school district in 1971.

When the 1986 bond election provided funds for a new wing at Marshall High School on Maverick Drive, Pemberton High School ceased operation as a public school in the spring of 1988 and was sold to Wiley College. It now serves as the Pemberton Heritage Center and is still located at its original location on Rosborough Springs Road.
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