Richmond Hill High School’s Alma Mater is a journey into history. Its poignant words have always touched the most tender part of Richmond Hill’s student’s hearts, both past and present. It evokes strong personal emotions, reminiscent of their age of innocence; it’s almost spiritual.
Ada Shaw Martin wrote the Alma Mater in the late 1940’s, when she was a junior at Richmond Hill High School. When I visited Ada recently, we talked at length about what prompted her to write it. At first mention of the Alma Mater, Ada asked, “Do you want me to sing it for you?” Of course I did! In her clear soft 80-year-old voice, she began:
“In the heart of old Bryan County, built on Georgia sand,
Stands a school I’ll love forever, both with heart and hand.
Dear old RH, dear old RH, school of my childhood days,
I’ll be true to you forever, guardian of my ways!”
Ada Shaw, her sister Annie and brother Robert, were born in Clyde and lived there until the Government’s purchase of their land in the mid 1940’s. In their humble, oil-lit home, their parents Bob and Ada stressed the importance of keeping up with current events, education and independent thinking. From a young child, Ada was recognized as being a born leader. She was always thinking about, planning for, or considering the future. In today’s world, Ada would aptly be labeled a ‘forward-thinker’.
In high school, Ada participated in many activities, basketball being one. Each time the team traveled to an out of town school for a ballgame, she was drawn to the singing of the school’s Alma Mater. RHHS didn’t have one! Ada, being naturally creative and ingenious, decided that RHHS needed an Alma Mater and she was going to write it! Ada believes, “The words were God-inspired.”
I was curious as to how Ada managed to get the writing accepted as the official school Alma Mater; to whom did she first present it? In her vivid recollection of those early days, she said it slowly became the school song. It began with her sharing the words with her fellow basketball teammates. They would sing it on the bus, as they traveled to off games. The song soon spread throughout the small school and was quickly learned and sung by all the students. They literally took it to heart. It expressed their love for ‘dear old RH’. (It is sung to the tune of Cornell University’s Alma Mater.)
My uncle Hiram Davis, who now lives in Alabama, remembers the Alma Mater. Although he graduated from RHHS in 1951, the beloved song is still a part of his treasured school days memories. When I mentioned it to him last week, he said, “We used to sing it at graduation, assemblies and chapel. At times, we would sing it coming back from ballgames.” Then, to my surprise, he said, “I can still sing it. Do you want me to sing it to you now?” He spoke the truth…through the telephone line came the familiar song from my school days at RHHS…he didn’t stop until he finished the last beautiful line.
The Alma Mater, the one that is still sung by RHHS students, is the actual one written by Ada Martin over 60 years ago! Mr. Jamie Hillen, Richmond Hill High School’s chorus teacher, said the chorus recently performed it at their last pep rally and it is performed at graduation each year.
Ada is recuperating from a fall at the Bryan County Health & Rehabilitation Center on Carter Street in Richmond Hill. Nothing would please her more than to sing the Alma Mater for you!
Hiers was born and raised in Richmond Hill. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.