History of William Shaffner Neal High School
W. S. Neal received its name from Mr. William Shaffner Neal, who at one time was Superintendent of Education of Escambia County. Mr. Neal saw the need for state supported secondary schools during his tenure as Superintendent of Education and was successful in getting a bill passed through the Alabama legislature, which appropriated money for this purpose. Mr. Neal saw the need for public schools in order to educate the common person. The first such school in the State of Alabama was located in 1898 in Atmore, Alabama. Other counties immediately followed suit and our present secondary school system developed from this first measure, which was sponsored by Mr. Neal. In recognition for this and other services that he rendered to the schools of Escambia County, the Escambia County Board of Education adopted a resolution to name the school in East Brewton, W. S. Neal School. Before this time the school had been called East Brewton School.
In 1919 a storm destroyed the old two - room frame building which served as the East Brewton School. By the fall of 1920 a new two-story five-room brick building was ready.
This building was soon out - grown and in 1928 a building was erected. As the school grew and consolidation took place more rooms were added. This new building was named W. S. Neal in honor of the first superintendent of Escambia County.
A fire destroyed the main building Friday afternoon, February 1, 1951. The fire broke through the ceiling in the southwest corner of the building. The flames left the structure in ruins and caused damage estimated at $350,000. Classes on a temporary basis were opened in the remaining building. School authorities used volunteer students to clean bricks. The re-used bricks were used in the building of the football stands. A more modern building replaced this one, having been completed in 1952.
Even though the school may be considered small by today’s standards, it is still much bigger than it was when it was first constructed. It started out with only a few rooms, and gradually expanded over the years. It began its life solely as a high school, but as buildings were added, this began to change. A few of the first add-ons were for elementary level learning. The school kept expanding, and it is interesting to see when the buildings were originally built. A lighted football field and dressing rooms were built for the football team in 1946. Construction for the then new elementary school began in 1947, and it was ready for use in 1948. Other buildings came into being regularly after this until the school came to be what it is today.
W. S. Neal School became a consolidated high school in 1928-29. Previous to this time it had been an elementary school and junior high school. The county building program in 1928, which promoted the building of six brick school buildings, also included the high school buildings, which Neal now uses. The last wing of this building, at present houses the library and rooms 12 and 13, which were added at a later date.
In recognition for his support of education and other services that Mr. Neal rendered to the schools of Escambia County, the Escambia County Board of Education adopted a resolution to name the school in East Brewton W. S. Neal School. Before this time the school had been called East Brewton School.
At the time the high school building was built, O. C. Weaver was Superintendent of Education and the following men were members of the County Board Of Education: Dr. A. P. Webb, President; C. J. Merriweather, J. F. Douglas; E. D. Espy; and W. W. Hinote. The school trustees were the following: C. M. Williamson, J. D. Weaver, and W. M. Watson.
Three Principals served as administrators of the Neal School. They are W. O. Barrow 1928-1940; J. M. Mays 1940-1946; and Harry L. Weaver 1946.
During Mr. Barrow’s administration, the school expanded in spite of the many difficulties due to the depression. In addition to the high school building and its library section, a two-room frame building was constructed in order to house two elementary classrooms. The boys and Mr. Barrow also built a frame building to house the N. Y. A. shop which operated until the outbreak of war. An adequate drainage system, at that time, was installed to drain the campus. A school newspaper was begun in 1928 called the Spectator. It is still published weekly by the students.
When Mr. Mayes became principal at Neal the athletic program was started. For the first time teams in three sports, football, basketball, and baseball donned the colors of blue and gold and competed with neighboring schools. School spirit during these years probably reached a higher pitch than ever before or since. In 1945 the lunchroom was put in the old N. Y. A. shop and a large percentage of the students in elementary and high school participated in this lunch program. A dental clinic was provided and put into operation.
During the years 1946-1949 the building program at W. S. Neal expanded more than in previous period years. This was due in part to lack of any type-building program during war years 1941-1945.
In 1946 a lighted football field and dressing room were built for the football teams. In 1947 construction of a new elementary school began and the new building was ready for use in the fall of 1948 with eleven modern classrooms. This building also housed a new lunchroom, which accommodates all students in elementary and high school.
The Vocational building was finished in January 1949 and students of vocational agriculture and home economics now have one of the finest buildings in the State of Alabama for this type of work. It is also one of the best-equipped buildings of this type and the department has two very excellent instructors in Mrs. Sallie Childers and Mr. K. C. Ezell.
A band was organized in 1948, through joint cooperation of the Town of East Brewton, parents and school. Beautiful uniforms were purchased by public subscription in 1949. It was on the best equipped bands in this section and boasted 72 members.
Year by year the enrollment at W. S. Neal grew. With the returning veterans re-enrolling in 1946, and since, and the consolidation of Damascus and Wallace schools with W. S. Neal in 1948 the building expansion was sorely needed.
In 1947, Mr. Lyle D. Flynn returned to W. S. Neal as Assistant Principal, a position he had resigned shortly after out-break of World War II. The supervision of W. S. Neal Veteran School was assigned to him. Its enrollment grew by leaps and bounds, until approximately 370 students and 12 teachers make up its personnel. Conditions at Neal became so crowded in 1948 – 49 until this department was forced to move from W. S. Neal campus in the summer of 1949. It is now located in the old Brewton Collegiate Institute building adjoining the Court House.
For a number of years W. S. Neal’s enrollment has been the largest of any single school in Escambia County. This continues to be true. When the veteran’s attendance was recorded in the principal’s office along with the regular students the total enrollment was over 1300 in 1948 – 49. However, the greatest number of regular student’s recorded on roll at W. S. Neal was 999 in October of the 1949 – 50 school term. The 1000 mark has never been reached.
With the increased enrollment and departments, the number of teachers would naturally increase. At present there are 13 teachers in elementary school and 19 in high school making a total of 32 teachers in 1950. This is in addition to the 12 teachers in Veterans School.
On May 29, 1950, Neal’s largest graduating class will receive diplomas. One hundred and eight students would receive diplomas. Eighty of those students are in regular senior class and twenty – eight have completed their required work in the Veteran School which entitles the Veteran School which entitles them to a diploma from W. S. Neal School.
Neal has always been proud of the record of its graduated. Many go directly into the business world of Brewton and other towns. Many are making fine records. However, more and more are going away to college each year. Some are making excellent records there. The vast majority of these people are making good in college and the number of failures is so small that it is negligible. This is especially heartening to the teachers of this school who have contributed tremendously through the years to the growth and success of W. S. Neal School.
* A lot of this information came from Mr. Harry L. Weaver (from memory)
Information from History of Escambia County, The Brewton Standard
In the late 1980’s and early 90’s students and teachers had to dodge garbage cans and cut out Clorox bottles that were used to stop the downpour of rain in the hallways. The rain brought about many changes for Neal in 1991 – 92. The roofers banged away for weeks on end to put on our new “A” – framed roofs. Now the soaked ceiling titles, that everyone was scared to walk under, and our old, musty, mildewed, soggy carpets have been replaced.
In 1997, the new Science Labs were erected. The Science department now houses two science labs: one of them for Chemistry, and the other for Anatomy, Physiology, and Biology. The new labs not only created space for the Science department but the Library- Media Center was enlarged, and a classroom was added.
April 2001, construction began on a new Football Stadium. On August 23, 2002, the W. S. Neal Football Stadium was dedicated. The stadium was funded by W. T. Neal Trust. The dedication ceremony was a grand event with many guest, which included Mrs. Sara Neal, Kate Neal McNeil and family, Terrill Neal and family, and Governor Don Seigleman.
In 2007, the W. S. Neal Agriscience department was awarded a grant by Resource Conservation and Development that was used to construct a 1200 square foot greenhouse and aquaculture lab.
The Auditiorium stage floor and curtains were replaced in 2010, through a joint venture between the Escambia County Board of Education, Southern Pine Electric Cooperation, and Escambia County Brewton Area Vocational School
The baseball facility has under gone an upgrade since 2010. The Curtis Findley Foundation donated money that was used to build new a visitor’s dugout and storage room. Senator Kahey and the Neal Trust have donated funds which were used to build a new home dugout, locker room, and home and visitors bleachers. A new concrete walk way in front of bleachers and a new block wall backstop were built. The county moved the press box from the old football field to the baseball field to be used as a press box and concession stand.
On August 2011, Masland Carpet donated 8,000 square feet of new carpet to replace the carpet in the office and eight classrooms on the main hall.
The summer of 2011, the Basketball gym was air conditioned.