Interviewer: Anna Keogh
Interviewee: Patrick Keogh
Patrick J. Keogh, my dad, sat in the comfort of home as he retold his high school experience in a rural southern town. Patrick Keogh grew up in Marianna, Arkansas, near West Helena. In the early 1970’s, Lee Senior High School integrated. Most of the Caucasian families did not support the integration, so they built a private school, Lee Academy. Lee Academy was priced so that not many African-Americans could afford to attend. Patrick Keogh was one of 150 Caucasian students out of a 1200-student high school.
When my dad was in 10th grade at Lee Senior High School, there was a walkout. African-American School Officials wanting more jobs open to the black race caused the three to four month walkout. Many students of Lee Senior high were prompted and prodded to help with the walkout and many did. “Ninety percent of the school walked-out,” said Patrick with a scorn.
“I remember that I was in Algebra and all of a sudden a bunch of black guys were running through the portable buildings. We were all scared because they had turned the fire hoses on them, knocking people down. They were even throwing trash cans at them.” Patrick Keogh said sadly as he told about the first day of the walkout. From then on there was only 10% of the school left, and nothing to do all day.
“All I did was play chess and basketball, but my Algebra teacher did give homework every night.” Patrick Keogh said bitterly. My dad was extremely bitter towards the walkout; he didn’t understand why he still had to go to school when everyone else didn’t. Eventually most of the students and teachers came back. The African-American School officials did not get what they wanted but some students like Rodney Slater (Clinton’s head of transportation) never came back to Lee Senior High.
Some people say that high school is the best time of their lives, but for Patrick Keogh, it was a nightmare. He said that he has tried to put Marianna, Arkansas behind him; the minute he could, he wanted to get out of the town and never come back. He has returned to Marianna, Arkansas, in recent years but was instantly bitter and saddened when he saw Lee Senior High School again. Even through all the things that happened to my dad he is still the most kind and wise person I have ever met. I respect him to the fullest and even though I don’t know exactly what he went through I could see and feel the tension of bringing up that place that he had long ago stopped calling home.
My dad said, “I was afraid that this had ruined my high school education.”