On a Mission
Civic Club, Preachers Want to restore Aycock School
By MIKE BROWN - Reporter Editor
A group of Rockdale ministers and a local civic club are teaming up in an attempt to
bring a much-loved building literally back from the dead.
The former Aycock High School, once a focal point and a definite source of pride for the
east Rockdale community, has sat mostly in ruins for the past 23 years after a
devastating 1993 fire.
But the Original 12 Civic and Social Club and the Rockdale Ministerial Alliance want to
restore it and they’re teaming up to do just that.
“A lot of people in this community, including me, have a lot of ties to this building,”
Lon Williams, Original 12 officer said.
The club bought the building a year after the fire ravaged its classrooms wings—one
collapsed—hallways and common areas.
“The Alliance is partnering with the Original 12 to try and bring this building back to
being a place for the community to gather,” Rev. Kenny Ansell of Full Gospel Chapel,
president of the Ministerial Alliance, said.
GRANTS — There’s no real master plan on the much-hoped-for renovation, at least not yet.
Lon Williams, officer for the Original 12, said the idea first surfaced from Rev. Royal
Johnson, pastor of Rising Star Baptist Church. “He took it to the Ministerial Alliance,”
Williams went to school in the building and his mother, Ardie Mae Williams, taught there
before moving on to the Rockdale ISD.
“I’d show you her classroom,” he said during a brief tour of the school. “But it was in
the part that fell in.” Rev Ansell said the alliance plans to submit a number of grant
applications and there will also be fund raisers. The alliance has already made a
presentation about the project before the Rockdale Rotary Club.
HISTORY — Named for legendary Rockdale African-American educator Bryant Y. Aycock, the
Aycock School as an institution dates back to 1902.
Fifty years later, as part of a bond issue dealing with educational needs stemming from
the Alcoa boom of the early 1950s, voters approved a new facility to serve the town’s
The “new” Aycock school building opened in September, 1954, one year before the identical
vintage Rockdale High School on Murray Avenue.
In its second year, 1955-56, Aycock High School was home to state champions in football
The school continued to serve its community until desegregation, which was completed in
the 1967-68 school year.
DISASTER — Still owned by the Rockdale ISD, the school building sat unused and
deteriorating for a decade.
That changed in 1976 when it was leased by the school district to Rockdale Community
Action Association, an organization composed of community leaders and volunteers.
The old school was upgraded and renovated, given a new name — The Aycock Center — and
housed several public service agencies.
Those included the Texas Welfare Department, Texas Dept. of Health, Women, Infants &
Children program, Rockdale Family Planning, DPS Driver’s License Office, Texas Employment
One wing was occupied by St. John’s Day Care Center.
Everything changed overnight March 22, 1993.
According to an investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, a short in a
fluorescent light fixture in a day care classroom caused the smoldering fixture to fall
onto a carpet, some papers and other items catching them ablaze.
The fire wasn’t spotted until almost midnight.
By that time all firefighters could so was keep the blaze from spreading to the gym.
MISSION — The next year the Original 12 Club acquired the burned-out building.
“We tried to keep part of it open for awhile,” Williams said. “And we did. We held
several things in the gym. But it finally got to where we just couldn’t keep it going
Williams said despite the fire damage the building remains sound.
‘It’s essentially the same construction as the older part of the high school, which is
still going strong,” he said.
His opinion counts. Williams is code enforcement director for the City of Rockdale.
The ministers who gathered for the tour last week with The Reporter are enthusiastic
about the project and see it as a mission.
“I’ll tell you, I believe God wants this building to be restored,” Shaun Skubal, youth
pastor at First Baptist Church, said.
Below: Gym escaped 1993 fire. From left: Rev. Kenny Ansell, Full Gospel Chapel;
Minister Jason Hollinger, Murray Street Church of Christ; Rev. Adam Straznicky, St.
John’s United Methodist; Liz Galloway McQuitter; former RHS head girls basketball
coach; Rev. Shaun Skubal, youth pastor, First Baptist; Lon Williams, Original 12 Civic
and Social Club; Minister Lance Walch, Forest Grove Christian (with Sam and Magdalyn).