Remember When: Cardinal Gibbons High School was the Catholic school for colored students in St. Mary’s County

Breaking News History People Remember when
Cardinal Gibbons Institute main building, Ridge, Maryland

Cardinal Gibbons Institute, Ridge, Maryland was a Colored Catholic School in St. Mary’s County. The Cardinal Gibbons Institute was St. Mary’s County’s first high school built to educate Blacks. Located in Ridge, Maryland, it provided academic, vocational and religious instructions to black students from across the United States.-

In May 1917, land was acquired for the school. Archbishop James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, Maryland donated $8,000 towards the purchase of the land. Consequently, the new school was named after the Archbishop – Cardinal Gibbons Institute.

The Knights of Columbus National Board of Directors donated $38,000 towards the erection of the school building. In February 1922, Archbishop Michael J.Curley of Baltimore, Maryland approved the general plans of the Institute.

Cardinal Gibbons Institute was opened in September 1924 and dedicated in October 1924. Victor and Constance Daniels were hired as the Institute’s first principal and assistant principal. The Institue’s first graduating class held its commencement in June 1929.

Financial difficulties resulting from the Great Depression reportedly caused the closing of Cardinal Gibbons in 1933. Cardinal Gibbons was reopened by Father Horace B. McKenna in 1936. Nathan A. Pitts was hired as the Institute’s principal in 1936. In September 1952, the Oblate Sisters of Providence began their instruction at Cardinal Gibbons Institute under the direction of Mother Mary Anselm Bentley.

In June 1967, the last graduating class held it’s commencement, The school was closed due to new Maryland state laws regarding segregated education. In April 1972, Cardinal Gibbons Institute, also known as the Cardinal Gibbons High School, long abandoned and vandalized, was torn down. In June 1997, the first Cardinal Gibbons Institute/High School class reunion was held. From St. Peter Claver Church, St. Inigoes, Md. 
These news reports from 1958 help explain how integration which ended segregated public schools also led to the closure of Cardinal Gibbons Institute as black families sought the best education possible for their children.

There were two Catholic high schools in St. Mary’s County which were attended by white students, Ryken and St. Mary’s Academy, the first for boys and the latter for girls. They combined operations in the 1980s. St. Mary’s Academy now is the site of Southern Maryland College campus in Leonardtown. 

Integration Ruling Expected Shortly by School Head
July 31, 1958 — A decision on an integration request is expected to be announced shortly by Robert E. King Jr., superintendent of the St. Mary’s County Schools. He said this week, he would soon make known what action has been taken by the school board in regard to the admission to Great Mills High School of a son and daughter of William Groves, colored, of California, Md.
Groves would like to have his daughter Joan, 16, a junior, and son Thomas, 14, enter the all-white school this fall, and has taken his case to Federal Court.
According to Supt. King, the decision of the board is awaited by Federal Judge Roszel C. Thomsen who will then make a ruling after he returns August 7 from his vacation.
Judge Thomsen heard arguments in his court at the end of June when Robert Wigginton, School Board vice-president, told him that the boy would probably be admitted this fall under the county’s plan to extend integration to junior high schools. High school integration plans call for integration during the school year 1959-60.
Wigginton told the court this policy had not been made public up to that time, “because we do not know what developments will arise from the integration of the junior high school this year. My personal view is that we personal view is that we will have no trouble about it.”
Although four Negro students asked for elementary school transfers last year, none showed up when school began.
When Groves, an electrician, testified in court he told Judge Thomsen he did not want his children to “soak up the inferiority complex that comes at an early age” by attending “inferior” schools because of his race. The California resident maintains that his daughter has been unable to obtain desired courses at Jarboesville Consolidated school. He mentioned driver training and a commercial course.

TED NEWKIRK; A longtime member of and president of the St. Mary’s County NAACP shown here as a member of the Alcoholic Beverage Board of St. Mary’s County. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo
Father McKenna with students at Cardinal Gibbons.
Rev. Horace B. McKenna, SJ (1899 – 1982)

From the Father McKenna Center

Father Horace B. McKenna, SJ, was known as Washington’s “priest to the poor.” He was a tireless worker for the rights and dignity of people in need, especially people of color. During his two assignments in Washington, DC (1953-1958 and 1964-1982) he was well known for advocating for the poor and working to meet their immediate needs. Fr. McKenna used to say that his role was to “hang on to people until help came.” One of his neighbors recalls, “Around Christmas and Thanksgiving he always sent us a basket of food; I wouldn’t have to ask for it because he knew I had a houseful of kids. He would always have those Gonzaga boys knock on my door and give us some food. In fact, he didn’t ask anybody; he just knocked and delivered until the food ran out. That’s the kind of man he was. He didn’t ask whether you needed it or not; he just gave it to you. He’d give you the shirt off his back.”

Born on January 2, 1899, in New York City as one of 12 children, Horace McKenna was educated at Fordham Preparatory School. He entered the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew-on-the-Hudson on July 30, 1916. While teaching at a Jesuit school in Manila, Philippines, he discovered the desperate needs of the poor and oppressed.

Father Horace McKenna founded Cardinal Gibbons Institute

He was ordained June 23, 1929, and requested an assignment to parishes in Southern Maryland amidst poverty and segregation including St. Peter Claver’s Church, St. James’ Church, St. Ignatius’ Church, and St. Inigoes’. Here he began his ministry of healing and reconciliation. He sought to break down racial segregation and lift up the lives of African Americans in his community.

Fr. McKenna continued this work at St Aloysius in Washington, DC from 1953 to 1958. Then he spent six years at the Church of the Gesu in Philadelphia. In 1964, he returned to St. Aloysius where he remained until his death in 1982.

Fr. McKenna worked tirelessly throughout his time in Washington, DC for the rights of the poor. Many of the area’s organizations serving the disadvantaged have ties to him. He and his legacy touch thousands of lives in the DC region every year.

He founded SOME (So Others Might Eat), a soup kitchen, clinic, and jobs center, and co-founded Martha’s Table which serves low-income families in the lower Columbia Heights neighborhood. He was also instrumental in the development of Sursum Corda Cooperative, a low-income housing project in the block just north of St Aloysius Parish on North Capitol Street.

Fr. McKenna inspired many with his approach to all people as individuals, regardless of the circumstances in which he encountered them: ” I really believe that every person is a revelation of God – the joy of God, the love of God. I feel that the human person on the street is the appearance of Jesus Christ consumed with human needs. Christ is in the wretched person, as well as the young person, the young woman or the young child. Their smile is so fresh, like a bud or an open flower that speaks of the wealth of the plant beneath the surface. And that wealth is God. ”

In 1983, in honor of the legacy left by Fr. McKenna, St. Aloysius parish opened the Father McKenna Center in the basement of their church. His love for those in need is present and active today in the continuing mission and work of the Center that bears his name. We are blessed to have members of Fr. McKenna’s family serve with us regularly as volunteers, and to have members of our community who knew him personally.

It’s our privilege to bear the responsibility of his legacy, providing help and accompaniment to the poor of our community and men experiencing homelessness.

Vincent Biscoe at Seaside View Marina, Restaurant and Campground.
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo.

Seaside View Owner Vincent Biscoe attended school at St. Peter Claver Elementary

On Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2017, Nicholas Vincent Biscoe’s soul was called to be with the Lord. He left his broken shell of a body that he had worn out so badly. It just couldn’t keep up with him. Although the last week and a half of his life was in bed, his mind was constantly thinking about his next step.

Born on January 22, 1932 to the late Lillian and McKinley Biscoe, on the farm, as they called it, in Dameron, MD. Nicholas, better known as Vince, was one of ten children that have all gone on to heaven to greet him at the pearly gates upon his arrival on Thanksgiving Day. They were Louise Young, Anthony (Hattie) Biscoe, Frank Biscoe, Paul (Zurabel) Biscoe, Victor (Annie) Biscoe, (1 still born and 1 death after birth), Ernest Biscoe & Evelyn (John) Armstrong. 

Vincent attended St. Peter Claver Elementary School under the guidance of Father McKenna and the Oblate Sisters of Providence, whom he was truly grateful for. With financial difficulties in the family, Vincent quit school and went to work with Mr. Charles Moore of St. Inigoes, a plumbing and electrical contractor. He also worked as a carpenter and brick mason. These experiences would later help him to build eighty percent of his home in Ridge.

At the ripe age of twenty Vince married Mae Cecilia Chase. This marriage would later bring them a baby girl named Joy. 

Before going to work at the Navy Exchange Laundry at Patuxent River, he worked for Hill’s Lexington Park Laundry. To make ends meet after working eight hours, they raised chickens, sold eggs and wood and also truck gardened. Vincent later became involved in partnerships with ABC Construction Club, Apartment Rentals, the Silver Dollar Bar, and a Real Estate partnership. Trying to realize his goals, he committed himself to becoming a “work-a-holic”. He also worked part-time at Seaside View for Mr. Peterson who was the owner at that time. In early 1969, he became the new owner of Seaside View. 

On May 22, 1982, Vince’s wife Cecilia passed away. Still working a full-time job, he faced two major challenges, the day-to-day operation of Seaside View and the hardest of all being father and mother to a teenage daughter.

With the help of family and close friends (especially Vernard and Jackie Harden) things began to normalize. A long-time friend of the family, Al Porter, took on the tough job of managing the day-to-day operation of Seaside View.

In the early 1990s, Lula T. Jones came into Vince’s life and they were later married. He continued to grow Seaside while working at the Navy Exchange Laundry at Patuxent River and be active in the community. After a lengthy illness, Lula went home to be with the Lord.

In 2008, he found love again and got married to Leathia Phillips who made him light up when she was around him. Doll, as he called her. He credited her for the help that she gave him with Seaside.

Vince has been a member of the Board of Trustee’s for the Department of Social Services, served on the Board of Parks and Recreation, Treasurer of the Ridge Charity Club, member of the NAACP, Vice-President and President of the Knights of St. Jerome, the Knights of Columbus, a life-long member of St. Peter Claver’s Church, and he participated, contributed and supported many, many other community affairs.

Vince is survived by his daughter Joy (Niles) Rothwell, five grandchildren – Derick, JaQuita, Taylor, Nicholas, and Mea Rothwell; four great grandchildren – Jayda and Jayden Chase, Jade Maddox and Demi Carroll; step-son Tyson (Gayle) Johnson 2 step Grandchildren – Franchesca and Tyson, Jr. Johnson; and a host of family and good friends.

THE FOLLOWING COMMENTS WERE PLACED ON THE FACEBOOK PAGE OF THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY

The Chesapeake Today: The St. Mary’s Public Schools appealed the decision of the Federal Judge in Baltimore to allow the admission of Joan Groves to Great Mills High School and presented the appeal after her admission was accepted peacefully and without incident. The school…See More

Merideth Taylor

Merideth Taylor There was an earlier petition filed in 1955 to allow “negro” students to attend St. Mary’s Public Schools and a class-action suit was filed in the Federal District Court. The case was dismissed. Comments from the judge included: “St. Mary’s County is …See More

Kendal Hebb

Kendal Hebb Tammy Zemke this that big building we saw that one day???

Peggy Montgomery Harry

Peggy Montgomery Harry I used to go to Point Lookout all the time starting in the 70’s. I went through Ridge from Calvert. How could I’ve miss this great piece of history?

Phyllis Bryan

Phyllis Bryan I was one of the last students to graduate from Cardinal Gibbons in Ridge Md in 1967.

Brenda Sauder

Brenda Sauder Thank you for the history lesson!

Debbie Dill Tilton

Debbie Dill Tilton Interesting read

Ellen G. Laurel

Ellen G. Laurel Thank you for sharing the history of the school. 💕💕💕🇺🇸

Shirley Edwards Russell

Shirley Edwards Russell History

Kristine Wilcox

Kristine Wilcox Very interesting

Laverna Condle

Laverna Condle Another time of people wanting, needing, desire to learn..🙏

Charles T. Sembly

Charles T. Sembly My maternal great grandmother was from St Mary’s County prior to integration.

Kay Duvall

Kay Duvall Good history lesson, thanks

Nancy Spurlock

Nancy Spurlock What History.

Victoria Bailey

Victoria Bailey Caroline Bradburn Bradford, Sharon Tracy Bradburn, Clara Bradford Stark..

Chris Savage

Chris Savage Great story! Thank you for sharing.

Matthew Lane

Matthew Lane There was a Cardinal Gibbins in Baltimore ,

David Bean

David Bean I know were that is

Crystal Frederick Mitcheltree

Crystal Frederick Mitcheltree Samantha

Constance Clarke Garner

Constance Clarke Garner I remember when it closed .

Joan Preslar Found this very interesting. I didn’t know about the school.

Toni Hewes

Toni Hewes Very interesting

Lois Gale

Lois Gale Can anyone tell me exactly where the school was located?

The Chesapeake Today

The Chesapeake Today Take Rt. 5 south to St. Inigoes to St. Peter Claver Church. The location of the school was across the road from the church and a marker shows the spot.

Alma Jordon There is a monument on the grounds now, which was dedicated September 1, 1990. There is also a very nice state park there s well. And, I m proud to say that I too, am a graduate of Cardinal Gibbons High School.

Shirley White

Shirley White Interesting, thanks for sharing!

Cindy Stivers

Cindy Stivers Only if its haunted!

Beverly Ballard

Beverly Ballard My mother attended this school!

Regina Lewis

Regina Lewis Did not know this! Thank you.


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