Remember the past, while embracing the future was the sentiment from those in attendance Saturday as the Weakley County Training School alumni and friends held the 96th annual homecoming celebration on Saturday in Martin.
Beverly Claybrooks, a longtime educator in Weakley County and an alumnus of the school, was the coordinator of the celebration, as she has in many years’ past. Claybrooks said it was important to remember, on this day of celebration of the history of the school, that the celebration, the spirit of the day, and the beautiful weather was only possible because of God.
“I think that God blessed us,” Claybrooks said. “He knew that we needed our occasion. There were people coming from all over the United States and this is our only opportunity to be together.
“So he blessed us with this kind of day [with] beautiful cool weather and we are totally excited to celebrate the 96th year of homecoming.”
The Grand Marshall for the celebration, Perry Turner, Chairman of the Board for the Fulton County Board of Education, said he was honored, but also humbled when his longtime friend asked him to be this year’s honoree.
“I was totally shocked when Ms. Beverly called me,” Turner said. “It’s more than an honor that she called and asked me.
“Ms. Beverly is doing a lot of work around here and she is keeping me posted on all the work that’s being done. I just can’t wait for the day when everything is up and running great.”
The work Turner was referencing is the work that has been done over the past couple of years to transform the former training school, which used house the Martin Middle School (before the middle school moved to the former high school) into a boys and girl’s club and recreational center for the youth of the Martin community, especially those in the shadows of the former school.
Turner said he is inspired by Claybrooks’ passion for the students and the community in Weakley County and that her passion is infectious to anyone that she meets.
“This lady has compassio
n for our schools, for our children and for the community,” Turner said. “Her passion is not just for this community. It is for all communities surrounding Martin.”
Martin Mayor Randy Brundige said it was a great day for the celebration and said he was happy to see the community come out and enjoy the event. Brundige said it also was nice to see those that currently live outsi
de of Martin come back to celebrate the legacy of the school, some of those coming back for the first time since before the pandemic struck.
“All of the people here that are coming back that went to school here and even those that didn’t attend the school but have memories of it,” Brundige said. “It’s very important for them to celebrate and have this homecoming.
“Last year, the first year after COVID, it wasn’t nearly this big but this year there was a big turnout. The folks are doing a great job of promoting this and kudos to them for that. It’s going to be a great event out here today.”
Turner’s son, Deadrik Kinney, is the principal at Paducah Tillman High School and was in attendance for the festivities on Saturday. Kinney, who grew up in Martin, said he was inspired to go into education, not only from watching his father, but also by the work of previous educators from the Weakley County Training School. Kinney said it is important to preserve the legacy of an institution that helped mold and inspire so many that came before him. And the day, although paying respect to the past is vital, it is also important to remember to pay it forward to those coming up behind him.
“You’ve got to continue to bond [with the community],” Kinney said. “You’ve got to continually teach the little ones, even in the school system, about what it means to be a family, [about] what it means to be a community and what it means to be together as one. Because, when you’re together as one, it’s hard to tear us apart.”