HISTORY OF PEABODY
Mr. J. B. Lafargue founded Peabody Industrial School in 1895 with the assistance of his wife, Mrs. S.C.B. Mayo Lafargue. Peabody was the only public school for Black students in Alexandria with grades 1 – 7. The school was named Peabody because of a grant that was given by Mr. George Peabody of the George Peabody Foundation. Mr. Peabody was a wealthy Massachusetts philanthropist. The first school was a wooden two-story hospital building located at Third and Bogan Streets, the current site of Peabody Sixth Grade Center. In 1918, Mr. Lafargue added eighth and ninth grades to the school even though the Department of Education did not approve the upper grades for Negro schools. Construction of a three-story building began on the location at Third and Bogan Streets in 1923 and was completed in 1925. In addition, a wooden building was constructed to serve as an auditorium. Two more grades were added to the school in 1930. In 1931, the State Department of Education (Negro Division) sent Beatrice Wallace Spottsville to the school to serve as a teacher trainer and Supervisor of Negro schools, making Peabody a training school. Peabody became a state-approved public high school in 1933. Mr. J.B. Lafargue served as principal of the school from 1900 until he retired in 1937.
Mr. D.F. Iles, who was a student at Peabody Training School in 1918, left in 1925 to attend high school at Leland College due to the lack of high schools for Blacks in Rapides Parish at that time. After completing high school, he remained at Leland College, where he received his college degree in 1933. Mr. Iles returned to Peabody in 1934 to teach social studies. He later became assistant principal, then in 1937 began his tenure as principal. Mr. Iles ended his tenure at Peabody as principal in 1972 when he accepted a position at the Rapides Parish School Board. The first school building at the current Broadway Street site was completed in 1952, with D. F. Iles as principal. Mr. Iles transformed Peabody from an Industrial Training School offering training in home economics and industrial shop to a comprehensive high school offering courses in algebra, geometry, social studies, science, physics, chemistry, art, music, band, Spanish, French, business, auto mechanics, mechanical drawing, woodwork, sheet metal, distributive education, cooperative office education, and speech with an array of extracurricular activities. In August 1972, Mr. Iles retired as principal of Peabody and accepted a position at the Rapides Parish School Board’s Central Office.
Mr. Samuel McKay, a distinguished chemistry teacher and community leader, succeeded Mr. Iles as the principal of Peabody from 1972 until 1981. Under his leadership, a physical expansion program to remodel the girls' gymnasium, construct a new boys' gymnasium, and construct an athletic field was initiated. Mr. McKay remained principal until 1981 when he accepted a position as Director of Magnet Schools at the Rapides Parish School Board's Central Office
In November 1981, Dr. James Cleveland became the second principal of the newly formed Peabody Magnet High School. Under his leadership, the curriculum was enriched by the addition of the following courses: the LD program, vocational programs, building trades, horticulture, and the honors computer-based classes. Dr. Cleveland retired in 1987. Clayton P. Williams became principal the following year. In 1991, Mr. Williams resigned and was succeeded by Mr. Dennis Frazier. Mr. Frazier's leadership efforts were directed toward getting a new school built in 1995. On November 3, 1998, voters approved the bond for the construction of a new two-story Peabody at the current Broadway site. Mr. Frazier retired in 1998.
Prior to desegregation, separate local schools were maintained for black and white students in Rapides Parish. Peabody was the high school available for African American students in Alexandria while white students attended nearby Bolton High School. Neighboring Pineville, a smaller town located north of Alexandria, across the Red River, hosted a similarly segregated Crepe Myrtle High School with white students attending Pineville High School & Tioga High School; in neighbouring Boyce, Louisiana, to the northwest of Alexandria, black students attended Wettermark High School with white students attending Boyce High School.
During McKay's tenure as principal of Peabody, the federal court mandated changing the school to Peabody Magnet High School with the goal of integrating the public school system in Rapides Parish. Busing was implemented to bring white students to Peabody. To enhance Peabody's ability to attract students, the following courses were added: welding, computer science, nursing, math and Chemistry with college credit as well as an array of honor courses. The Gifted & Talented program was also established at Peabody during this time.
In July 1998, Mrs. Peggie L. Davis, a 1968 graduate of Peabody High School was appointed principal and given the job of overseeing the building and development of the new Peabody Magnet High School. In November 2000, a groundbreaking ceremony was conducted. This marked the start of the massive demolishing of parts of the old 1952 structure and construction of the new state of the art Peabody Magnet High School.
In October 2001, Mr. Lee A. Dotson, Jr. became the new principal of Peabody Magnet High School. Mrs. Jamie Henegan followed Mr. Dotson as principal.
Mr. Dennis Stewart became the current principal in 2021.