The History of Risley Schools in Glynn County
Brunswick's first public school for African Americans opened in 1870 as the Freedmen's School, and later changed to Risley School to honor Lieutenant Douglas Gilbert Risley, who raised funds for the school's construction.
The name Risley may be familiar with many in the county, but who was Douglas Gilbert Risley? Risley, who arrived in Brunswick as a lieutenant in the Union Army 1867 to serve as head of the "Bureau of Refugees, Freedman and Abandoned Lands." In 1870, he secured the funds for the purchase of land in Brunswick for the first Freedman's School that was built on the corner of H & Albany Streets. This school was later renamed Risley School in honor of Captain D.G. Risley who died that same year.
Many of the children in the African-American community went to small rural schools if they lived beyond the city limits, but over time new buildings were needed. The first of these new buildings was erected around 1922 and by 1923, a two story brick building was erected with 12 classrooms, a large auditorium, and seven additional rooms. Eventually, grades 11 and 12 were held in this building, thus providing the first African-American high school in Brunswick. This brick building, which is still standing today, was named the Colored Memorial School in honor of African-Americans who served their country during World War I, and it was built next to the Risley School. Eventually, The Colored Memorial became the grammar school for grades 1-8. In 1936 Risley High School was built on the site of the 1870 Freedmen's School and remained in service until 1955 when a new Risley High School was constructed.
From 1970 until 1975, the school became a sixth grade center, and in 1975, it became Risley Middle School. In 2008 Risley Early College Academy was started as a program within Risley Middle School. RECA was designed to prepare students to succeed in universities or colleges starting in 6th grade. The success of RECA allowed the program to stand alone on the Albany Street campus.
In 2011 Glynn County E-SPLOST funds were used to build a new Risley replacement school on South Port Parkway. Southwest Glynn county was selected for the site due to the increasing population growth in that area. Unfortunately, due the drop in the national and local economy the Risley Early College Academy program was ended in 2012. In spite of RECA's success, enrollment was low and the program was not deemed cost effective for the current tough economic times.
After a large district school rezoning plan, new Risley Middle School opened for the 2012-2013 school year to a new population of 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. The Risley name lives on in Glynn County educational history for many more years to come.
The original Risley Campus, including all current buildings, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and an historical marker was erected July 2, 2004. Both the Colored Memorial School and Risley High School are landmarks of African-American education in Glynn County.
Old Risley High School Alma Mater
Hail to thee our Dear Old Risley,
Crimson and the Gold
To thee high and noble precepts,
We shall ever hold.
Dear Old Risley we love thee;
True we’ll ever be,
Loyalty shall be our watchword,
Risley we love thee.
Hail to thee our
Dear Old Risley,
We shall ever be
Loyal to our Alma Mater;
Friends of Liberty.
We shall keep our standards high,
As the days go by,
We shall never, never fail thee,
Dear Old Risley High.