For the black community of Lonoke and central Lonoke County, the name Frank T. Bunton is synonymous with Carver High School, education and the future. Bunton’s legacy was honored when the Lonoke City Council voted in March 2012 to re-name Ferguson Street as Frank T. Bunton Street.
Dedication of the street by the new name will be held 10 a.m. Saturday, July 6, at 500 Frank T. Bunton Street, the former campus of Carver High School where Bunton served for 20 years. There will also be a plaque dedication honoring M.O. Livingston, who succeeded Bunton as principal. The original school stood near the current site of St. Paul Baptist Church.
The dedication is part of the triennial Carver High School Reunion
According to information collected from the Carver Alumni Association and accounts in the Lonoke Democrat, George Washington Carver High School began in the mid-40s as the Lonoke Colored School. It marked the end of "wing schools," schools held on farms for black students, and opened the way to black students continuing their education beyond elementary school.
While high school was available, it meant either a daily trip to Little Rock or moving in with obliging family or friends near the school.
Bunton moved from Star City to Lonoke during World War II to teach at the school with two other teachers. He is recognized as the force behind turning the school into a full high school.
One of his first decisions as principal was to change the school’s name to one he believed spoke of education and the future, and George Washington Carver School was chosen.
Under Bunton, the school grew, adding another grade each year until the 12th grade was reached; 1950 saw the first graduating class.
Bunton believed that hardship and struggle was to be expected to accomplish anything worthwhile, but he expected to succeed with the help of others.
In the mid-1950s, the original school was destroyed by fire. But the wood structure was replaced by a modern, brick and steel building that still stands.
Until the new school was built, students attended classes in the base of St. Paul church – a two-story building at the time.
When the Lonoke schools were desegregated in 1970, the building continued as a school, for elementary, junior high and middle school. When the current middle school was built, the original Carver High School building became a continuing education facility.
Bunton retired in 1968, he died Aug. 24, 1982.
A 1982 proclamation by then-mayor Jack O. Smith declared that, "Frank Bunton Sr. contributed both spiritually and materially to the growth of this community and is to be commended for his dedication, loyalty and service to God and his fellowman."
In one of his writings, Bunton wrote, "For successful people, a positive approach to life is as necessary as breathing, but unlike the involuntary act of breathing, being positive is a trained behavioral pattern that must be practiced daily to be perfected … Let us also remember that by being positive, everything we touch will not turn to gold but we can find gold in everything we touch."