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Denied Diploma Received 55 Years Later

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A former Galesburg native can call himself a high school graduate.  It's an achievement that was taken away from him 55 years ago. The year was June of 1959 and Alva Earley was a senior at Galesburg high school getting ready for college.

"I had already been accepted by the University of Chicago and Northwestern University," said Alva Earley, who never received his high school diploma.  

With graduation right around the corner, Earley and some friends started talking about going to north Lake Storey beach to have a picnic. There was an unwritten rule that African Americans weren't allowed to go there and his intentions soon reached his college counselor.

"He said boy, if you go to north side of lake storey, you will not graduate and you will not attend college. I thought he couldn't do anything to me because I was already accepted," said Earley.  

But they went anyway and that move that had serious consequences. He received letters stating that he wasn't going to college. That's not all.

"I was told don't go get suited up for cap and gown because you aren't graduating. That was a week before graduation. Graduation came and went," said Earley.  

Last fall, he visited a few high school friends and shared his story.

"We were talking about how wonderful Galesburg high school was and I said, I didn't have much fun because I didn't graduate," said Earley.

His classmates sprung into action by calling on the school superintendent to do something about the injustice.

"When they requested that I look it up, they were correct. He had enough credits to graduate, had his transcripts signed and everything," said Galesburg Supt. Bart  Arthur.  

Arthur says it's his honor to award Alva Earley his diploma.

"It's more about what he accomplished and we need to honor that."

Earley did go on to attend college and earn several degrees without his high school diploma.This weekend is also the 55th class reunion for the Galesburg High School class of 1959. Alva says he plans to attend.



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