Galesburg high school student receives diploma 55 years later

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It's been 55 years for justice to be served as a former Galesburg High School student was denied his high school diploma.

On Friday, August 8, 2014 the school awarded him with his diploma, but it's about more than just a piece of paper.

As you get older people change, for Galesburg High School class of 1959 you can see just that. It's their 55 year reunion.
For Alva Earley there's a memory he can't join in on, graduation day.

"I got to watch my friends' parents stand up, cheer, take pictures of their sons or daughters. That's important and I missed all that," said Earley.

Alva was a hard working student who definitely had the grades to graduate, but back in 1959 some things hadn't changed.

"I didn't know I was going to get in so much trouble," said Alva.

His classmates had a picnic at Lake Storey Park. Back then the park was divided. The south side of the park was for African Americans and the north side for whites. The picnic was on the north side.

"I went to North Lake Story because it was the right thing to do. I didn't go because I was a rebel. I didn't go to act smart. I went to bring the beans, and I brought some darn good beans," said Earley.

Since he made that decision to go he was told he couldn't graduate.

"I did the right thing and I paid the 55 year price," said Earley.

He was eventually able to put on a gown and get the diploma he deserved.  For Alva the piece of paper means nothing. It's about sending a message.

"We are human beings too that we have rights too so we are here too," said Earley.

After high school Earley applied to several colleges, but got turned down since the high school wouldn't recommend him. Knox College was the first college he got accepted to. Later on he would graduate with several degrees and would retire as a lawyer in Colorado.

1 Comment

  • Earl

    Nice story. I’m mystified how the reporter can describe one race in geographic terms, but calls everyone else “white.” If simple colors aren’t assigned to everyone, it is the reporter’s obligation to use geographic terms for “whites,” too. Those terms might be “European Americans,” “Australian Americans,” etc. In the case of “whites” from Africa, the description of “African American” is a total fail when trying to describe race.

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