A New School for the Beaches

Susan Gold, Archives & Collections Manager, Beaches Museum

Duncan U. Fletcher High School was built through a federal grant secured with the assistance of Senator Duncan Fletcher, who the school is named for. The location was chosen so the school would be in the center of the school district, and the 22-acre site cost $5,750. The building itself was to cost $69,000 to build. The cornerstone was laid Sept. 25, 1936, and the doors opened on Sept. 20, 1937.

Principal Frank Doggett recalled it was hard at first to convince the students to attend, with many wanting to continue attending Landon High School instead. He held a school assembly to pick the school mascot, the Senator and the school colors. Jean Haden suggested purple and white, as no other schools in the area were using them at the time, and they look nice together. In that same assembly, students chose members of the student body to form a student government as an incentive to attend, as most schools did not have student governments in the 1930s.

In June of 1938, 13 seniors became the first graduating class of Fletcher High School. Graduation was held in the auditorium and gym, which has since been converted into the junior high library. Sara Lee Crawford, the first student to register to attend Fletcher, graduated the next year in 1939 as both the class president and salutatorian.

The original school had 10 classrooms for 13 teachers and 269 students. Over the next few years, students would hear the sounds of hammers and saws while in class as the school expanded to accommodate the growing student body. The first expansion started as early as 1939. In 1964, the new senior high building was created, splitting the student body with 10th through 12th grades going to the new building and the lower grades staying in the original building. It cost $1.6 million and was the first school in the country to be fully air-conditioned. In December of 1996, the old junior high building was demolished and replaced with the current structure that houses Fletcher Middle School; only the original entrance remains in an interior courtyard.

The Beaches Museum will be kicking off a summer-long exhibit of the 85 years of Fletcher High School that kicks off with the Fletcher All-Class Block Party on April 30. The party is a gathering of Fletcher graduates, faculty and supporters from across the decades to reminisce and celebrate the Beaches’ only high school. Music and dancing from local band (and Fletcher alumni) 4Play will be there as well as food trucks and much more.

This year’s theme will be “85 Years of Defending the Island.” As the only high school on the barrier island, Fletcher has always taken proud ownership of this coastal community and its unique quality of life. “Defend the Island” is not only a rallying cry for the football team but is also a mentality of those who have been involved as lifeguards, planting sea oats, enjoying great surfing, beach clean-ups and more.

All profits from ticket sales benefit the Beaches Museum. For more information on the exhibit and to purchase tickets to the event, visit beachesmuseum.org.