Members of the Wakulla High classes of 1968 and ‘69 get together before demolition

Wakulla High School’s first graduating class of 1968 – with William Payne, who was school superintendent back then, and J. Harold Thurmond, a teacher and interim principal.


They were members of the first graduating classes at Wakulla High School in 1968 and 1969.

Wakulla High opened in 1967 in an effort to integrate the county’s schools – and have one central high school. No more Crawfordville, Sopchoppy and Shadeville high schools.
With plans for the demolition of the old part of the school next year – and a new, more secure school to be built, along with the nearly completed $20 million War Eagle Career Academy, members of the first and second class to graduate thought it would be a good idea to see each other again.
The reunion was the idea of Merwyn Jones, Class of ‘68. And about 40 people turned out on a rainy Friday night during spring break to visit with each other, eat some finger food, and hear about the new plans for Wakulla High.
There was also talk of how what we currently know as Wakulla High came to be.
The first year was, by all accounts, not an easy one. Crawfordville and Sopchoppy schools were bitter rivals. And add to the mix the students from the black school, Shadeville. There were lots of fights, recalled Class of ‘69 member Scott Gaby.
Those first years, the school’s mascot was the Rebels, and its fight song was “Dixie” – which made black students uncomfortable, as David Miller remembered. Miller was Class of ‘69, later principal of Wakulla High School and then Wakulla’s superintendent of schools for more than 17 years.
Miller said that what served to unite the newly integrated students was athletics. There were lots of nods of agreement among the 40 or so attendees. The first season of football under Coach Ron Hinson, the team went 9-1, Miller said.
Hinson coached a couple more seasons, going 6-4-1 the next year and 8-2 before handing over coaching reins to Jerry Reynolds.
Miller and then-Superintendent William Payne recounted that Reynolds cut himself shaving one day, and it would not stop bleeding. He went to the doctor and was diagnosed with leukemia and died shortly thereafter. The death shocked the community, Miller said, adding that Payne moved to name the football field as Reynolds Field. And noting there was an eagle on the Reynolds family crest, Payne tried to get the mascot changed to the Eagles. But, Miller said, North Florida Christian had recently opened and their mascot was the Eagles.
Payne, who went to Auburn, told people that this was no ordinary eagle, it’s a War Eagle.
The colors of red, white and blue stayed the same – and the county became united as Wakulla War Eagles.

Wakulla High School’s class of 1969.
Retired Superintendent of Schools David Miller, Class of ‘69, was first Wakulla High graduate to serve as Wakulla High principal. Former Superintendent William Payne listens to a memory of J. Harold Thurmond, who twice served as interim principal of Wakulla High.