As far as the history of Cocoa/Monroe High School will permit us to go, the first classes (for optional Monroe High School) were held in the old K. of P. Hall on the west side of the railroad tracks of Magnolia Street. This was in 1892 and Mr. Peter Wright was principal. A principal by the name of Mr. “Mahathey” served for a time after that followed by two other principals whose names are not available. During the years that followed, Mr. Joe Crooms for whom Crooms Academy is named served as principal followed by a Mr. Turner.
In 1922, under the administration of Mr. Joseph Stokes, our elementary school was built. The county contributed some funds toward this affords. The Rosenwalds’s funds, and funds donated by a Mr. Cannon were used to complete the building.
Mr. Cannon also furnished the auditorium and purchased the teacher’s desks and chairs. He had a flowing water system installed; flush bathrooms, water coolers, and $600, 00 worth of band equipment, and a movie projector. This made our school the first school on the east coast to have audio visual aids in the curriculum. Mr. Cannon gave scholarships each year in order for students to further their education. Some of the recipients were: Mrs. Walter Wynn, who was Secretary of Education in Liberia, and Mrs. Meekins.
Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune, President Emeritus of Bethune-Cookman College gave the Dedicatory Address.
Mr. Joseph Stokes was instrumental in getting the elementary school furnished. At that time, it was said that Mr. Stokes was one of the highest paid and youngest principals in the state. After serving for three years, he was called to Florida Memorial College to serve as Public Relations Chairperson.
Mrs. Martha Stokes succeeded Mr. Joe Stokes. Mrs. Stokes served one year and was followed by a Rev. Jones. Mr. Gilbert served eight years and succeeded by a Mr. Childs of Gainesville, FL. Mr. Gilbert then returned to serve again as principal. Mr. Roland W. Rogers succeeded Mr. Gilbert. Mrs. J.M. Monroe, for whom the schools named, served as its principal in 1945. She was succeeded by Mrs. Morse in September of 1945.
Under the administration of Mr. B.A. who served from 1945 until 1961, the school’s name was changed from Cocoa Junior High to Monroe High School. Under Mr. Morse’s administration and supervision, the curriculum was improved. All teaches held degrees in the field in which they taught. A band was organized and a special music teacher was employed.
During the 1946-1947 school year, it was the consensus of several community organizations such as the PTA, Ministerial Alliance, and other civic organizations to approach Mr. Morse about changing the status of the Cocoa Junior High to senior school. This mutual desire and concern prompted a meeting with the school board to discuss the change. The initial committee consisted of Mr. B.A. Morse, Frank Williams, Nick Ford, Cora Stepney, Marie R. Brady, and Mansfield Smith.
Grades 10, 11 and 12 were approved and officially added for 1947-1948 year. A search and negotiations for an appropriate name resulted in the name change to Monroe High School in honor of “Mrs. Jessie Ruth Monroe, a long time dedicated educator and former principal of Cocoa Junior High School.
The first graduating class of 1948 consisted of six students: James Gray, Ruth Shepherd, Dorothy Weaver, Juanita Riley, Leroy Wright and Walter Brown. Monroe High School was housed at that time in what is now the Harry T. Moore Center. The house filled to overflowing for this momentous event. “The First Graduation Exercise”.
During 1946, the first basketball teams were organized under the leadership and guidance of Coach B.A. Morse (Boys), and Coaches Hallie Houston, and Naomi Ford, (Girls).
In 1954, a new facility was completed on South Avocado Avenue. This new facility was so modern that included science lab, band room, gymnasium, and all of the extras. Monroe High School was then housed in what is now the Monroe Center.
Mr. Morse served as principal from its inception through the school year 1960-1961. He was succeeded by Mr. James Greene. During his tenure (1961-1964), a new dimension in education took place. Because of the segregated education system, two Junior Colleges emerged in the county. One for the white population and one for the black population.
Carver Junior College, the black segment, was housed in the Monroe High School facility and Mr. Greene became both Principal of Monroe High School and President of Carver Junior College. Mr. Green was principal until the end of 1963-1964 school year. He was succeeded by Mr. Dave P. Johnson who served until the school was phased out in 1968.
Under Mr. Johnson leadership as under Mr. Morse’s, Monroe experienced several first in academics, band performance and athletics. The crowning point in athletic was winning back-to-back state boys basketball championship and trips to the national tournaments in 1965 and 1966.
Monroe High School, although filled to capacity with enough inspirational history to write a book, will never be revived as a high school in Cocoa, Florida. However, its heritage is rich and fulfilling for giving the community many worthwhile and contributing citizens.
Monroe High School will always live in the hearts of those who attended, taught, cooked and just swept the floors. May we continue to cherish the memories.
~ Source~ Monroe High School Reunion Booklet July 1998