Monday, March 6, 2017

First Graders in Patriotic Extravaganza

Debbie Leggett Miller is my next-door neighbor in Carthage. Early in my teaching career at Panola College Debbie was a pretty, petite student in one of my freshman history classes. Today Debbie is pretty, petite teacher in her home town of Carthage. She is a music instructor at Carthage Primary School with 40 years experience, and her energy, dedication, and ability to inspire her young students rivals these same qualities during her first years in the classroom.

Debbie was the daughter of W.D. and Bobbie Leggett. Rev. Leggett was the longtime pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Carthage. Debbie began piano lessons as a child, and at 12 she became church pianist at Macedonia. When she launched her teaching career at Carthage Primary School, Debbie and a fellow kindergarten teacher, Lisa Cockrell (another former student of mine), teamed to stage a Christmas program with their two classes, which totaled more than 40 students. This Christmas production became an institution at Carthage Primary for 30 years.

Ten years ago Debbie left the kindergarten classroom to become music teacher at Carthage Primary. Working with large numbers of children, Debbie's Christmas shows became Yule season extravaganzas. One spring she staged a Cinco de Mayo celebration, and another year there was a Texas extravaganza. For years Debbie received invaluable help from her classroom aide, Laura Fields. Amber Cheatwood became Debbie's aide when the programs began to focus on patriotism. Principal Kiley Schumacher has provided strong support, including the acquisition of costumes that can be used from year to year.

Principal Kiley Schumacher


George Washington

Betsy Ross

The patriotic extravaganzas have been staged for three years. The venue is the spacious auditorium at Carthage Junior High School, and the large stage is a riot of red, white and blue flags and banners, with more than 160 children onstage. One traditional patriotic song after another is sung by 160 smiling, dancing first graders. Costumed characters from American history periodically take center stage: George Washington, Betsy Ross, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington Carver, Uncle Sam, Martin Luther King. Finally President Donald Trump, clad in blue suit and red tie and flowing wig, made his appearance (in the person of young Travis Lipsey).

George Washington Carver

Lady Liberty

Sojourner Truth

Abe Lincoln

Donald Trump


The auditorium was jammed with an audience exceeding 900. Everyone cheered and clapped and shouted approval. It was deeply reassuring to enjoy such a patriotic display. Two nights later the kindergarteners held forth before another 900 people. As State Historian I've been to one event after another in which organizations made a patriotic display of Texana, and now I had the pleasure of seeing a large group of schoolchildren expressing the patriotic values of the USA.

Ribbon Dancers


Raising the flag at Iwo Jima


Uncle Sam

With Debbie Leggett Miller


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