CARROLLTON, GA – A graduation tradition that stands the test of time still headlines the announcement of graduates at every high school commencement – the recognition of the top two academic performers of the class who claim the coveted titles of valedictorian and salutatorian. But this year also recognizes the honorees from 100 years ago whose names were lost to history – until now.
For Carrollton High School Class of 2022, Crystal Udombon, the daughter of Emmanuel and Hope Udombon of Villa Rica, earned the top honor while Emily Conn was designated salutatorian. Emily is the daughter of Jody and Sharon Conn of Carrollton. Both will attend Georgia Tech in the fall.
Retired history teacher and administrator Rita Gentry, who serves as the school’s unofficial historian, said she was thrilled last week to discover the missing honorees for the CHS Class of 1922 – thanks to a history buff who saved a commencement program he found in the attic of a house in Temple.
“A man named Jerry Collins dropped off the program at the school’s front office,” she said. “While he wasn’t absolutely sure it was from Carrollton High School because it just said ‘CHS Class of 1922’ on front, he thought it might be. When I saw it, it was clear it likely was because the list of graduates included common names of the era.”
Gentry scoured her list of graduation records and confirmed that it was. The rudimentary program contained the list of 41 graduates along with the order of the Monday, May 29, 1922, service, which included speeches by the valedictorian, George Smith, and the salutatorian, Claude Hendon, who was also a class officer and sang in the quartet that performed during the ceremony.
A listing of previous honorees is showcased in the CHS academic building in a historical display acknowledging the school’s founding in 1886. While the earliest recipients are lost to history, the first verified record shows Allie Beall was named valedictorian in 1898.
Gentry said valedictorian and salutatorian honorees are still missing for the years 1889, 1890, 1892, 1893, 1895, 1896, 1897, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1909, and 1921, and encourages others to follow Collins’ lead.
“It is always thrilling to solve these mysteries,” said Gentry. “We appreciate so much people taking the time to check with us before throwing something away. Otherwise, history truly is lost.”