LEAD Open House Celebration

The Langston Education and Arts Development, Inc. is hosting an Open House with a Silent Auction fundraiser event on Friday, September 9, 2022 at the Langston Centre. Beginning at 7:00 pm will be a short program.

Donated items will be on display during the event and each item will be included in the silent auction. This is a great way to advertise and support the educational works at the Langston Center

Proceeds from the Silent Auction go directly to funding the After School programs at the Langston Centre. This event is only successful due to the generous support of those who believe in our mission.

Please RSVP HERE to join us or if you are interested to donate items for the silent auction.

For more information, please contact: Carla Forney, cforney3794@icloud.com, (423) 426-1044.

LEAD Board

Langston Centre Grand Opening

Please join us on November 17 from 2-5 pm for a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the grand opening of the newly renovated Langston Centre at 315 Elm St. in Johnson City, TN. The ceremony will begin promptly at 2:15 pm with light refreshments and building tours to follow. For additional information, email cojcnews@johnsoncitytn.org or call 423.434.6021. […]

Langston Lives! is officially sold out!

We’re overwhelmed by the positive response to our unique storytelling event set for Saturday! We’ve sold all 100 seats available at the International Storytelling Center!

If you were planning to come, but haven’t yet purchased tickets, please send an email to leadlhs@gmail.com to let us know of your desire to attend. We’ll add your name to a waiting list and let you know if seats become available. We cannot guarantee tickets will be available at the door, and we don’t want you to be disappointed.

You also have an opportunity to interact with our featured guest Ms. Sheila Arnold during a free storytelling workshop planned for Saturday (2/16) morning. Ms. Arnold is a master storyteller who has years of experience instructing others in the art. She will certainly have lots of tips to share about using storytelling as a way to teach others about history.

Her workshop will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Memorial Park Community Center, 510 Bert St., Johnson City, TN 37601. No registration is required, and the event is opened to all ages.

10 Days Left to Buy Tickets

You have 10 days left to buy your tickets for Langston Lives!, the unique storytelling event we’re hosting at the International Storytelling Center.

The venue can seat 100 people, and we’ve sold about half those seats. We know many folks like to wait til the last minute to buy tickets, but we encourage you not to do so. With a limited only number of tickets, you don’t want to be disappointed!

Buy tickets on Eventbrite or mail check made payable to LEAD to P. O. Box 111, Johnson City, TN 37605-0111.

Pre-Sale Tickets for Langston Lives! Now On Sale

For several months now, we’ve introduced you to notable alumni who have made a difference in the world using what they learned at Langston. Now we’re giving you a chance to meet some of these extraordinary people during a one-of-a-kind event set for mid-February.

The past will be brought to life during Langston Lives! Master storyteller Sheila Arnold will “become” notable Langston teachers and graduates. She’ll take on the personalities of some of the remarkable people who taught at and graduated from Langston High School. In this way, Ms. Arnold will convey the story and significance of Johnson City’s historic African-American high school.

For example, Ms. Arnold may give an impassioned sideline speech as legendary Coach Paul Christman, who led the school’s basketball and football teams to prominence and later became Science Hill’s first black coach. Or she may assume the personality of Dr. Hezekiah Hankal, the former slave and Johnson City alderman who founded Langston in 1893.

Langston Lives!, a gala featuring Ms. Arnold’s performance, “It Was Ours: Langston High School Through Memory’s Eye,” will be held Saturday, February 16 at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough. The event will feature a catered meal, delicious desserts and Ms. Arnold’s interpretive performance.

We’ll release many more event details as the date draws closer, but we wanted to make our supporters aware that tickets will be available during a special pre-sale event that starts TODAY! Tickets can be purchased online through Eventbrite at a reduced cost of $55 for individuals and $90 for couples. Prices will increase on Jan. 25, so act now to ensure the best value!

The event is being staged as a fundraiser to support LEAD’s efforts to develop a multicultural arts and education center in the school. If you or your business is interested in sponsoring the event, please send an email to leadlhs@gmail.com.

We look forward to seeing you on February 16!

One-of-a-Kind Event Set for February 16

We’re excited to announce a one-of-a-kind event coming next month! LEAD has partnered with Ms. Sheila Arnold, a master storyteller and historical interpreter, to create a unique portrayal of Langston High School’s history.

Langston Lives!, a gala featuring Ms. Arnold’s performance, “It Was Ours: Langston High School Through Memory’s Eye,” will be held on Saturday, February 16 at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough.

Tickets for this special event go on sale Friday, so be looking for more details headed your way later this week!

Langston Grad Hugh Collie Excited to See Project Take Shape

During the Great Depression, Hugh Collie’s family faced a decision. Stay in Birmingham, Alabama, or move to find greater opportunity. A relative’s advice brought them to Johnson City where the Collie family quickly put down roots with his father founding Johnson City’s first African-American-owned dry-cleaning business.

Mr. Collie enrolled in school in Johnson City, first at Dunbar and later at Langston High School. At Langston, he was very active in extracurricular activities until his graduation in 1943.

He recalled his days playing center on the football team with a smile. When the team played some of the bigger teams from Asheville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, they encountered a David vs. Goliath matchup. “We must have looked like little kids,” Mr. Collie said, adding that the tallest player on the team stood just over six feet tall. “We were small, but we were fast.”

Mr. Collie spoke with pride about Langston’s ability to stand toe-to-toe with these teams and come out victorious.  The football coach was also the school’s shop teacher who held high standards for the students and his players.

The football coach wasn’t the only one who held students to high standards. Despite the school’s small size, everyone from the teachers to the coaches to the music instructors were excellent, he said.

“Everything we did was excellent. There might have only been about 25 members of the band, but they were excellent. We were small in number, but people had to recognize (our skill),” he said.

Upon graduation from Langston in 1943, Mr. Collie enlisted in the Army. During his service, he would train in Texas before heading overseas to go through the UK, France and finally Germany. After returning home to Johnson City, he helped found the Pro-To Club in 1952. Since 1957, the club has raised money and awarded scholarships to black students who want to attend college.

Langston’s closure in 1965 following desegregation was bittersweet, Mr. Collie said. “We got what we wanted but lost what we had,” he said.

The entire school population, from 6th grade to 12th grade was no greater than 180 students. Mr. Collie laughed with pride as he said that his graduating class was a “large” class, with 25 students. The size of the school impacted the tone of the classroom, with students feeling empowered to contribute their ideas and questions, he said. The classes were small, and the students were known as individuals, not just faces in the crowd.

Mr. Collie said Langston’s teachers were an integral part of the community. They knew the students as well as their families. If problems arose in the classroom, families were notified. If students had difficulties, teachers intervened and enlisted the families’ support. As students began filtering into the white schools, there was more reticence in participating in class.  Mr. Collie said students felt like teachers didn’t know them. The individualized attention and support received in a close-knit environment like Langston was deeply missed.

While regretful that the majority of the Langston School building was not able to be saved, Mr. Collie said he was thankful that the gymnasium survived. He’s also pleased to see the former school get a new lease on life by becoming a multicultural educational center. When it opens in the spring, Mr. Collie, as a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, will be able to share his history, and Langston, with his family, as well as the larger Johnson City community.

Morris-Baker Community Fund Donates $10,000 to Langston Rehab



A $10,000 donation from the Morris-Baker Community Fund will support ongoing work to rehabilitate Langston High School. Preston McKee, president of Morris-Baker Funeral Home, announced the gift during a press conference today held at the Johnson City Municipal Building.

McKee said the donation is intended to bring a once vibrant community resource back to life. It’s also a way to honor the long-time friendship between his grandfather, the late Carson Baker, Jr. who owned Morris-Baker Funeral Home, and J. Fletcher Birchette III, the president of Birchette Mortuary. Birchette, a 1962 Langston graduate, passed away in August 2017.

“Both my grandfather and Mr. Birchette were Johnson City natives who left the area to continue their educations but returned home where they operated successful businesses for decades,” McKee said. “Throughout the years, my grandfather and Mr. Birchette supported each other’s efforts to not only build their businesses but to improve the larger community as well.”

McKee said the Morris-Baker Community Fund builds on his grandfather’s legacy of giving back to the community. “As a company, we always look for ways to reinvest in our community, and the Langston project stood out, especially given my grandfather’s relationship with Mr. Birchette. We look forward to watching Langston take shape and continue to provide a positive role in Johnson City.”

Langston served the African-American community in Johnson City from 1893 until 1965 when the school closed following integration. LEAD is working to transform what remains of the school into a multi-cultural arts and education center for all ages. The Morris-Baker Community Fund donation brings the campaign a step closer to reaching the goal of $500,000.

“I am humbled that Mr. McKee would choose to honor his grandfather’s friendship with my father. My own family – and the larger Langston High family – are especially grateful that he chose to remember Fletcher Birchette in such a generous way,” said John F. Birchette IV, the current president of Birchette Mortuary who serves as treasurer on the LEAD executive board of directors.

“My father loved Langston and was the living embodiment of the school’s motto: ‘Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve.’ He spent his life quietly helping improve the community around him, and he would be so pleased to see the widespread support offered to this project,” Birchette said.

The effort to renovate Langston High School is a public-private partnership between the City of Johnson City and LEAD. Last summer, the city allocated $1.8 million to fund the project. LEAD is working to raise the remaining $500,000 needed to completely fund the rehab project. Well over half that amount has been raised in grant funding, corporate contributions and private donations.

At the project’s completion, the school’s gymnasium and shop will be transformed into a multicultural, multigenerational education center focused on STEAM education and mentorship programs. The space will also be used for special events, such as performances and professional networking socials, bringing together people of diverse backgrounds.

“This project is more than bricks and mortar. It’s an opportunity in our community to bring people together,” said Johnson City Vice Mayor Jenny Brock who spoke at the press conference. “We are stronger when all the voices in the community are gathered around the table,” she said.

LEAD Youth Ambassadors Honored by National Merit Scholars Program


Two LEAD Youth Ambassadors have been recognized as “Commended Students” in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program. Andrew M. Keith, second from left, and Rachel K. Smith, second from right, were honored at a Johnson City Schools Board of Education meeting on Nov. 6. 2018.

These Science Hill High School students have worked alongside our executive board and advisory committee members since LEAD’s inception. We are extremely proud of not only their academic achievements but of their commitment to improving their community! Well done, Drew and Rachel!

Construction is Underway!

For months, we’ve been raising money for renovations to the former Langston High School building. We’ve been talking about what the space will be used for and how it will benefit future generations. We’re excited by the possibilities this project offers and how it will shape our community for years to come.

Now, thanks to the dedication of many volunteers and the generosity of city leaders, businesses like General Shale and Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union and individual donors, we’re pleased to report that construction on the building has started in earnest.

Click through the gallery to see how work is progressing. We’ll post more pictures as the project takes shape.

A big thank you to the donors who have helped us reach this milestone. We couldn’t have done it without you!

You can be a part of this historic endeavor, too. Click here make a tax deductible contribution to Langston Education and Arts Development, Inc., and help preserve our school for posterity!